Believe it or not, quite fittingly, kraut queer filmmaker and all-around gay agitator Rosa von Praunheim (Army of Lovers or Revolt of the Perverts, Neurosia: 50 Years of Perversity) is the bastard son of a whore who was spawned like a literal born criminal in prison, or so one learns while watching his rather personal documentary Meine Mütter – Spurensuche in Riga (2007) aka Two Mothers – The Search Began in Riga. Indeed, until his adoptive mother, Gertrud Mischwitzky, told him otherwise in 2000 not long before she died, von Praunheim never even remotely suspected that he was adopted, let alone the seemingly forsaken progeny of a Nazi whore criminal who mysteriously died in a mental institution as a result of supposed ‘chronic diarrhea’ in 1946. In Two Mothers, von Praunheim not only chronicled his strenuous and seemingly futile search for the identity of his biological parents, but also the history of Eastern Europe, especially Riga, Latvia, during the German occupation, the expulsion of Germans from Eastern Europe and the dissolving of Prussia, and of course the holocaust. With the documentary, von Praunheim has achieved something he has never achieved before by making a film that is more or less a fag-free affair that can be enjoyed by the entire family. In other words, the doc is the one von Praunheim flick that will not cause your grandmother to suffer a massive heart attack, as a documentary featuring various elderly grandmas and great-grandmas sentimentally discussing the past. On top of revealing that von Praunheim has come a long way since he was fittingly begotten in a National Socialist jail, Two Mothers also paints a portrait of Eastern Europe that is quite eerie, as a sort of cultural graveyard that never recovered from its de-Germanization and subsequent Sovietization. Among other things, von Praunheim learns during his ancestral quest that his mother was from the Prussian town of Pyritz, which was built in the early 1200s and destroyed in February 1945 by the Red Army. Indeed, believe it or not, Aryan alpha-aberrosexual von Praunheim actually gets in touch with his inner ‘Heimat’ in Two Mothers. The doc also has its moments of unintentional humor, especially when the director incessantly asks researchers and historians if there is any chance that he is Jewish, as if his goofy kraut appearance does not blatantly tell otherwise. Of course, instead of learning that he is a members of god’s chosen tribe, von Praunheim discovers that there is a good chance that he is the prodigal progeny of one of the most murderous commanders of the SS Einsatzgruppe. Indeed, Two Mothers is certainly a fucked filmic family affair, but it is also quite touching in its own post-apocalyptic Heimat sort of way. Undoubtedly, more than anything, the doc reveals that an entire people can be destroyed in one single generation, with von Praunheim—a mensch who is the direct product of the chaos of the Second World War and who considers himself to be a member of an international queer nation as opposed to the German nation—being the most blatant symbol of this degeneration.
Opening with home movie footage of auteur Rosa von Praunheim (real name Holger Mitschwitzky) celebrating the 96th birthday of his adoptive mother Gertrud Mischwitzky, Two Mothers immediately gives the viewer the feeling that, despite the director’s degenerate behavior as a poof public figure who has dedicated a good portion of his career to directing aberrosexual agitprop, he has a fairly good relationship with the woman who raised him. In 2000, von Praunheim’s adoptive mother revealed to him that she adopted him from a German orphanage in Riga, Latvia where his adoptive father, who was in the navy, had been stationed. Probably thinking he could make a great film while also learning about the woman that gave birth to him in the process, von Praunheim heads to the Slavic city for the first time in 63 years to discover who his real biological mother was, though he has very little information to work with and one historian describes his search as being like attempting to find a needle in a haystack. Since most public records were destroyed during the chaos of the Second World War, it is rather unlikely that von Praunheim will find any leads, yet after a researcher randomly discovers a near-ancient receipt for diapers for a baby named Holger Radtke, the filmmaker soon sets his eyes on the photograph of a curious woman that gave birth to him over 60 years ago for the first time in his life. As it turns out, the director’s biological mother is a woman named Edith Radtke and she apparently was a real-life femme fatale of sorts who was the mistress of many powerful men, including a famous Nazi photographer named Max Ehlert, a business manager (who she apparently was engaged to), and a commander of an Einsatzgruppe unit who loved whoring and drinking. As for von Praunheim’s mother's current whereabouts, she apparently died in a nuthouse in 1946 after suffering chronic diarrhea, which ostensibly led to her death via heart muscle degeneration. Not surprisingly, it is revealed that the woman that signed off on Radtke’s death certificate was well known for her use of euthanasia and would typically list the cause of death as a heart attack anytime she had someone exterminated. A victim of electroshock therapy, Radtke was probably not in the most peaceful state of mind when she perished under rather dubious circumstances.
