BBC drama 'The Windermere Children' tells World Jewish Relief history

A new drama and documentary telling the story of the first group of child survivors rescued and rehabilitated by the Central British Fund after the Holocaust will be shown on Holocaust Memorial Day

'The Windermere Children' will be broadcast on BBC Two on Monday 27th January at 9pm. This will be followed by the documentary ‘The Windermere Children: In Their Own Words’ on BBC Four at 10.30pm.

The drama and documentary have been produced by Wall to Wall and features the stories of some of the boys and girls brought to the UK after being liberated from Theresienstadt. It also sheds light on the dedicated and forward thinking CBF staff including Leonard Montefiore and Dr Oscar Friedman who aided their recovery. 

The drama has been made to coincide with Holocaust Memorial Day which this year commemorates 75 years since the liberation of Auschwitz. It will also be broadcast on ZDF in Germany.

The Windermere Children

Harry Olmer, Arek Hersh, Ben Helfgott, Sam Laskier and Ike Alterman are all played by young actors from Polish communities across Europe - Kacper Swietek (Chaim), Tomasz Studzinski (Arek), Marek Wrobelewski (Sam), Kuba Sprenger (Ike) and Anna Maciejewska (who plays one of the girls named Sala).

The film also features established actors including Romola Garai as art therapist Marie Paneth, Tim McInnerny as philanthropist Leonard Montefiore, Thomas Kretschmann as Oscar Friedman and Iain Glenn. 

World Jewish Relief was formerly known as the Central British Fund and today it is a humanitarian and development charity supporting vulnerable Jewish communities and responding to international crises on behalf of the British Jewish community. 

Our extensive archive of documents from the period contain detailed information about the children and their experiences after arriving in the UK. You can read more about World Jewish Relief's archives here and they are available to family members for free. 

For more about how World Jewish Relief, as The CBF, rescued 732 child Holocaust Survivors, read our page on The Boys.

Read the BBC description of the drama below:

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 sustain them as they rebuild their lives in the UK.

Read press coverage of the programme:

Huffington Post

The Times

BBC Magazine History Revealed

Daily Mail

The Sun

Jewish News

The Telegraph

The Yorkshire Post

Tablet Magazine

Times of Israel

Jewish News Commemorative edition 

Express

Evening Standard

Spectator 

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