Kleine Germanen

This is a well-meaning film, which could have been a great artistic contribution to the very current discussion about the rise of the far right, but for an editorial decision of such crass insensitivity that it beggars belief.

But before we get to that, here’s what it could have been. It is in the main a true story, largely in cartoon form about a woman with a troubled past. As a kid she fell in with a bad crowd and was expelled from school for writing an antisemitic attack on her teacher on the blackboard.

She later married a Nazi, who attacked Muslims on the street and did time for an arson attack on a refugee home. Even then she welcomed him home and defended him against the liberal state which had locked him up. She accepted his beatings and rejection of their mentally ill son as normal.

The break came when he comes home to hear their daughter playing Mendelssohn on the piano. Shouting that he never wants to hear Jewish music in his house he slams the piano lid on her fingers. Mother and kids take a new identity and go into hiding with traumatic and fatal consequences.

This is all handled well, and we even hear some voiceovers from former nazis and experts who explain the damage to children who grow up in far right households and the dilemma of teachers who don’t want to punish them for the sins of their parents but want to protect their other students.

But what the fuckity fuck is this? Every so often, as the story is told we break off for some interviews with real nazis. And we’re not talking about occasional AfD voters here, but long serving functionaries of the NPD in Germany and the identitarian movement in Austria. We neither hear nor see their interviewers, and unlike the anti-fascists we hear, they are filmed laughing in comfortable houses in front of large bookcases.

You presume that the idea to do this was taken by the sort of person who thinks putting Nigel farage on question time opens him to ridicule and diminishes his support (that one’s going well, isn’t it?) But because no one challenges anything they say, they are allowed to utter platitudes about bringing up their children with discipline and Mozart and it’s the anti racist activists who don’t want to be named who end up looking like they have something to hide.

The sad result is that a director who clearly finds these people abhorrent ends up normalizing them. Sure there are these devastating acts of violence which are shown in the cartoon, but what do these have to do with these nice people who are smiling into the camera? And they don’t just turn up once or twice but at regular intervals throughout the film.

I truly can hardly believe how ill judged this film is. It is very well made but ends up subverting itself to a devastating effect.

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