Secret Lives: Hidden Children and Their Rescuers During WWII

on May 16, 2003 by Tim Cogshell
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There are many stories of rescued Jewish children during World War II. "The Diary of Anne Frank" has for years represented the plight of these children and their non-Jewish rescuers, but Frank died during the closing months of the war; thus her story, bitter and sweet, ultimately ends in tragedy. "Secret Lives: Hidden Children and Their Rescuers During World War II" tells the story of such children and their noble rescuers through the voices of the children themselves, now elderly, full of memories, each with accounts that are ultimately life-affirming by the very fact that the storytellers lived to relay their tales.

Academy Awarding-winning director Aviva Slesin ("The Ten Year Lunch: The Wit and Legend of the Algonquin Round Table") was herself one of these children, spirited away from her Lithuanian Jewish parents to live with a non-Jewish family who put themselves and their own children at great risk to save her. As is illustrated quite effectively in her film (built from archival footage and interviews with survivors, their rescuers and occasionally their parents), this was a dire time when difficult choices where made by all and heroes didn't always wear uniforms.

Additionally, Slesin's film covers the period after the war, and the difficulties of reuniting children with surviving members of their own families. There is the resentment of being left behind, and the irreparable damage to relationships, not to mention the heartache of foster parents, many of whom came to love these children as their own. It's a thorough and complicated film that Slesin documents with poignancy and simplicity. Directed by Aviva Slesin. Written by Toby Appleton Perl. Produced by Aviva Slesin and Ann Rubenstein Tisch. A Cinema Guild release. Documentary. Unrated. Running time: 73 min.

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