When relatives of the 98-year-old Gerda Tuchler clean out her Tel Aviv apartment after her death, a lot of unsavory stuff surfaces. Some of it involves Tuchler, her late husband, Kurt, and their years-long friendship with the high-ranking Nazi propaganda minister Baron von Mildenstein. Some of it involves the ability -- or need -- of younger generations to ignore, deny or cover up the legacy left them by the Holocaust, its perpetrators and, in some cases, its enablers.
Fortunately for us, filmmaker Arnon Goldfinger is not among the self-deceived. When he discovers a rabid Nazi propaganda newspaper among his grandmother's belongings -- one containing an article titled "A Nazi in Palestine" alongside pictures of von Mildenstein, his wife and the Tuchlers -- he sets off on a journey that leads him to Wuppertal, Germany, where he meets von Mildenstein's daughter, Edda.
Though deeply disturbing, "The Flat" is a fascinating and sensitive examination of Jewish-Nazi collaboration, generational amnesia and the delicate construction of the thing we call history. Goldfinger's mother, Hannah, seems deliberately uninterested in what her parents may or may not have done (despite the evidence Goldfinger unearths). Edda von Mildenstein has cooked up her own fog of forgetfulness regarding her father's crimes (even though he was cited in Adolf Eichmann's testimony during his trial in Jerusalem). Goldfinger himself, having traveled to Germany determined to get to the bottom of things, is thwarted by his German hosts' hospitality. In addition to its historical and emotional potency, "The Flat" is a film about outrage and how to fan its flames, even when your mother is turning on the fire hose.
PLOT While cleaning out his grandmother's Tel Aviv apartment, filmmaker discovers ties between his grandparents and the SS. Unrated (disturbing images)
FEATURING Arnon Goldfinger, Hannah Goldfinger
PLAYING AT Manhasset Cinemas; Cinema Arts Centre, Huntington
BOTTOM LINE Blunt, gripping and disturbing documentary about denial and skeletons