Final Account Parent Guide
This disturbing but informative documentary looks at Nazi Germany from the perspective of the young people who were part of it.
Parent Movie Review
What makes a person complicit in historical atrocities? Do they have to share the regime’s aims? Or is unwilling participation enough? What if their only involvement was bureaucratic? Do they still have blood on their hands? These are the questions that hover over Final Account, a disturbing but intriguing documentary about the German teens and young adults who found themselves, willingly or not, implementing Hitler’s demented vision of a
In 2008, director Luke Holland set out to interview German veterans and survivors of the war, to hear their stories and perspectives on the past. This film, released a few months after Holland’s death, shows some Germans filled with regret and remorse and others still struggling to justify their roles in the Nazi system.
One of the most moving interview subjects is Hans Werk, a veteran of the SS. Indoctrinated by his schoolteacher and pervasive anti-Semitic propaganda, Werk signed up for the SS, determined to die a hero’s death for the Fatherland. Now Werk mourns, “I lost my honor. I’m ashamed of the crimes I committed…To stand up for the Fatherland is something different.” When asked if he considers himself complicit in the atrocities of Nazi Germany, Werk responds, “When it comes to judging, I would differentiate between those who did it and…” he pauses before continuing, “Actually they were all perpetrators. They were all perpetrators. I feel like a perpetrator.”
In stark contrast to Werk are the men who do not disavow their activities. Karl Hollander, whose SS service comes as an unpleasant surprise to his adult daughter, still holds on to his Nazi memorabilia, while insisting that the SS was never involved in atrocities. “I would dirty myself if I were to admit to that.” But he still honors Hitler – “The idea was correct,” he insists, while also disavowing the Holocaust. “The Jews shouldn’t have been murdered. They should have been driven out to another country where they could rule themselves.” Heinrich Schulze of the Wehrmacht also equivocates on the Holocaust – apparently the Jews were “unpopular” which had “consequences”.
Holland’s interviews with his subjects make for compelling viewing. As these elderly Germans sit in their comfortable rooms in a stable, peaceful Germany, it’s hard to imagine that they were involved in such an evil regime. But their stories spill on to the screen – a young man reporting escapees from Auschwitz, a family fearing that a Jewish ancestor will be discovered, children joining Hitler Youth for sports only to find themselves funneled into the military. And as the Nazis tightened their hold on Germany, these young people began to see the results of their policies – extermination centers, slave labor camps, concentration camps. As Karl-Heinz Lipok, veteran of the SS Death’s Head Unit says, “We can’t be accused of being active perpetrators. We didn’t beat or imprison anyone or anything like that. But we went along with it. Complicity begins by going there in the first place, not to have turned away. We didn’t dare. Nobody walked away.”
Final Account is a difficult documentary to watch, but it is extremely valuable for teens. Not only does it offer them a unique look at history, but it provides the opportunity for discussions about ethics and morality. In addition, watching the movie will almost certainly raise questions that go beyond the German experience. As major democracies wrestle with historical atrocities – Great Britain with slavery and colonialism, the USA with slavery and Native American genocide, Canada and Australia with indigenous genocide and cultural erasure – the questions of the past will continue to haunt the present. What Final Account clearly demonstrates is that understanding the past takes time, but it is possible to rebuild a culture to reject racism and genocide. For the rest of us, that’s a good place to start.Directed by Luke Holland. Running time: 90 minutes. Theatrical release May 21, 2021. Updated October 2, 2021
Watch the trailer for Final Account
Rating & Content Info
Why is Final Account rated PG-13? Final Account is rated PG-13 by the MPAA for thematic material and some disturbing images.
Violence: Someone sings about stabbing Jews. There is a photo of a firing squad: bodies are not seen. There are frequent mentions of the persecution of Jews. A man remembers brutal training for Hitler Youth, including boxing until someone bleeds. A concentration camp is briefly referred to. A man discusses an extermination center and the incineration of dead bodies. A man remembers people being hanged and others beaten with bullwhips. There is mention of slave laborers collapsing and dying. A man remembers SS units killing entire villages. There’s mention of prisoners of war digging their own mass grave and being shot. A man remembers soldiers setting civilians’ homes on fire and shooting at people when they fled from the homes. There’s mention of the Wannsee conference and Hitler’s “Final Solution”. There are pictures of emaciated corpses.
Sexual Content: None noted.
Profanity: There is a single scatological curse used in the movie.
Alcohol / Drug Use: None noted.
Page last updated October 2, 2021
Final Account Parents' Guide
The interview subjects in this documentary have different perspectives on their participation in the Third Reich. They also view its crimes and actions differently. Why do you think they see things differently? What motivates the people who have disavowed Nazism and condemn the actions of their country? What motivates those who defend it?
Germany has spent decades trying to atone for its actions in World War II. Do you think it has been successful? Do you think Germany has been rehabilitated as a state? What do you think Germany did well? Do you think Germans have learned the lessons of the past? What can other countries learn from Germany’s example?
The Washington Post: Germany faced its horrible past. Can we do the same?
The New York Times: Germany’s Nazi Past Is Still Present
Religion News Service: German teens go to Israel to atone for their families’ Holocaust history
Related home video titles:
Acknowledging its wartime atrocities took time in Germany. Labyrinth of Lies is based on the true story of a young prosecutor who begins to investigate the case of an Auschwitz guard now teaching school. As he learns about the actions of the previous generation, he is determined to see justice done.
When a gifted young Polish musician disappears before his first concert, it takes decades before his foster brother discovers his fate. The Song of Names reveals how his life was overturned by the tragedy of the Holocaust.
The true accounts of Holocaust survivors are shared in a documentary entitled #Anne Frank: Parallel Stories.
The SS officers in this documentary aren’t the only ones to refuse to believe the historical reality of the Holocaust. Denial is based on the true story of a historian forced to defend herself in court against a Holocaust denier.