“Your father was a monster”
In the PBS documentary “Inheritance,” the daughter of Nazi murderer Amon Goeth struggles to accept an unbearable legacy.

By Heather Havrilesky

Dec. 10, 2008 | Monika Hertwig knew very little about her father until she went to see Steven Spielberg’s film “Schindler’s List.” According to Hertwig, no one in Germany talked about the Second World War. Her grandmother had told her, when she was 11, that her father was hanged for killing Jews as the head of the Plaszow concentration camp in Krakow, Poland. But she didn’t fully grasp her father’s unconscionable acts until 1993, when Spielberg’s film came out. The moment Ralph Fiennes’ character was introduced, Hertwig recognized him. Then she sat in the dark for hours, feeling, in her words, “sick with the truth.”

In the POV documentary “Inheritance” (premieres 9 p.m. Dec. 10 on PBS), filmmaker James Moll unveils the story of how Hertwig, now in her 60s, discovered the unthinkable horrors of her father’s legacy. She never knew her father, who died when she was 1 year old, and she’d never gotten along with her mother, who once told her in anger that she was just like her father and would die like him, too. But when Hertwig saw a German documentary about the Holocaust featuring a woman named Helen Jonas who’d been a servant in Amon Goeth’s house, Hertwig became intent on meeting Jonas to learn more about her father and to understand why her mother had stayed by his side, as his mistress, during those years.