Warner Bros has been criticised over their wording of the synopsis for the newly released Holocaust film One Life highlighting the real-life heroism of Sir Nicholas Winton.
The synopsis failed to highlight an important element of the story which was that vast majority of the hundreds of children Sir Nicholas rescued from the Nazis were Jewish.
Put forth by UK distributor Warner Bros, the short summary said that the British humanitarian Nicholas Winton saved 669 children from the Nazis.
Even in Warner Bros’ longer summary of the film, which provided further details about the characters and plot, there was no mention of the children’s Jewish identity until Thursday afternoon.
Warner Bros has now altered the wording of the synopsis on its site to include the phrase “predominantly Jewish children”.
See-Saw Films, the company who produced One Life, similarly neglected to mention the word ‘Jewish’ in their marketing material for the film.
A number of independent cinemas as well as entertainment and streaming sites such as IMDb, Rotten Tomatoes and HMV used further vague wording in summaries advertising the film, much to the disapproval of numerous viewers. These summaries referred to the children as “Central European” without reference to their Jewishness.
The reaction was stirred when HMV posted this synopsis on X/Twitter on Wednesday, leading the media retailer to remove the tweet after causing “understandable offence,” according to a spokesperson from HMV.
The spokesperson added to the JC: “We understand how this choice of wording could be interpreted and we have since updated it to say that ‘Sir Nicholas Winton rescued 669 predominantly Jewish children from Nazi-occupied Czechoslovakia at the brink of World War II.’”
Countdown host Rachel Riley, who was awarded an MBE last year for services to Holocaust education and fighting antisemitism, said on X/Twitter: “Wow. They can’t even bring themselves to say ‘Jewish children’ were saved from the Nazis. Jewish child Holocaust survivors no longer creditable? Sign of the messed-up times.”
Wow. They can’t even bring themselves to say “Jewish children” were saved from the Nazis.— Rachel Riley MBE 💙 (@RachelRileyRR) January 3, 2024
Jewish child Holocaust survivors no longer creditable? Sign of the messed up times. https://t.co/y2u7QWfrS8
Karen Pollock, chief executive of Holocaust Education Trust, added: “There should be no doubt that One Life tells an incredible story. Sir Nicholas Winton, along with others, showed bravery, kindness, resourcefulness and sheer determination to save 669 mostly Jewish children from the Nazis.
“He did this in the knowledge that the antisemitic hatred building across Nazi occupied Europe would come to a horrifying crescendo – and he was proven right.
“The Holocaust was the murder of 6 million Jewish men women and children. The Nazis were attempting to eradicate the entirety of world Jewry. The story of the Kindertransport can only be told and viewed within this context.
“To ignore or deliberately exclude the very people impacted by these events is a distortion of history.
“It is a sad sign of the times that we are tasked with having to reinsert Jews into this tragic chapter of history.”
A BFI press release from August announcing the screening of One Life during the London Film Festival did not specify the children as “central European” or “Jewish”, but rather described the film as “the true story of Sir Nicholas ‘Nicky’ Winton, a young London broker played by Hopkins, who, in the months leading up to World War II, rescued 669 children from the Nazis.”
According to a report by Variety, a request has been logged with IMDb for the synopsis to be changed.
As a young man visiting Prague in the 1930s, Sir Nicholas encountered thousands of Jewish refugees who had fled Nazi-occupied Germany, and he became deeply concerned about the future of the refugee children given the rising threat of a Nazi invasion of Czechoslovakia.
Sir Nicholas spearheaded a team, including his own mother, that organised the evacuation of Czech children, arranging both railway transport, visas and foster families.
Ultimately, he saved 669 children, earning him the nickname ‘the British Schindler’, in a nod to Oskar Schindler, who famously saved 1200 Jewish people during the Second World War.
The story of Sir Nicholas, who died in 2015 at the age of 106, was brought to the wider public's attention by Dame Esther Rantzen in 1988 during a screening of the programme That's Life.
Warner Bros UK have been contacted for comment.