The Windermere Children: The remarkable true story of a group of child Holocaust survivors




August, 1945. A coachload of children arrive at the Calgarth Estate by Lake Windermere, England.

They are child survivors of the Nazi Holocaust that has devastated Europe’s Jewish population. Carrying only the clothes they wear and a few meagre possessions, they bear the emotional and physical scars of all they have suffered.

From Bafta-nominated screenwriter Simon Block and Bafta and Emmy-winning director Michael Samuels, The Windermere Children is the first dramatisation of a remarkable true story about hope in the aftermath of the Holocaust, based on the powerful first-person testimony of survivors who began their new lives in the UK.

The drama is led by a stellar cast including Thomas Kretschmann (The Pianist), Romola Garai (The Miniaturist), Tim McInnerny (Strangers) and Iain Glen (Game Of Thrones).

Charged with looking after the children is child psychologist Oscar Friedmann (Kretschmann). Along with his team of counsellors, including art therapist Marie Paneth (Garai), philanthropist Leonard Montefiore (McInnerny) and sports coach Jock Lawrence (Glen), they have four months to help the children reclaim their lives.

By the lake, the children learn English, play football, ride bikes, express their trauma through painting - and begin to heal. Some locals taunt them, but they are embraced by others. Haunted by nightmares, they yearn for news of their loved ones. When the Red Cross arrives with letters about the fates of their families, none of them receive good news. But in the absence of relatives, the children find family in each other.

The Windermere Children is the stark, moving and ultimately redemptive story of the bonds the children make with one another, and of how the friendships forged at Windermere will sustain them as they rebuild their lives in the UK.

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.

That summer Europe lay in ruins. Six million Jews had been murdered by the Nazis, but in the liberated concentration camps there were survivors. Among them were many Jewish children, long separated from their families, who had somehow survived camps, slave labour factories and death marches. Without homes or families to return to they were alone in the world.

On 14 August 1945, only a few months after the liberation of the camps, 10 decommissioned RAF Stirling bomber aircraft left Prague airport bound for Crosby-on-Eden near Carlisle. On board were 300 young people they hailed from varied backgrounds: rural Poland, metropolitan Warsaw, Czechoslovakia Berlin - some had grown up in poverty, others in middle-class comfort. There were over 40 girls, but the majority of the group were boys.

It had all been organised by the Central British Fund, (CBF). Leonard Montefiore, a prominent Jewish philanthropist, used his pre-war experience of the Kindertransport and successfully lobbied the British government to agree to allow up to 1,000 young Jewish concentration camp survivors into Britain. It was decided that the first 300 children would be brought from the liberated camp of Theresienstadt to Britain.

And serendipitously, empty accommodation was found on the shores of Lake Windermere in a defunct factory. During the war, it had built seaplanes, but after D-Day the factory was closed, and the workers’ accommodation stood empty. With space to house them and in a truly beautiful setting, it was to prove the perfect location for these traumatised children.

Despite the fact that the UK government initially only offered two-year temporary visas, with strict immigration policies enforced in other countries and without families to return to, it soon became clear that there was nowhere else for most of the children to go. And so, in the end many of the 300 stayed for in the UK for their entire lives, becoming British citizens and raising British children. Now, 75 years later, the close friendships that were forged in Windermere remain, and many consider each other as family.

Notes to Editors

The Windermere Children was previously announced under the title The Children.

Filming took place in Northern Ireland.

It is a 1x90’ film for BBC Two, commissioned by Patrick Holland, Controller, BBC Two, and Tom McDonald, Head of Commissioning, Natural History and Specialist Factual. The Commissioner for ZDF is Simone Emmelius, SVP International Fiction. Executive Producers for ZDF are Wolfgang Feindt and Claus Wunn. It is a Wall to Wall and Warner Bros. ITVP Germany production for the BBC and ZDF, in association with Northern Ireland Screen and is distributed by Fremantle.

The Executive Producers for Wall to Wall Media are CEO, Leanne Klein, and Drama Executive Producer, Eleanor Greene. Executive Producers for Warner Bros. ITVP Germany are Bernd von Fehrn (Director Scripted) and Tim Rostock. It is directed by International Emmy and Bafta-award winner Michael Samuels (Man In An Orange Shirt, Any Human Heart).

The Windermere Children advisors include Trevor Avery and Rose Smith of the Lake District Holocaust Museum and the 45 Aid Society.

The Windermere Children will air on 27 January 2020, the 75th International Holocaust Memorial Day.

Source BBC TWO

January 22, 2020 4:05am ET by BBC TWO  


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