Review of “Revenge: Our Dad the Nazi Killer” – The truth behind these mysterious deaths may remain unknown forever.
Jon and Sam Green have fond memories of their childhood, with their father Boris playing a crucial role. However, Boris was not very open about his past. This was a common experience for children of Holocaust survivors. Boris and his brother Fima were the only surviving members of their extended family after World War II, having spent years fighting as partisans in eastern Europe and hunting Nazis in the Lithuanian forests. When Fima found Boris living 200 miles away from their hometown with other survivors, Boris expressed a desire to die with them rather than live with the memories of his past and the losses he had endured. Fima did not allow this and instead made sure his brother stayed alive. In an interview for a Holocaust memorial museum, Fima says, “That is my life’s greatest achievement – saving my brother. That is all.”
In 1948, they relocated to Australia. However, the promised utopia was not what they found. Instead, they discovered a country that provided refuge to Nazi sympathizers and collaborators who had evaded punishment for their war crimes due to the lack of interest from international courts.
Danny Ben-Moshe’s documentary “Revenge: Our Dad the Nazi Killer” chronicles the journey of Boris’s sons as they delve into the potential repercussions of a tragic set of circumstances. The family has long heard murmurs and insinuations about their father’s potential involvement in a murder that took place in Sydney during the 1950s. There are speculations that it may have been a retaliatory killing against someone linked to the Nazi regime.
John Garvey, a former police detective, is hired as a private investigator. He searches through old police records and delicate papers provided by Jewish museums in Australia and Lithuania. With Jack or Jon by his side, he also speaks with Boris’s former friends and fellow postwar immigrants in an attempt to understand the man and address the main question of the film and the boys’ journey: was Boris capable of murder, and how do you handle that information if the answer is “Yes”?
His former acquaintances are convinced that the man who emerged from the Lithuanian forests did not leave his past as a partisan behind. Through a combination of their testimonies and research from archives, Garvey uncovers evidence of a network of Jewish surveillance groups in Australia who tracked potential war criminals and collaborators. However, when they reported their findings to the police, they discovered that the police were more likely to warn the subjects instead of arresting them. As the 1950s and 1960s progressed, there were a significant number of suicides and inexplicable deaths among the individuals suspected by these groups. Garvey narrows down the list of potential victims and, as Boris’s interviews with Holocaust researchers are reviewed, it becomes increasingly likely that he and Fima were directly involved in at least one death. This death was likely that of a man who had participated in the killing of their fellow townspeople, and possibly their own family members.
The inquiry presented in this film does not aim to provide a definite answer, and it may not even be possible to do so. However, this is not the main focus of the film, nor of the brothers conducting the inquiry. Instead, it uncovers a lesser-known aspect of Jewish and Australian history and raises the ethical question of whether it is justifiable to take a life, as well as subtly examining the responsibility of governments and authorities in failing to bring justice and retribution for some of the most heinous crimes in history.
Richard (no surname given), a child aide to the partisans, who also emigrated to Australia, where he was part of a local committee of Jewish survivors, says that he believes Boris did kill a fugitive collaborator after the war “and I hope that he did”. The survivor Abe Goldberg, who remembers babies bayonetted by Nazi soldiers and saw Boris speak at a Holocaust commemoration service in Melbourne, says killing those responsible would have been the moral thing to do, and he would have shaken Boris’s hand if he had.
Sam Green, who worked with his father in the family-owned jewelry store, recalls the aftermath of a war where survivors would come in with stories of the men responsible for their family’s deaths. They would then be taken into private rooms for further discussion with Sam’s father. Jack expresses that he now feels a stronger connection and sense of pride for his father now that his secrets have been partially revealed. Jon adds that if his father did indeed stand up for justice and prevent further harm when others were not, he not only hopes he did it, but is also proud of him. While the film does not take a definitive stance, it is difficult to disagree with the sentiments of Boris Green’s sons.