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'The Decent One': The documentary about Heinrich Himmler is excruciating

Director Vanessa Lapa uses a cache of hundreds of Himmler's and his family's personal papers and rare footage to examine the question of how seemingly 'normal' people can perpetrate the worst human atrocities.

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Heinrich Himmler is pictured in a photo from 1941.

Courtesy of Kino Lorber, Inc.

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“The Decent One” once again posits that perhaps unanswerable question: How can seemingly “normal” people perpetrate the worst human atrocities? The normal monster in question is Heinrich Himmler, the Nazi SS commander who is often called “the architect of the Holocaust.” 

Documentarian Vanessa Lapa, a Belgian who has been living in Israel since 1995, came into possession of a cache of hundreds of Himmler’s and his family’s personal letters, diaries, and photos and recorded their words over rare and newly restored footage that, especially when it bears down on the Holocaust, is excruciating to witness. Himmler in one of his letters says that “in life, one must be always decent, courageous and kind-hearted,” and “decent” is apparently how he saw himself right up to the time he swallowed a cyanide capsule after he was captured by the British. Grade: B+ (This film is unrated.)

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