THE COMMANDANT’S SHADOW – Documentary Review

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In the revelatory Holocaust documentary, The Commandant’s Shadow, filmmaker Daniela Volker investigates life after Auschwitz. More specifically, she focuses on Auschwitz Commandant Rudolf Hoss’ son and daughter and grandson, delving into how they’ve come to terms with knowing that their beloved forebear was the mass murderer of more human beings than any other human in history. Hoss’ wife is also questioned about her husband’s ‘work,’ efficiently executing Adolf Hitler’s dictates for the death camp.

Additionally, there are on camera interviews with a Jewish woman, Anita Lasker-Wallfisch, who witnessed the slaughter of her entire family at Auschwitz under Hoss’ command, but survived to established a new life and a new family in London. We also meet her daughter, born and raised in England, who has never felt at home in London and is determined to reclaim her ‘German identity’ and citizenship. They represent different perspectives on the heinous legacy of Hoss.

The Commandant’s Shadow is an invitation for audiences to contemplate ‘human nature’ at a moment in time — read that as ‘now’ — when humans of conscience seem to be giving serious consideration to what it means to be human.

We might consider The Commandant’s Shadow to be a hard-hitting companion piece to Jonathan Glazer’s narrative Zone of Interest, the recipient of several 2023 EDA Awards. The documentary’s gripping authenticity certainly validates the deep;y disturbing dramatic narrative told in Zone of Interest

Daniela Volker’s The Commandant’s Shadow is not an easy watch, but it s certainly illuminating. It’s an essential addition to the roster of Holocaust films — including documentaries and narratives — that remind us never to forget. And let’s think, too, about why there is a fairly steady flow of such films now, at what feels like a pivotal time in the story of humanity.

The Commandant’s Shadow is an intensely compelling and important documentary, and it should be seen widely.

Film Details:

The Commandant’s Shadow (2024)
Director: Daniela
US Theatrical Release Date: June 12, 2009 (limited)
Running Time: 94 mins.
Parental Advisory: Content advisory for parents
Location: Auschwitz, Germany London
Language: English, German with Engish subtitles
Production Country: USA
Production Company: Warner Brothers
Distribution Company: Warner Brothers

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