Helga Schneider was four when her mother suddenly abandoned her family in Berlin in 1941. When she next saw her mother, 30 years later, she learned the shocking reason why. Her mother had joined the Nazi SS and had become a guard in the concentration camps, including Auschwitz, where she was in charge of a "correction" unit and responsible for untold acts of torture.
In 1998, Helga Schneider, in her sixties, was summoned from Italy to the nursing home in Vienna in which her 90-year-old mother lived. The last time she had seen her mother was 27 years earlier, when her mother asked her daughter to try on the SS uniform which she treasures, and tried to give her several items of jewellery, the loot of holocaust victims, which Schneider rejected.