Article Pixel

THE WINDERMERE CHILDREN: IN THEIR OWN WORDS explores the pioneering project to rehabilitate child survivors of the Holocaust on the shores of Lake Windermere. In the year that marks the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II and the Holocaust, this powerful documentary reveals a little-known story of 300 young orphaned Jewish refugees, who began new lives in England's Lake District in the summer of 1945. The documentary is a companion to the biographical drama THE WINDERMERE CHILDREN, which premieres on Sunday, April 5, 2020 at 10:00 p.m. ET on PBS stations (check local listings).

THE WINDERMERE CHILDREN: IN THEIR OWN WORDS will be available to stream via PBS Passport on PBS Digital Platforms as of April 3, 2020, and is part of special programming premiering on PBS stations in June 2020 (check local listings).

The film explores an extraordinary success story that emerged from the darkest of times, beginning with the arrival of ten Stirling bombers carrying 300 children from Prague to Carlisle on August 14, 1945. Testimony from some of the last living Holocaust survivors includes accounts of the wartime horrors they experienced, as well as their wonder at arriving in Britain and subsequent lives.

Liberated from the camp of Theresienstadt, the 300 children hailed from Poland, Czechoslovakia and Berlin. Some had grown up in poverty, others in middle-class comfort. Their rehabilitation in England was organized by one charity, the Central British Fund (CBF). Serendipitously, empty accommodation was found on the shores of Lake Windermere in a defunct factory used to build seaplanes during the war. With space to house them in a truly beautiful setting, it would prove the perfect location.

A project to mass-rehabilitate a group of traumatized children had never been attempted before, and the CBF was in uncharted territory. But in the idyllic setting of Windermere, the children were given a chance to unlearn the survival techniques they'd picked up in the camps. With the freedom to ride bikes, socialize with local teenagers and swim in the lake, they gradually came to terms with their horrific experiences and the fact that their families had perished.

The government initially offered two-year temporary visas. But with strict immigration policies in other countries and no families to return to, it became apparent that there was nowhere else for most of the children to go. Many stayed in the UK for their entire lives, becoming British citizens and raising children of their own.

Now, 75 years later, the close friendships forged in Windermere remain, and many consider each other family. The film includes touching home movie footage and remarkable success stories, including that of Sir Ben Helfgott, who represented Britain at the 1956 Olympics in weightlifting. The documentary also tells the story of the charity they formed, the 45 Aid Society. With footage of their annual reunions, the documentary gives a sense of the generations of families who trace their British beginnings to Windermere.

THE WINDERMERE CHILDREN: IN THEIR OWN WORDS is narrated by Iain Glen and directed by Guy Arthur and Francis Welch. It is a WALL TO WALL and Warner Bros. International Television Production (WBITVP) Germany Ltd. for BBC and ZDF, and distributed by Fremantle for PBS. Executive produced by Nancy Bornat and Eleanor Greene of WALL TO WALL Productions, and Tim Restock of Warner Bros. ITVP Germany Ltd.

PBS special programming invites viewers to experience the worlds of science, history, nature and public affairs; hear diverse viewpoints; and take front-row seats to world-class drama and performances. Viewer contributions are an important source of funding, making PBS programs possible. PBS and public television stations offer all Americans from every walk of life the opportunity to explore new ideas and new worlds through television and online content.

Related Articles View More TV Stories

From This Author TV News Desk