I recently had the chance to Co-Host an exclusive screening of the new documentary "The Decent One" with the Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival in association with my Cinema Series "Kat Kramer's Films That Change The World."I was lucky to be able to moderate a post-discussion with the filmmaker Vanessa Lapa, renowned scholar and Holocaust Historian Michael Berenbaum, and the film's sound designer Tomar Eliav. It was a full house of industry, media and a few Holocaust survivors. "The Decent One" won the Best Documentary Award at the 2014 Jerusalem Film Festival and it premiered at the Berlin Film Festival earlier this year. It's an official submission for the 2015 Academy Awards in the category of Best Documentary feature.
This compelling documentary reveals the secret personal writings and photographs from the private collection of Nazi Gestapo Chief Heinrich Himmler. I recently sat down with Lapa to find out how she acquired the collection. Born and raised in Belgium, Lapa has been living in Israel since 1995. She has made two acclaimed documentaries "OLMERT-CONCEALED DOCUMENTARY" about Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and "Straddling The Fence." Her production company Realworks, Ltd. specializes in documentary films.
"It all started with the "Black Box" Lapa told me, referring to the "Black Box" containing all of Himmler's private documents. "They were hidden for decades under the bed of Mr. Chaim Rosenthal." His son Daniel Rosenthal convinced him to sell it to Lapa's own father at the University of Tel Aviv. "Himmler thought of himself a "decent man" Lapa continued, "and he was calculated in his choices. Even believing that he needed to find a "decent way" to kill millions of people."
Nobody is certain how Rosenthal acquired Himmler's files, but Daniel Rosenthal told Lapa,"the "Black Box" was a taboo subject in our family." Lapa shared with me "It took time to pick up the challenge to make the film, and I went through seven years of research."
Editing the film took a "team of twenty" and Lapa says she wants to make sure "The Decent One" is "a really important cinematic experience." This film is best described by Errol Morris who called it " a fabulous excursion into the deep mystery of evil."
Clearly, this is no "love letter" to Heinrich Himmler and the public needs to be made aware of that although the title could be misleading.
My father, maverick filmmaker Stanley Kramer made thirty-five films with social-issues, including the 1961 Classic "Judgement At Nuremberg" which won many awards including the Academy Award for Best Actor Maximilian Schell and Abby Mann for Best Original Screenplay. This film opened audience's eyes and made them socially-conscious and fully aware of the horrors of Nazi Germany and "man's inhumanity to man."
As an avid student of the Holocaust and the evil nature of the Third Reich, I was always fascinated by how Himmler attained such an important position as head of the SS when he was always described as a quiet man, and a mousy individual who was actually the main mastermind behind the Nazi Death Camps. And according to Lapa he was "no Jekyll and Hyde personality." He scarily believed in racial purity and human cleansing. It is important we recognize this "banality of evil" in the world.
Himmler himself was quoted as saying "We can have but one desire as to what is said about us: these German officers, these German soldiers -- they were decent."