‘The Commandant’s Shadow’ Documentary Tells Story of Auschwitz Director’s Son

Photo Credit: Beata Zawrzel / NurPhoto / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Beata Zawrzel / NurPhoto / Getty Images

The Academy Award-winning film The Zone of Interest was among the most talked about in 2023. Now, a documentary about the movie’s subject, Auschwitz commandant Rudolf Höss, has been released. The Commandant’s Shadow sets its focus on Höss’ son, Jergen, during his time living adjacent to the infamous concentration camp during the Second World War.

Kai Höss standing on a red carpet
Kai Höss attending the New York premiere of The Commandant’s Shadow at the Whitby Hotel, 2024. (Photo Credit: John Lamparski / Getty Images)

Unlike The Zone of Interest, which is a work of fiction based on the Martin Amis novel, The Commandant’s Shadow is dedicated to uncovering the legacy of Auschwitz and the inhumane treatment of those held there. It follows Höss and grandson Kai as they look back at that time in the former’s life, with the pair eventually meeting Holocaust survivor Anita Lasker-Wallfisch, the “cellist of Auschwitz,” and her daughter.

As per the official synopsis, this is the “first time the descendent of a major war criminal meets a survivor in such a private and intimate setting, Anita’s London living room.”

Höss says in The Commandant’s Shadow that he wasn’t aware of the goings-on at Auschwitz when he was growing up, explaining to the documentary’s participants that he’d believed it “was a prison and [his dad] was the boss,” adding, “I had a really lovely and idyllic childhood in Auschwitz.”

This is something his grandson can’t comprehend, saying, “That is just mind-blowing when you think about it.”

Along with showing these recently-filmed scenes, the documentary also uses archival footage to tell the story of Auschwitz. This, paired with Rudolf Höss’ own writings, present a full picture of the concentration camp and its enduring impact.

Daniela Völker standing on a red carpet
Daniela Völker attending the New York premiere of The Commandant’s Shadow at the Whitby Hotel, 2024. (Photo Credit: John Lamparski / Getty Images)

The Commandant’s Shadow, directed by Daniela Völker, premiered at the Docaviv Festival in Israel, taking home the Yad Vashem Award for Outstanding Holocaust-Related Documentary.

Produced by New Mandate Films and Snowstorm, Creators, Inc., the distribution rights were obtained by HBO and Warner Bros., who arranged a limited theatrical release across 700 theaters in the United States.

“In the wake of the atrocities of October 7th – and at a time when antisemitism has reached a level not seen since the Holocaust – The Commandant’s Shadow is a stark reminder that there can be no reconciliation without a true and honest reckoning of the past. Only then can we hope to avoid repeating history and build a better future,” a statement by Warner Bros. Discovery reads.

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The Commandant’s Shadow has received primarily positive reviews, as shown by the 91 percent rating it currently holds on Rotten Tomatoes.

Clare Fitzgerald

Clare Fitzgerald is a Writer and Editor with eight years of experience in the online content sphere. Graduating with a Bachelor of Arts from King’s University College at Western University, her portfolio includes coverage of digital media, current affairs, history and true crime.

Among her accomplishments are being the Founder of the true crime blog, Stories of the Unsolved, which garners between 400,000 and 500,000 views annually, and a contributor for John Lordan’s Seriously Mysterious podcast. Prior to its hiatus, she also served as the Head of Content for UK YouTube publication, TenEighty Magazine.

In her spare time, Clare likes to play Pokemon GO and re-watch Heartland over and over (and over) again. She’ll also rave about her three Maltese dogs whenever she gets the chance.

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