Revenge: Our Dad The Nazi Killer


Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

Revenge: Our Dad The Nazi Killer
"It’s not particularly deep but it feels raw and honest, and it is doubtless something that many viewers will relate to – that difficulty in reckoning with a fundamentally different way of experiencing the world."

There’s a myth in Europe that after the Second World War, when the horrors of the Holocaust were revealed, antisemitism mostly went away. In fact many Jewish people continued to live in fear, and not without reason, especially in places where the Nazis had held power and many of their persecutors under that regime remained at large. With this in mind, it’s unsurprising that tens of thousands chose to relocate to Australia – not exactly a cosmopolitan country but one where they felt a lot safer. Growing up there, the next generation were more distant from the material realities of their parents’ experiences and, as such, intergenerational trauma seems to have faded faster. Australia was quicker than Europe to reach a point where the war felt like history and not something that everyone could personally relate to.

Danny Ben-Moshe’s film exists within this geoculturally specific space. The director’s father, Boris Green, was directly caught up in the horrors of the war as, during its closing stages, two million Jewish people in Eastern Europe were murdered with the collaboration of their neighbours, but to Ben-Moshe this seems to have been little more than a story and one regarding which, for most of his life, he did not press. His father had bought a jewellery shop in Richmond, married, settled down, become a pillar of the community. Life was good. Ben-Moshe grew up thinking very little about what had happened in that other world – until the point when odd little events began to connect in his mind and he realised that, right there in Australia, his father might have been leading a secret life.

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Other films addressing the relationship between Holocaust survivors and their children, like the recent My Father’s Secrets, have tended to focus simply on the communication difficulties that occur around a trauma so extreme as to prohibit direct understanding. This film is a little different. Over the course of it, Ben-Moshe attempts to uncover not so much what was done to his father as what his father might have done in response. He has heard rumours about his dad ‘taking out’ a Nazi in Sydney, and struggles to reconcile the man he knows with somebody who might carry out an assassination. Getting his head around that possibility will require a whole new perspective on the psychological impact of the Holocaust, the failure of international courts to provide meaningful justice for many of its survivors, and the fact that violence is not purely the preserve of strangers.

Screening as part of the 2023 UK Jewish Film Festival, Revenge allows viewers to travel with him on this journey. It is perhaps less shocking for European audiences – older viewers, at any rate, may find Ben-Moshe somewhat naïve – but it still fills in a gap in the narratives around the war, and highlights its complex legacy. At the outset it is new to Ben-Moshe that there even were Nazis in Australia – of course, they fled and found sanctuary in many different parts of the world – but a private investigator, John Garvey, quickly helps him find out more. Going through family documents together, they learn more about his father’s past, and additional material helps to fill in the gaps.

Gradually it dawns on the filmmaker that a man who has survived for years as a partisan, hunting enemies through the forest and sleeping high up in the treetops, can never entirely shed that part of himself, no matter how he chooses to live when the war is over. He is not dealing with the case of a mild-mannered jeweller doing a shocking thing. The jeweller was always a mask for someone else.

Whilst Ben-Moshe intended to make a film about his father, the really interesting thing here is what he reveals about himself. It’s not particularly deep but it feels raw and honest, and it is doubtless something that many viewers will relate to – that difficulty in reckoning with a fundamentally different way of experiencing the world. It’s a modest documentary, simple in its aims and style, yet it reminds us that the echoes of such brutal times can still be felt almost a century later, in ordinary suburban homes, even on the other side of the world.

Reviewed on: 24 Nov 2023
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Revenge: Our Dad The Nazi Killer packshot
A filmmaker discovers that his father was part of a secret network of Jewish vigilante groups, who, in the glaring absence of justice after the Holocaust, took the law into their own hands.

Director: Danny Ben-Moshe (Moss)

Year: 2023

Runtime: 97 minutes

Country: Australia


Jewish 2023

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