“There’s No Pang Of Conscience”: Why Hedwig’s Mother Leaves Auschwitz Clarified By Zone Of Interest Director

By Ryan Northrup Published 1 day ago

Jonathan Glazer clarifies why Hedwig’s mother suddenly leaves the Höss family compound next to Auschwitz in his Oscar-nominated The Zone of Interest.

“There’s No Pang Of Conscience”: Why Hedwig’s Mother Leaves Auschwitz Clarified By Zone Of Interest Director


  • Director Jonathan Glazer explains that Hedwig's mother leaves during The Zone of Interest because she's uncomfortable being so close to Auschwitz, not because she has moral objections to what's happening inside.
  • Glazer stresses that no character in the movie gets any redemption and that they are the same at the end as when the film starts.
  • The Zone of Interest 's tackling of the Holocaust from a German perspective, including its exploration of the banality of evil, has been widely praised.


The Zone of Interest director Jonathan Glazer explains why Hedwig's mother leave the Hoss family home next to Auschwitz. Released in theaters in December after a buzzy premiere at the Cannes Film Festival in May, Glazer's most recent directorial effort follows Nazi commandant Rudolph Höss (Christian Friedel), his wife, Hedwig (Sandra Hüller), and their children as they live their lives next to the Auschwitz concentration camp. Hedwig's mother, Linna Hensel (Imogen Kogge), comes to stay with the Höss family during the film, but she abruptly leaves, writing a note to her daughter.

In a recent interview with Financial Times, Glazer explains why Hedwig's mother departs so abruptly during The Zone of Interest, clarifying that it's certainly not due to any moral outrage over what's going on next door in Auschwitz. According to the director, Hedwig leaving is not meant to indicate any sort of redemption for the character. Read his full explanation below:

“It’s just the proximity. It’s no different, to someone like her, to buying your steak at Sainsbury’s and going to an abattoir. You know where that steak comes from, but you don’t really want to be around a cow being slaughtered or the smell of it, or have the blood running over your shoes . . . there’s no pang of conscience, no redemption. There’s no salvation in this film, and there can’t be. These characters end the way they start.

“Primo Levi talked about how they were made of the same clay as the bourgeoisie in any country. They really were Mr and Mrs Smith at No 26. They were our neighbours, and our neighbours would say they were us. Those were the basics of what I got from the archival research: how grotesquely familiar and ordinary they were.

“What they were interested in: status, family, health, holidays, possessions are no different to the things most people want . . . The Hösses weren’t born mass-murderers. They were teenagers in love with ideas about the future. That’s how they started. And look where they ended up. There’s a warning in that.”

The Höss residence is located right next door to Auschwitz, but what's going on inside is rarely shown. Viewers are constantly reminded of the mass extermination going on nearby through echoing gunshots, human remains floating down a river, thick black smoke streaming into the sky, and explicit discussions regarding the most efficient ways to kill human beings on an industrial scale. The phrase "banality of evil" has been thrown around a lot during discussions of The Zone of Interest, with the film showing how casually one family lives next to one of the most horrific events in human history.

The Zone of Interest is now available to rent or purchase on VOD.

Evidently, this approach has been an effective one. The Zone of Interest's reviews have been overwhelmingly positive, and the film has been nominated for five awards at the 2024 Oscars, including Best Picture. Hedwig's mother is one of The Zone of Interest's many subtle touches that make it a truly harrowing but powerful experience.

Source: Financial Times

Director Jonathan Glazer Release Date December 15, 2023 Studio(s) Film4 , Access , Polish Film Institute Distributor(s) A24 Writers Jonathan Glazer Cast Christian Friedel , Sandra Hüller , Ralph Herforth , Luis Noah Witte , Johann Karthaus Runtime 105 Minutes

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