"One day the teacher asked who was Jewish. I didn’t raise my hand. My friend did, and three days later her whole family was taken away." - Flora Hogman, Hidden Child
This affecting documentary tells the complex and emotional stories of a small number of Jewish children who were saved from persecution by non-Jews during World War II.
By the time Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, a policy of ghettoisation and systematic mass execution of the European Jewry had been implemented by the Nazi leadership. In response to this, several thousand youngsters were ‘hidden’ in France, The Netherlands, Lithuania, Belgium and Poland by men and women of incredible courage and uncommon decency. They risked their own safety to bring Jewish children into their families under false identities, concealing them in cupboards, attics, or hastily-dug bunkers.
All of the children featured in this film were hidden without their parents, but under hugely varying circumstances. Some were stowed away in cupboards or barns, while some lived openly, but had to hide their true identities. While a handful were reunited with their families after the war, most of them would never see their parents again.
The rescuers came from all walks of life. Some were communists; some were European anti-fascists; many were religious Christians who believed it was their duty to save a life. We reveal that they were not always the most upstanding members of society: criminals, prostitutes, and even anti-Semites rescued children. We reunite children and their rescuers in an attempt to uncover the motivations behind these dangerous and courageous actions.
We also outline the psychological toll which this separation took upon the hidden children. These bewildered youngsters were ripped apart from their parents, communities and culture, and deposited amongst well intentioned yet often uncomprehending strangers. The experience deeply effected the development of religious and personal identity in children whose identity formation was tragically interrupted.
‘Secret Lives’ is produced, directed and narrated by Academy Award-winner Aviva Slesin, herself a former ‘hidden child.’ Slesin survived the Holocaust due to the actions of a Lithuanian couple who took her into their home when her Jewish parents were deported. She uses first-hand testimony of hidden children, parents and rescuers to craft a gesture of profound gratitude towards her rescuers. This documentary is harrowing and life-affirming in equal measures, and stands as proof that: "It is the history of our kindnesses that alone makes this world tolerable." (Robert Louis Stevenson)