Our Father, the Nazi Zealot: A Family Grapples With Its Burdens and Blind Spots (Documentary)

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The Nazis ruled Germany for 12 years and inflicted their cruelty on other European nations for around 7. Coming to terms with what Hitler and his followers did has been a much longer project — involving Jews, Germans, other Europeans and just about everyone else in the world — and it is unlikely to end anytime soon. Like many other films and books, “2 or 3 Things I Know About Him,” a new documentary directed by Malte Ludin, examines the impact of Nazism on a single family, in this case the family of a high-ranking member of Hitler’s government. But if it tells, in Mr. Ludin’s words, “a typical German story,” the movie also offers an unusually matter-of-fact picture of the private and public effects of ordinary evil.

The filmmaker’s father, Hanns Ludin, who served as the Third Reich’s ambassador to the Nazi vassal state of Slovakia, and who in that capacity signed deportation orders sending thousands of Jews to Auschwitz, was executed for war crimes in 1947. He left behind a wife, Erla, and six children.

Malte, the youngest (born in 1942), waited until his mother died before embarking on this film, though it includes earlier interviews he did with her. The title, apart from its distracting and irrelevant nod in the direction of Jean-Luc Godard, suggests that Hanns Ludin remains, in his son’s eyes, a mysterious, unknowable figure, and the younger Mr. Ludin’s interviews with other family members contribute to the blurriness of the picture.

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