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Final Account review – a crushingly bleak insight into the Nazi psyche

This film interviews the last living Germans who participated in the Holocaust and finds a haunting mix of guilt, denial, and even pride

A mammoth undertaking that was begun in 2008 and is now releasing posthumously for director Luke Holland, Final Account is a bleak and unsparing documentary, looking at the psyches of the last living Germans who played active roles in the Holocaust. Through a series of interviews with both active perpetrators and the passively complicit (from a concentration camp guard to a nanny for an SS family), Holland finds a searing mix of guilt, denial, delusion, and even a sick pride.

Most of the stories start with the indoctrination – everyone featured here was a child when the Nazis first came to power. There’s not much new to learn about the ways that fun and camaraderie were weaponised by organisations like the Hitler Youth, but the personal accounts are still chilling, particularly when they reach the moment that the games were suddenly replaced with harshness and violence, turning kids into killers.

Holland asks his questions patiently and methodically, which makes the moments where he can’t hide his frustration much more affecting – most notably when one of the bookkeepers for a camp hides behind the eventual judgement of God to avoid any sort of reflection. Some of the interviewees here have reached deep within their souls to acknowledge their complicity in the evils of Nazi Germany – one even volunteers to speak to far-right youth to show them the horror their beliefs can lead to – but others still clearly fear their own guilt.

Blame for the Holocaust is handed off to whatever institutions they weren’t personally part of, while they claim to have known impossibly little about the genocide going on around them. Final Account leaves us with the grim notion that plenty of Holocaust perpetrators and enablers will face little to no reckoning beyond their own self-perception, a crushing reminder of the limits of justice when it comes to atrocities of this scale.

Final Account is now showing in UK cinemas.

Where to watch

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