“Watching my movie gave them the courage to examine their connections to the Nazi horrors. No German can escape this; it’s an integral part of our society.”
(Film director Malte Ludin, Germany)
Hans Ludin was no ordinary German soldier, but the story of his family is typical. Malte Ludin, Hans’ son, was five years old when his father was executed in 1947 for war crimes. In his film, 2 or 3 Things I Know About Him(85 min., Germany, 2005), Malte Ludin attempts to confront family mythology, especially his father’s smiling image, through testimony and archival materials. “For years, I struggled with myself. I knew that my mother wouldn’t agree to participate in the film, and I was aware of my sisters’ ambivalence, though I didn’t imagine how difficult it could be. But making films helps me understand the world and myself,” said Ludin in a telephone interview from Berlin.
Hans Ludin, an enthusiastic National Socialist, joined the ranks of the SA in the 1920’s. In 1941, he was appointed Nazi Germany’s ambassador to Slovakia, and moved his family to Bratislava. Ludin personally signed the deportation orders for approximately 70,000 Slovak Jews, who were sent to their deaths as a result.
After his mother’s death, Malte opened a trunk in her attic containing the family “legacy”: newspaper clippings, letters, photographs and documents belonging to Hans, all of which present an entirely different picture from the one his sisters clung to so desperately. Ludin had interviewed his mother before her death, and later on, he sensitively and patiently approached his sisters with the truth about their father. Malte’s eldest sister Barbel was so upset that she stopped talking to him. In the film, Malte’s sister Ellen reveals the pain of recognition of her father’s crimes: “In my mind, I understand that I am the daughter of a perpetrator, but this is not what I feel my in my heart.”
However, Ludin does not let up. In a particularly stark sequence, he juxtaposes his sisters’ innocent childhood memories with close-ups of the document calling for the deportation of the Jews of Slovakia signed by his father, cutting to the testimony of a member of the Stern family, Jewish neighbors of the Ludins’ until the “cleansing orders.” The film features Ludin’s interviews of other Holocaust survivors, including Israeli poet Tuvia Rübner, the only member of his family that survived.
2 or 3 Things I Know About Him is a powerful personal testimony, as well as a reflection upon responsibility, memory and historical truth. “I am not naïve, I know that a film can’t change the world,” admits Ludin. “However, at every screening held in Germany, people confess that, like me, they felt like the ‘black sheep’ of the family; and that watching my film gave them the courage to look into their familial connections to Nazi atrocities. No German can escape this: it’s an integral part of our society. German youth have many reminders of the Holocaust—memorials, days of remembrance—but I believe that knowing and understanding what happened is not enough. There has to be something else, something that touches the emotions. I think that Holocaust awareness has to be evoked in the heart as well as the mind. Making this film was very hard for me, but it was a compulsion I could not resist,” concludes Ludin. “It has already been screened in many countries, but the warmest and most empathetic reactions have come from Jewish and Israeli audiences.”
Malte Ludin and his wife Iva Svarcová, the film’s producer and a native of Slovakia, screened 2 or 3 Things I Know About Him in Israel in conjunction with International Holocaust Remembrance Day, January 27. The film was shown at the Tel Aviv Cinematheque on January 27, 2008, and at Yad Vashem’s Visual Center and the Jerusalem Cinematheque the following day.
The Goethe Institute, the Israeli German Society (IDG) and the Remembrance & Future Fund, Germany, sponsored Ludin and Svarcová’s visit. 2 or 3 Things I Know About Him is distributed by Journeyman Films, UK.
The writer is the Director of Yad Vashem’s Visual Center
English: Mimi Ash