While on his odyssey to discover the origins of his mother and her family, von Praunheim spends almost just as much time researching the fate of the Jews during the Second World War, especially in Riga and the Baltic region in general. Among other things, the director hooks up with an eccentric and oftentimes gratingly annoying left-wing researcher named Anita Kugler, who is best known for writing the book Scherwitz: Der jüdische SS-Offizier (2004) aka Scherwitz: The Jewish SS Officer, which details the truly stranger-than-fiction story of a Jewish SS officer named Fritz Scherwitz who commanded a concentration camp(!) and has been described as a sort of ‘Semitic Schindler’ due to his protection of his fellow Hebrews during his reign as a kosher Nazi, though he was arrested after the Second World War for his apparent involvement in the execution of three Jews. As for Herr von Praunheim’s potential genetic links to the big H, the director may have been the progeny of one of two Einsatzgruppe commanders, which include Franz Walter Stahlecker and Rudolf Lange. While Stahlecker was killed by Soviet partisans in early 1942 (over 8 months before von Praunheim born), Lange—a man whose greatest claim to infamy is that he apparently liquidated 250,000 people in a little less than six months—disappeared sometime in late-February 1945, thus making it more likely that the latter man is the filmmaker’s father. Additionally, as described in the doc, Lange was known for “whoring around” and Praunheim’s mother was a whore.
At the conclusion of Two Mothers, von Praunheim asks himself regarding the identity of his biological father: “Do I really want to know?” In the documentary Rosakinder (2012) aka Rosa’s Children—a tribute to the filmmaker directed by five of his former students, including Tom Tykwer, Julia von Heinz, and Chris Kraus—von Praunheim opts out of seeing if he is related to an infamous SS man. Indeed, filmmaker Chris Kraus (Vier Minuten aka Four Minutes, The Poll Diaries), who also appears in Two Mothers as well, may be related to his ex-teacher via his SS officer grandfather, but von Praunheim did not have the gall to find out for sure by taking a DNA test, as if discovering he is the bastard boi of a much hated Hebrew hunter will somehow turn him into an evil Nazi butcher overnight or something. Undoubtedly, it would be the ultimate irony of genetic fate if it was discovered that von Praunheim—a man whose pseudonymous name is in reference to the pink triangle that cocksuckers had to where in concentration camps—is the son of one of the Schutzstaffel’s foremost slaughterers.
Although I almost hate to say it, Two Mothers gave me a newfound respect for Rosa von Praunheim. Indeed, while the doc dwells way too much on the holocaust, the director also uncovered important yet highly neglected pieces of the history that is rarely talked about, especially in the United States. For example, the director learns that his family was the victim of Soviet mass theft after interviewing a stoic old-timer named Ekkehart Wendorff, who was born on a 600-year-old estate in Pyritz, which is where von Praunheim’s mother was originally from. Like much of what used to be called Prussia, Pyritz fell into Slavic hands after WWI and was physically destroyed by the Red Army in February 1, 1945, with the German population being subsequently expelled and forced to fend for their own in the west. Interestingly, Wendorff states regarding theft of his hometown: “The expulsion of Germans from the eastern territories remains a crime and an injustice. I’m not going to say, “That’s fine, just keep the land.” If the politicians ever say that, then we deserve reparations. I always say, “A half-truth is a total lie.” The German empire never fell.” Towards the conclusion of Two Mothers, von Praunheim attends a ‘Pyritz Heimat’ reunion where he meets his exceedingly elderly aunt and cousin. To von Praunheim’s credit, despite the fact that his relatives and the people of Pyritz are ‘god-fearing’ and rather nationalistic, the filmmaker pays them great respect and seems to appreciate their culture and customs. One can only fathom how von Praunheim would have turned out had he been raised by his biological parents in Pyritz. Indeed, everyone knows the stereotype of gay men having cold mothers and as a man whose mother disposed of him immediately after he was born, von Praunheim might owe his signature sexuality to the lack of nurturing he received as an infant (notably, Fassbinder's boyfriend Armin Meier and sod serial killer Jürgen Bartsch were also illegitimate children who were deprived of affection as infants). Indeed, one would never suspect from a baby pic of von Praunehim featured in Two Mothers that he would grow up to be be a rampantly homosexual colon-choking chauvinist who would have gay sex in front his students and direct films about cocksucker cannibals. Indeed, the one thing I kept asking myself while watching the documentary is how Edith Radtke would have reacted had she survived the nut ward and met her big gay biological son.