Film in Israel with Holacaust survivor daughter
decimates the past
Bettina Goering ran away from home at 13, lived in the early Osho Ashram in Poona, India, and later in the Osho communes.
Her great-uncle, her father’s beloved godfather, was the infamous Nazi leader Hermann Goering. Adolf Hitler’s second-in-command, he headed the vaunted Luftwaffe airforce and was a leading architect of the “Final Solution” to exterminate Europe’s Jews.
His grandniece’s impressive odyssey to cleanse herself of the family’s tarnished past brought her recently to Israel, where a documentary about her relationship with a child of Holocaust survivors is being featured at the Jewish Eye film festival.
The film, “Bloodlines” records Bettina’s emotional encounters with Ruth Rich, an Australian artist whose brother was murdered by the Nazis and whose parents emerged broken from the Holocaust. The film has been aired on Australian television and will next be screened at the Boston Jewish Film Festival.
Bettina, in an interview, said it was only thanks to her meetings with Ruth Rich, where she faced the pain of an angry victim, that she was finally able to break through from a guilt-ridden life. “I looked into the darkest darkness and there is nothing left to fear. I finally released it,” she said. “It was the deepest kind of therapy you could do.”
Bettina is now 52 and a Doctor of oriental medicine, but has struggled with her identity. Her father, Heinz, was adopted by his infamous uncle, after his own father died, and followed in his footsteps to become a fighter pilot in the Luftwaffe. Heinz was shot down in WW2 over the Soviet Union and only returned from captivity in 1952, to find that his two brothers had killed themselves and the family’s fortunes were gone.
Hermann Goering was sentenced to death along with 11 others at the Nuremberg trials in 1946, but he committed suicide by swallowing a poison pill in his cell the night before his scheduled execution.
Bettina said her father, who died in 1981, never spoke about the Holocaust, or about his notorious uncle. Bettina was baffled at how the systematic killing of 6 million Jews had occurred, and rebelled. At 13, she ran away and cut ties with the family. She became a hippie and then a communist, and travelled the world. Her journey took her to India where she become a disciple of Osho. Still, she says she couldn’t shake the ghost of her great-uncle. It was there every time she looked in the mirror. “The eyes, the cheekbones, the profile,” she said. “I look just like him. I look more like him than his own daughter.”
The most drastic step she took was to have her tubes tied at age 30. She said she feared she would create another monster. “It’s my bloodline and I didn’t want to continue it,” she said. “I didn’t want any more Goerings.” Her only brother independently decided to have a vasectomy. She is now close with him, but disconnected from the rest of the family. “It’s all a part of this guilt,” she said.
Through a common friend, she was introduced a couple of years ago to Rich who was struggling with her own baggage of victimized parents and the ghost of a brother she never knew. Rich went through years of intensive therapy and escaped to art, where she painted dark troubling images of the demons lurking inside her. Together, the two women began to heal.
In their first meetings, Rich said she felt contempt for Bettina. “It was very intense and I definitely projected this on Bettina,” she said. But ultimately, she said they have formed a “great sisterhood.”
Bettina credits Rich for letting her finally shed a burden. The newfound inner peace gave her enough confidence to come to Israel for the first time. At a screening this week of “Bloodlines”, she faced tough questions from survivors at the film festival. Later, in a visit to the Yad Vashem Holocaust museum, she watched the famous footage of Hermann Goering from the Nuremberg trials with less pain than ever before. “The hardest part is admitting that I could have liked him. I was so shocked by that,” she said. “Now I am accepting myself more for who I am, whatever that encompasses the good, the bad and the ugly.”
On the Net: http://www.bloodlinesfilm.com