My Father’s War, an animated documentary produced by Humanity in Action, brings to life the experiences of Peter Hein and his son David Hein. As a Jewish toddler in the Netherlands in the 1940s, Peter was separated from his parents and whisked from hiding place to hiding place to escape deportation. From feigning scarlet fever to avoid a Nazi raid, to suffering crippling injuries during a bombing campaign, Peter somehow survives, one day at a time, even as capture and death surround him.
Meanwhile, the film also follows Peter’s parents, who themselves must make a series of daring escapes as their hiding places are revealed to Nazi forces by Dutch collaborators. By the end of the war, when Peter and his parents are finally reunited, Peter cannot even recognize them. “I just saw a strange man with long black hair and a little woman who was crying and trying to kiss me. I didn’t want anything from them,” Peter recalls in the film.
But for Peter’s son David, his father’s war stories once sounded widely exiting, and as a child, David longs for the opportunity to experience similar exhilaration. He fantasizes about what he would do if he had to go into hiding: With whom would he hide? And where would he do it? What David did not realize is that, while his father’s physical injuries healed, a deep psychological trauma lingered. Eventually, Peter’s mental health buckles under the weight of his memories. He suffers an emotional breakdown; he cannot leave his bed, let alone continue his work as a doctor. The family’s economic condition deteriorates as David watches his hero, his father, fade into a shell of his former self.
The film thus explores the hereditary trauma of the Holocaust: the deep emotional wounds of forefathers passed on to children and grandchildren. Peter’s mental collapse jars David’s childhood, and reveals to David the deep-seated impact conflict renders on those who suffer it. Ultimately, the experience inspires David to pursue a career bringing war criminals to justice.
Narrated by both Peter and David, My Father’s War depicts an intergenerational conversation, reverberating across the decades. Developed by an international team of documentarians, researchers and animators, this film preserves these critical stories of our past to share with our future.
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My Father’s War is available in English. Subtitles are available in English, Dutch, German, Polish, Hebrew and Ukrainian.