BBC film to tell 'powerful' story of child Holocaust survivors who were brought to the Lake District

'The Children' will be broadcast next year on BBC Two


The BBC has commissioned a film that tells the story of "The Boys", the 300 child survivors of concentration camps who were taken to the Lake District after the Holocaust.

The Children, which will be broadcast next year on BBC Two, is based on the journeys of the children, some as young as three, who were flown in 1945 from Prague to Carlisle and then taken to the Calgarth Estate on Lake Windermere.

For many of them it was like arriving in “paradise,” said Trevor Avery, of the The Lake District Holocaust Project, who has been advising film makers to ensure it is as true to life as possible.

“It is a dream come true for me that this film is being made,” he told the JC.

“I’ve been working on this subject matter for 15 years and I have always felt there was a drama to be made of what The Boys went through.”

He said it had been three years since the idea for a film was first mentioned to him by the film makers.

With few possessions, The Boys - who did include some girls in their number - had no idea about what awaited them in Britain.

They spoke no English and were deeply traumatised by their years in the camps.

Mr Avery said: “You can’t imagine, they had come from places of horror and arrived in the beauty of Lake District, they often described the feeling to me as effervescent.”

Announcing the programme this week, the BBC said The Children would tell the “stark, moving and ultimately redemptive story of the bonds these children make with one another, and of how the friendships forged at Windermere become a lifeline to a fruitful future.”

The drama has been written by Bafta-nominated Simon Block, who wrote The Eichmann Show, a 2015 BBC film about the efforts to televise the trial of the Nazi war criminal.

And will include the first-person testimony of some of the survivors, whose interviews feature in the film.

Mr Avery said: “We have helped with all the factual details and because we have interviewed a lot of the survivors we have been able to help with that as well.”

The Boys were the beneficiaries of the British Government's decision at the end of the Second World War to grant up to 1,000 children the right to come to the UK.

Three hundred of these children were brought to Lake Windermere for their first four months in this country.

Oscar Friedmann, a German-born child social worker and psychoanalyst, was responsible for looking after them and faced the challenge faced in his attempt to mass-rehabilitate the group of children – something that had not been attempted before.

He will be played in the film by German actor Thomas Kretschmann, who performed in The Pianist, King Kong and Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Mr Avery said: “We’ve worked really hard with the production company to make sure every historic fact is correct all the detail is included. The film’s research team have been great making sure it is bullet proof.”

Actress Romola Garai is to play art therapist Marie Paneth while actor Tim McInnerny will play philanthropist Leonard Montefiore, who persuaded the reluctant British Government to take the children in. 

The children will be played by a cast of young European actors, whom the BBC selected from Polish communities in Germany, London, Manchester and Belfast, as well as from Warsaw.

BBC Two controller Patrick Holland said The Children would be a "beautiful and powerful drama about a little-known part of British history. The refuge given in the Lakes and determination to give children back their lives so they could begin again is both deeply moving and humbling.”

Mr Avery added: “I’m not ashamed to say how moved I was to find out people will see this story. This is a story that is so important and it is important that it is told especially today, in our current climate.”

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