Inheritance is a labor of love based on director Paul Cuoco’s experience of learning that his Grandfather was a liberator at the Buchenwald concentration camp during World War II. Using his Grandfather’s photographs combined with thorough research, Cuoco crafted this film to honor his Grandfather and all of the men who witnessed these atrocities first hand, as well as to honor the memory of those who were forced to endure it. The following is a short synopsis of the film itself: On the eve of his Grandfather’s funeral, a young man receives his inheritance. It is not a dowry of riches, but instead a simple manila envelope containing photographs and a letter. As the befuddled young man sifts through the worn and tattered photos he can not believe his eyes. The images are horrific. Image after image of dead bodies neatly stacked in rows. Ovens filled with half-burned human corpses. In shock, he slowly sifts past the horrible imagery to the letter, and reads his Grandfather’s words, a powerful and impassioned recounting of that fateful day, April 11, 1945, when he and his company came upon the Buchenwald concentration camp. His Grandfather describes through haunting words and ghastly photographs the horrors of the camp, its effect on him, and the shame he felt for locking these feelings and images away for fifty six years. He pleads to his grandson that this can never be forgotten, it is now his burden to bear, and this is his Inheritance.
Inheritance is not quite a work of fiction. It is a dramatization of my own experience days after the death of my Grandfather where my father and my brother found a dusty old box while cleaning out his things. Inside they found the holocaust photos which are so prominently displayed in the film. They called me immediately, and sent me copies. I asked for them, though I wasn’t sure if I truly wanted to see them. While my Grandfather didn’t do anything as dramatic as writing us a letter as he does in the film, I felt that we were meant to find these photos and share them with the world. I could feel the gentle hand of my Grandfather encouraging me to make this film. He as well as these images haunted me from that day through the completion of the film, when I finally felt a sense of peace.
I want to thank my Grandfather, Anthony Cuoco, for his bravery, his example, and our freedom. I have done my best to honor him and all the men who served and witnessed this atrocious crime, as well as the victims themselves who toiled for years in those camps. I hope the film lives up to his and their expectations and in the end its intended purpose. As I wrote in the screenplay, “this cannot be forgotten. It cannot happen again.”