Revenge: Our Dad the Nazi Killer
BBC Four | ★★★★✩
Revenge: Our Dad the Nazi Killer is certainly a title that grabs the attention. It is also one that my children could never write about me. Theirs would be more along the lines of, Revenge: Our Dad Wrote a Scathing Letter to the Council. But for three brothers in Melbourne, it’s their family folklore. Their late father Boris Green was allegedly involved in the assassination of an unidentified former Nazi after the war.
When it came to killing Nazis, Boris certainly had form. Born in Belarus, he and his younger brother were the only survivors of a large family murdered in the Shoah. Boris survived by becoming a partisan in the forest where he founded the only Jewish combat unit. It was called Nekoma, Yiddish for revenge.
As he speaks about those terrible times, it can sometimes be difficult to tally them with the footage of weddings, bar mitzvahs and other family simchahs that punctuate the programme, and the sweet elderly man in front of us. Having moved to Australia in 1949, where he married, raised his three children, and set up a jewellery and watchmaker business, he presents as someone who has moved on. But, we learn, his past was literally there, living right next to him.
Australia became home to the largest percentage of Holocaust survivors per capita outside of Israel, but it was also the destination for tens of hundreds of of Nazi war criminals. Worse still, documents reveal that the Australian government knew this, even protecting them as a spurious buffer against the supposed threat of communism.
We learn this thanks to the investigative work of a private detective called John Garvey, who Boris’s youngest son hired to establish if there’s any truth to Boris’s vigilante past. It’s also the point where the documentary suffers most. Mr Garvey is evidently hard working and very good at his job, but he lacks charisma. Put another way, he isn’t the best person to whom a goodly chunk of the hour-and-a-half runtime should have been handed. This is the weakest part of the programme.
More pleasingly, the programme’s stylish direction and cinematic tinge reflect well on prolific documentary maker Danny Ben-MOSH this award-winning documentary, which is being shown in cinemas and which is winning awards, being nominated for and winning awards, I can understand why certain choices were made. Its stylish direction and cinematic tinge speaks to the skills of prolific documentary maker Danny Ben-Moshe (Morris). Yet as part of BBC Four’s Storyville series, a lot of filler and extraneous extrapolation could’ve been cut out.
For all the uncovered clues, and spate of suspicious suicides of Lithuanian Nazi collaborators, no hard evidence incriminating Boris is ever uncovered. On balance it seems more than plausible, but the idea posited by Mr Garvey that Boris and his brother deliberately immigrated to seek revenge pushes things into incredulity. What is proven, was that Boris Green was a great man. He fought back, he survived, and he flourished. The success and character of his three sons speaks to his character, and he continued to be a leader to a community of survivors. Whether that leadership involved him committing murder we can at best guess, as to whether that revenge consumed him, a life lived well suggests not.