A powerful story about the intersection of history, family, tragedy and even Hollywood, the “P.O.V.” (8 p.m., PBS, check local listings) documentary “Inheritance” features a character beyond the imagination of any screenwriter. Born in 1945 and raised by a single mother she couldn’t stand, Monika Hertwig is now in her 60s, raising the grandchild her drug-addicted daughter can no longer nurture. Hertwig knows she cannot change the past, so she invests all of her energy in her grandson and his future.
Like millions of children born in Germany in the 1940s, she was told that her father had been killed in the war. But her generation did not look back. Her bombed-out country was a work in progress. There was no time for yesterday.
At age 11, she learned that her father, Amon Goeth, had not been a mere casualty of war. He was actually an SS officer and the commander of a Nazi concentration camp in Plaszow, Poland. He was hung for war crimes.
Decades after learning this shameful secret, Hertwig was horrified to learn that her father would be portrayed by Ralph Fiennes in Steven Spielberg’s 1993 Holocaust drama “Schindler’s List.” At first, she hated Spielberg for making the film and for confronting her so powerfully with the horrible truth.
The film follows Hertwig as she prepares to meet a victim, a young Jewish girl who only survived the camps by working as a servant in Goeth’s house. There, she learned to survive Goeth’s cruelty and met his mistress, the woman who would later become Monika Hertwig’s mother.
Monika Hertwig is clearly an anguished soul, tortured by unspeakable acts she did not commit. She is living, suffering proof that the crimes of war can reverberate from beyond the grave. “Every father in a war should think about his children,” Hertwig reflects.
• Danny DeVito, Lucy Liu, Freddy Rodriguez, Brenda Song and Brian Williams lend their voices to the 2008 animated special “Little Spirit: Christmas in New York” (7 p.m., NBC), featuring music by Duncan Sheik (“Spring Awakening”).
• The voices of Fred Astaire and Mickey Rooney animate the 1970 special “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town” (7 p.m., Family).
• “Most Christmasy Places in America” (7 p.m., Travel) rounds up cheery locales.
• The holidays loom large in the 1998 romance “You’ve Got Mail” (7:30 p.m., Oxygen), starring Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan.
• Red Skelton, Frank Gorshin and Morey Amsterdam can be heard in the 1976 cartoon “Rudolph’s Shiny New Year” (8 p.m., Family).
• Jennifer Grey stars in the 2006 romance “The Road to Christmas” (8 p.m., Lifetime).
• Will Ferrell brings an unhinged yet naive innocence to the 2003 comedy “Elf” (9 p.m., USA).
• Cary Grant, David Niven and Loretta Young star in the 1947 angelic fantasy “The Bishop’s Wife” (10:30 p.m., TCM).
Tonight’s other highlights
• Tycoons rub shoulders with the dispossessed on “Secret Millionaire” (7 p.m., Fox).
• A lighthouse keeper’s demise may prove illuminating on “Pushing Daisies” (7 p.m., ABC).
• A murder victim is planted like a petunia on “Life” (8 p.m., NBC).
• Musician Lou Reed and artist/director Julian Schnabel appear on “Spectacle” (8 p.m., Sundance).