“The Commandant’s Shadow” Explores Legacy of Auschwitz Commandant’s Son at Mumbai Film Festival


Daniela Volker’s documentary, “The Commandant’s Shadow”, which premiered at the 18th Mumbai International Film Festival, tackles the Holocaust from a unique perspective: the son of Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Höss.

The film follows 87-year-old Hans Jürgen Höss as he grapples with his father’s horrific legacy. Höss enjoyed a privileged childhood in a villa located within Auschwitz itself, while Jewish prisoner Anita Lasker-Wallfisch fought for survival within the camp’s walls.

The documentary explores the impact of this dark history on both families, featuring interviews with Höss’ son Kai and Lasker-Wallfisch’s daughter Maya.

Director Volker sheds light on a previously unseen manuscript written by Rudolf Höss just before his execution. This manuscript provides a chilling account of the camp’s construction, juxtaposed with letters Höss wrote to his young son revealing a seemingly affectionate side.

The film’s press conference also featured commentary from the film’s producers, Sajan Raj Kurup and Wendy Robbins. Kurup stressed the importance of a strong narrative and a well-honed pitch in securing funding for films. He also noted the growing acceptance of documentaries as a genre, particularly those with a strong entertainment value.

Robbins highlighted the role of timing in securing funding, referencing the impact of the Oscar-winning fictional film “Zone of Interest” which also explored the Höss family story. She emphasized the importance of a film’s integrity and packaging.

Both producers expressed enthusiasm for Doc Bazaar, a program within the MIFF that fosters collaboration between creators and producers.

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