Short film, “Forgive Us Our Trespasses” brings yet another horrific event to light, belonging to the infamous era of World War II. The stories, the occurrences, and the deplorable human conditions have been the inspiration behind many path-breaking films of our time. As soon as you feel that you have seen it all through those prolific films, along comes another, which has such a profound impact on you that you cannot help but think about what that generation would have been through. How did they find the will to keep moving forward amidst such chaos, such brutality, such injustice, and the fear of losing those who mean the world to them?
“Forgive Us Our Trespasses” has been directed by Ashley Eakin, and it captures Peter’s (Knox Gibson) rendezvous with death. Young Peter, who has a disabled arm, is seen sitting in the class when his teacher, Eva (Hanneke Talbot), who is also his mother, makes the class solve a mathematics problem. The problem readout that if a German family needed five Reichsmarks a day to survive, but the cost required to support one person with a hereditary disease was twelve Reichsmarks, then what was the value lost to the German people.
This was the extent of the Nazi propaganda. There is no better way to brainwash an entire generation than by targeting the brooding minds and molding them in the desired manner. Hitler wanted everyone to buy into his “Pure Aryan Race” concept. He knew that if the disabled people were somehow eliminated, then there would be more vacant beds in the hospitals for the soldiers, whom he needed to win the war. But how do you convince a person to kill their loved one without facing any resistance? So he sold an idea that was larger than life.
The dictatorial regime started curating the curriculum in the schools. They wanted the majority to see these people with disabilities and hereditary diseases as marginal human beings who are not worthy of living. A committee was set up under the name “Scientific Treatment of Severe Hereditary and Congenital Diseases.” The committee collected data to figure out how many people with disabilities were in hospitals, so that eventually they could be eliminated. Children were the prime target, but later the operation saw an expansion, where even teens and adults were added, and came to be known as T-4.
When Eva is saying the Lord’s prayer, Peter interrupts her at a specific line that reads, “Forgive those who trespass against us.” The boy innocently asks, “Do they forgive even the Nazis?”
Eva tells him that no calculation can measure the value of life, but she knew that the Nazis would arrive someday to get her disabled son. That day, she feared, had finally arrived. Eva stops them so that Peter gets some time to run to a nearby barn that serves as their hideout. We see another woman already hiding in the barn and in no condition to get up and run. Peter knew that if he stayed there, then the Nazis would catch them both. So he makes the sacrifice. He asks the women to sit quietly while he creates a diversion. The Nazi officer eventually got a hold of him. Somehow, Peter manages to get the better of him and shoot him dead. He rips off his overcoat, wears it, and walks away with a smirk. He survived. History might not remember Peter or children like him. But he knew that he stood up against the atrocities. He knew the importance of forgiveness but also knew how important it was to raise a voice against injustice.
“Forgive Us Our Trespasses” is a 2022 History Drama Short Film directed by Ashley Eakin.