This corrosive family portrait bears no relationship to Jean-Luc Godard’s 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her, except perhaps in sharing Godard’s love of dialectics: Director Ludin sets out to investigate his father, Hanns Ludin, Hitler’s ambassador to Slovakia and the man who oversaw the German puppet government’s deportation of Jews. Hanns was executed as a war criminal in 1947, five years after Malte was born, and the filmmaker’s relative distance from his father allows him some perspective. That’s not the case with several of Malte’s siblings, who prefer the image of the dad they worshipped to the monster that history remembers.
Malte waited for his mother to die before trying to make this film; in a 1978 interview, she claims not to have known what Auschwitz was. Hanns’s most vociferous defender is his eldest surviving daughter, Barbel. Her excuses—that Hanns simply hadn’t informed himself properly, that only (only!) one-third of Germany’s Jews died anyway (a statistic Malte thinks is low)—are undermined by documents and photographs, including shots of Hanns beaming at Hitler’s side. In one of the more powerful juxtapositions, the director contrasts Barbel’s rosy memories of their childhood home—confiscated from a Jewish family—with the testimony of a then-child who was exiled, forced into hiding in cow stalls (and lucky to have survived).
Malte understands the impulse to defend his father—he looks, to no avail, for evidence “that at some point he dissented, or refused or obstructed.” Hanns’s grandchildren have a more realistic outlook than their parents, even if some seem more perplexed than horrified. Acknowledging the Holocaust is not the same as coming to terms with it—but 2 or 3 Things is a baby step in the right direction.