"Not Worthy of Life"
What You Need To Know:
FINAL ACCOUNT asks timely questions about Anti-Semitism, national identity, authority, conformity, peer pressure, complicity versus guilt, and moral and legal responsibility. However, what makes FINAL ACCOUNT not just another Holocaust documentary is its revelation that Big Government socialism and a one-party state can turn a whole society and the most innocuous citizen into a complicit, fearful tool of tremendous, terrible, murderous evil. MOVIEGUIDE® advises caution for older children because of some disturbing references to death and violence in FINAL ACCOUNT.
FINAL ACCOUNT is a German documentary about Nazi Germany and the Holocaust. It features interviews of former mid-level German soldiers, including Waffen-SS members and a concentration camp guard, and several middle-class and working-class women, who were eyewitnesses or became part in some way of Adolf Hitler’s nationwide campaign to hound, imprison and eventually kill all Jews and other undesirable people that Hitler and his top minions believed were “unworthy of life.” More than 10 years in the making, FINAL ACCOUNT isn’t just another Holocaust documentary but shows how big government socialism and a one-party state can turn a whole society and even the most innocuous citizen into a complicit, fearful tool of tremendous, terrible, murderous evil.
The movie opens with a quote from a survivor of the infamous Auschwitz death camp, a man named Primo Levi, saying, “Monsters exist, but they are too few in number to be truly dangerous. More dangerous are the common men, the functionaries ready to believe and to act without asking questions.” The interviews are with former Nazi Party members, German soldiers, female relatives with fathers and brothers in the SS, and women living or working near Nazi labor camps and death camps. Throughout the interviews, photos and newsreel footage are shown along with some images of how Germany and some of the labor and death camp locations look today.
In Director Luke Holland’s interviews, taking place over a period lasting more than 10 years, the men and women discuss their memories, perceptions and personal appraisals of their own roles in one of the greatest human crimes in history. They start with discussing how they became part of the Nazi Party’s scouting and youth groups in the later 1920s and the 1930s. There was the German Youngsters and Young Girls’ League for children aged 10-14 and the Hitler Youth and the League for German Girls for children aged 14-18. Though the activities revolved around fun scouting, hiking, camping, and sporting activities, the main goal was to inculcate National Socialist ideology, including Hitler’s hatred of his major socialist rivals, the German Communist Party and the Communist Workers’ Party of Germany. Uniforms and marches with plenty of Nazi Party flags were also part of the four groups, as were National Socialist propaganda movies. Eventually, the boys were expected to join the German military. Some of the men being interviewed discuss how proud they were to become part of the Hitler Youth when they reached 14 and how eager they were to become members of the Waffen-SS, an elite group of Nazi German troops.
The men and women next discuss the start of the Holocaust, which began with the euthanization of sickly and disabled people “not worthy of life.” After this is briefly mentioned, the men and woman discuss the increasing persecution of Jews in Germany. One of the men says his Hitler Youth troop one day was required to link arms in front of a Jewish department store to prevent anyone from entering the store. Then, on the night of November 9, 1938, while two of the men were being inducted into the Waffen-SS, the military wing of the SS, at a large ceremony, the Nazi government unleashed vicious attacks on Jewish synagogues, homes, schools, businesses, and cemeteries. According to the movie, the Nazis burned down about 1,400 synagogues, damaged thousands of Jewish businesses, homes and schools, and imprisoned about 30,000 Jews.
In the documentary’s second half, the men and women discuss their personal encounters with Hitler’s National Socialist system of labor camps and concentration camps, where Jews, political prisoners and other perceived enemies of Nazi Germany were housed, worked to death and often murdered outright. In addition to several labor camps, where Jews and other people were worked to death and beaten, the Nazi death camps of Dachau and Bergen-Belsen are discussed, as is the activity around a railroad station about 45 miles from Auschwitz.
The movie’s last part shows the men and women being questioned about their moral responsibility, participation in Hitler’s Anti-Semitic, genocidal regime. A few of the men and women acknowledge their complicity if not participation. However, some of them make excuses, such as we were forced to do this or do that, or “I would have been shot if I disobeyed or refused.” One man, however, refuses to show any shame whatsoever about National Socialist Germany’s brutal, genocidal persecution of millions of Jews. He also refuses to blame Hitler for the persecution. In fact, he and perhaps one other man say the Holocaust didn’t take place as the Jews and other people assert. Also, one man says he didn’t know anything, but another man says everybody knew. One woman living near a labor camp in Austria that burned about 9,000 people who were worked to death also says she didn’t know anything, but two other women who lived nearby said everyone could see and smell the smoke of the burned bodies from the ovens. In addition, a nanny working for a mother who worked at one concentration camp said the camp had a cinema and other amenities. Finally, several men shy away from being held directly accountable for what happened during the Holocaust.
FINAL ACCOUNT asks some timely questions about Anti-Semitism, national identity, authority, conformity, peer pressure, complicity versus guilt, and moral and legal responsibility. However, what makes FINAL ACCOUNT not just another Holocaust documentary is its revelation how Big Government socialism and a one-party state can turn not just a soldier or a police officer but also a whole society and even the most innocuous citizen into a complicit, fearful tool of tremendous, terrible, murderous evil. Of course, cowardice is perhaps the most ubiquitous sin of the human race while courage is one of the rarest of virtues. Be that as it may, perhaps the documentary’s most powerful part comes when one of the former SS officers admits his own guilt for Hitler’s actions to some young Germans and pleads with them, “Don’t let yourself be blinded.”
FINAL ACCOUNT has some disturbing references to the genocidal violence of the Holocaust and brief images of at least three dead Jewish victims. The images are more tragic than they are graphic or bloody, however. Needless to say, the personal accounts of smelling the burning bodies in the crematoriums are rather disturbing. So, MOVIEGUIDE® advises caution for older children for FINAL ACCOUNT.