Revenge: Our Dad the Nazi Killer – Australian documentary hits cinemas

Billed as a 'murder mystery' the film poses questions about when, if ever, it is legitimate to take revenge.

A new feature-length documentary about three Melbourne brothers investigating a family secret, that their father, a Holocaust survivor, travelled to Sydney in the 1950s to commit a revenge killing against a Nazi, will be released in Australian cinemas this week.

As they delve into their father Boris’s past, the brothers unearth a web of Nazi networks in Australia, covert Jewish vigilante groups, and multiple cases of Nazis who mysteriously died or disappeared in the country following World War II.

The Melbourne-based filmmaker Danny Ben-Moshe said the documentary hinges on a ‘vexed moral question’ he finds compelling. ‘When, if ever, is it legitimate to take revenge? What would you do if, like Boris’s brother Fima, you found out the murderers of your wife and child were walking free and the government were doing nothing about it?

‘Indeed, the film will show, at first the Australian Jewish community went to the police and government authorities to act, but rather than do so they would literally tip off these Nazis that their identity was known, prompting the Nazis to relocate.

‘While the story about Nazis fleeing Europe to South America after World War II and then being hunted down has been well documented, Nazi collaborators from across East and Central Europe headed to other countries like Australia.

‘Up to 5,000 settled in Australia in the aftermath of World War II, falsely entering the country as genuinely displaced people in the wave of 180,000 East and Central Europeans who arrived here. It made sense that if you were trying to get as far away as possible from war crimes you had committed, Australia was a good destination.

Revenge: Our Dad the Nazi Killer. Image Supplied.

Ben-Moshe said Australia had the highest number of Holocaust survivors, per capita, anywhere in the world outside of Israel – with a community of more than 30,000 people.

‘Many literally saw the murderers of their families or brutal guards from the death camps on Australian suburban streets,’ he said, ‘and eyewitnesses who experienced this appear in the film. This is the murky world of post WWII Australia – where Nazis on the run and Holocaust survivors found themselves in a new land, sometimes living cheek by jowl.’

As per the film’s synopsis: ‘Revenge: Our Dad the Nazi Killer is a ground-breaking investigative feature documentary about three brothers, born in Melbourne, who stumble on a family secret.

‘Their father, a Jewish partisan and holocaust survivor, who settled in Australia in the late 1940s, allegedly killed a Nazi in Sydney, after World War II and the brothers are determined to find out the truth. 

‘All of this occurs in the context of Cold War intrigue and covers-ups at the highest level of government. As the truth is revealed, the brothers grapple with their new and deepening understanding of their father, while viewers are left with a powerful question about the morality of revenge.’

Revenge: Our Dad the Nazi Killer will be showing at the following cinemas from 7 December, with more locations to be confirmed:

Classic Elsternwick, Melbourne.

Lido Hawthorn, Melbourne.

Cameo Belgrave, Melbourne.

Sun Yarraville, Melbourne.

Randwick Ritz, Sydney.

Gala Cinema, Wollongong/Warrawong.

Dendy Canberra.

Dendy Coorparoo, Brisbane.

Dendy Southport, Gold Coast.

Mercury Cinema, Adelaide. 

Paul Dalgarno is author of the novels A Country of Eternal Light (2023) and Poly (2020); the memoir And You May Find Yourself (2015); and the creative non-fiction book Prudish Nation (2023). He was formerly Deputy Editor of The Conversation and joined ScreenHub as Managing Editor in 2022. X: @pauldalgarno. Insta: @dalgarnowrites