Scene from Windermere Children (PBS)

The BBC docudrama airs April 5 on PBS.

British philanthropist Leonard Montefiore, a founder of World Jewish Relief, took a special interest in youngsters who survived concentration camp experiences of starvation, deprivation, forced labor and separation from loved ones.

With liberation, he joined caring volunteers to help hundreds of these youths regain their abilities, trust in others and the future.

The transition unfolded at a tranquil estate along Lake Windermere in England. In the summer of 1945, formerly imprisoned young people had food, their own rooms, classes, time to play and help from the Red Cross in learning about their families.

This initiative is brought to life in very personal stories through the BBC docudrama The Windermere Children being aired April 5 on PBS. The 90-minute film, based on the testimony of orphaned survivors, was written by Simon Block and directed by Emmy-winner Michael Samuels.

The torment of the past and activities to escape devastating memories were made real through engrossing scenes of the youths responding to their new environment, first in desperation. Near a woman walking a domesticated dog, they express fears the animal was trained to be vicious.

The cast includes Thomas Kretschmann (The Pianist), Romola Garai (The Miniaturist), Tim McInnerny (Strangers) and Iain Glen (Game of Thrones).

Psychologist Oscar Friedmann (Kretschmann) is charged with looking after the children. He and his team — art therapist Marie Paneth (Garai), Montefiore (McInnerny) and sports coach Jock Lawrence (Glen) — work over four months to help children heal and reclaim their lives.

A key element is the changing interaction with the British people living nearby, some harboring skepticism about refugees.

The film shows the youngsters advancing by learning English, riding bikes and expressing their trauma through painting. Adding to the realism are scenes of continuing anti-Semitism and efforts to overcome those challenges.

Haunted by nightmares and wishing they could find family members, the children look to one another for meaningful relationships, which help them understand a world new to them.

The impact of the experience is told in an epilogue that introduces successful seniors represented in their troubled adolescent years. They tell of their efforts to take charge of their own lives and rebuild after Windermere.

Hearing the actual survivors brings an uplifting promise for the possibilities of tomorrow.

The Windermere Children will air at 10 p.m. Sunday, April 5, on PBS and stream on the PBS video app. “The Windermere Children: In Their Own Words” will be streaming on PBS Passport.

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Suzanne Chessler’s writing-editing career has spanned many years, and her articles have been featured in secular and religious publications across the state and around the country. There was a period of time when she maintained three regular columns in three different publications – one appearing weekly to spotlight metro volunteers, another appearing weekly to profile stage enthusiasts in community theater and a third appearing bimonthly to showcase upcoming arts programs. Besides doing general reporting, she has had continuing assignments involving health, monetary subjects and crime. Her award-winning work builds on majors in English-speech and journalism earned at Wayne State University, where instructors also were writers-editors on Detroit’s daily newspapers.

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