“The Inheritors”: An innocent fifteen year old joins the National Unity Party, a neo-Nazi group

By on March 12, 2019

In Walter Bannert’s The Inheritors (Die Erben, 1983) — a cautionary tale based around real people, events and conversations the Austrian film director had personally experienced — a fresh-faced, innocent fifteen year old boy is invited to join a neo-Nazi group, the National Unity Party.

Bannet’s film, now streaming on Night Flight Plus, is a reminder of the real dangers involved when disillusioned European youths attempt to revive Nazism and right-wing extremism, which means The Inheritors may even be more relevant today, in 2019, than when it was first released.

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Bannert was inspired to co-write the screenplay (with Erich A. Richter) after a gang of ultra-right-wing new-Nazi thugs smashed up a Vienna café in 1979, beating up some of the patrons who were simply enjoying a meal, including Bannert himself.

The incident was modeled on “Kristallnach,” the two consecutive days of November 9-10, 1938, during which German Nazis torched synagogues, vandalized Jewish homes, schools and businesses, and killed close to one hundred Jews.

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Bannert later ingratiated himself with the movement’s leaders and was somewhat surprisingly given full access to the neo-Nazi movement after convincing these party leaders he wanted to make an objective documentary about their political movement.

For the next three years, he was invited to attend party rallies and other events, and he was given entry into secret militia training camps.

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The story here revolves around what happens to two rebellious teens in an unnamed city (we can safely presume it is in either Austria or West Germany).

First, there’s the upper middle-class “Thomas Feigl” (Nikolas Vogel), a sixteen year old budding photographer who — along with his sensitive and suicidal cello-playing younger brother “Ernst” (Klaus Novak) — hates his tyrannical, domineering mother (Anneliese Stoeckl-Eberhard) and distracted, self-made industrialist father (Jaromir Borek).

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Thomas befriends a local working class thug named “Charly” (Roger Schauer), who he helps steal a motorcycle and evade the local police, after which they quickly bond despite coming from opposite sides of the tracks, so to speak.

Charly has his own problems at home, enduring regular beatings from his cruel, alcoholic father (Frank Dietrich) and battling with his hateful mother (Johanna Tomek).

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Charly takes Thomas to a youth club sponsored by the National Unity Party, the local neo-Nazi group who are always on the lookout for new members, and he suddenly finds himself in a strange new world of black leather jackets and beer-fueled sexual misadventures.

He watches as Charly as he beats up one neo-Nazi Hitler youth, after which he takes his girlfriend into a backroom to fuck (there are several lengthy NSFW nude scenes).

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Grizzled older party members — including leader “Norbert Furst” (Wolfgang Gasser) — regale the younger members with stories about their old life, and everyone sits around watching vintage World War II films.

Seduced by the camaraderie and their worship of Nazi symbols and SS regalia — not to mention the group’s easy access to weapons, paramilitary training and mock executions — Thomas ends up joining their party.

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They collectively dream of revitalized Fatherland, free from the West’s influence, and ”commies, queers and aliens,” a country additionally free from corporate control, where they’ll be able to live happy lives dedicated to taking care of the environment.

Thomas rides around with these young Nazi youth thugs in open trucks, beats up anti-fascists in cafés and mugs tourists and foreigners, and, just for fun, he has emotionless sex with expression-less Aryan groupies who passively submit to the boys sexual desires.

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While the story presented here is fictional, we’re shown what amounts to a unique insider’s look at what life is probably like for members of the National Unity Party — also known as National Unity Front — or similar European neo-Nazi organizations.

Read more about The Inheritors below.

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Bannert’s The Inheritors gives us a unique look from the inside-out at the world of neo-Nazi youth, showing us how they avoid certain German laws (the Nazi insignia is banned in the country) while still evoking the same Nazi atmosphere, which doesn’t seem to have completely disappeared despite the real Nazis being defeated in the 1940s.

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Bannert also gives us an insightful look at the once violent older neo-Nazis, eager for some level of respectability, who now disavow the violence espoused by the younger neo-Nazis, even as they continue to incite violence with their own inflammatory speeches.

We see how their sick beliefs are actually rooted in national pride and the defense of their families, and in the explicit denial of the Holocaust, a delusion which is frankly still pretty shocking to see and hear in the 21st Century.

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In 1983, when The Inheritors was first being screened in West German theaters, neo-Nazi sympathizers tried to intimidate theater owners by calling in actual bomb threats.

There was at least one real bomb found — according to a report in the New York TImes circa January 11, 1983 — which resulted in The Inheritors being withdrawn from theaters across Europe.

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The same Times article claimed he film was distributed with a press kit which included an essay by Gerald Margolis, Ph.D., director of the Simon Wiesenthal Center, who certified the accuracy of the film’s presentation of the methods and the goals of the increasing number of neo-Nazi groups in Germany and Austria.

One way to ensure that this threatening, bullying behavior doesn’t gain a foothold is to watch the film they didn’t want anyone to see, which obviously goes out of its way to affirm the disgust most viewers likely already feel towards neo-Nazis.

Watch The Inheritors on Night Flight Plus.

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About Bryan Thomas

Bryan Thomas has been a freelancing writer/critic for All Music Guide, and a contributor to Launch, Music Connection, Big Takeover and numerous other publications and entertainment websites, blogs and zines, most of them long gone. He's written more than sixty sets of liner notes. He’s also worked for over twenty years at mostly reissue record labels -- prior to that he worked in bookstores and record stores, going all the way back to the original vinyl daze. He lives in the Miracle Mile neighborhood of Los Angeles, CA.