|Directed by:||Audrey Mehler||Rating:||TV-PG|
|Release Date:||2002||Running Time:||45 mins.|
|More Info:||Wikipedia||Category:||Hist & Rem|
Of the 1.5 million Jewish children sent to concentration camps during the Holocaust, barely 5,000 survived. Most of those who did survive lost their families and experienced atrocities that isolated them from society. The Boys of Buchenwald explains how a group of orphaned boys – that included Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel – formed the friendships that helped them survive the years immediately following the Holocaust.
“I thought it was my father!” recalls one of these child survivor from the Buchenwald concentration camp, of seeing a man after the Holocaust. “I hugged him, and he looked at me as if I was crazy. And I realized it was not my father,” the now-old man remembers the scene with misty eyes. He, like many others, lost everyone he loved to the murderous Nazis.
An emotionally-gripping documentary, The Boys of Buchenwald shares a story of bittersweet fraternity, exploring the struggle of returning to normalcy after a childhood spent in terror. The American army liberated the Buchenwald Concentration Camp in 1945, leaving an overwhelming number of orphans with nowhere to go. A home was created for 426 boys in France, where they were to be cared-for and educated. United by their terrible shared history, the boys of various ages bonded together, creating friendships that would sustain them for the rest of their lives. Together, they would learn how to feel again and how to cope with their resentment. The Boys of Buchenwald captures the reunion of the men, on the 55th anniversary of their liberation from Buchenwald.
The now-elderly men all agree that their friendships in the orphanage made the tremendous losses they suffered more tolerable. “I had just lost my father, and I had witnessed my brother’s murder right next to me, and then I met you” one survivor says, addressing his best friend, asserting “You were a Godsend.”
The inhuman treatment they had received in the concentration camps meant the boys of the orphanage needed to relearn how to live in society, and even meals proved challenging. Their extreme hunger and inexperience with ordinary behavior robbed them of table manners. They threw food, shoved it in their pockets to save for later, and gorged themselves, clearing their plates in a matter of minutes. Sharing a cookie became an act of overwhelming kindness and, in large part, it was due to these simple acts of benevolence that they were eventually able to adjust to normal life again.
But table manners were a minor problem in comparison to the larger issues they had to face. After a childhood spent in a concentration camp, the boys were rebellious against authority, full of anger, and undereducated. Society viewed them as damaged goods who would go on to become psychopaths. But their guardians combined stern discipline and constant affection and, as a result, the young men were able to go on to live successful, happy lives.
In fact, one of the orphans became an internationally celebrated writer — Nobel Peace Prize Winner Elie Weisel. The little Romanian boy learned to speak French at the orphanage, the language into which he first translated Night.
Though the boys’ pain didn’t end when they left the orphanage, neither did their friendships. Many of the boys moved to Australia or Canada to distance themselves from their awful pasts — and there they established homes and careers near one another, so that they could still come together to enjoy meals and celebrations together.
Fifty-five years since they first arrived in France, the boys of Buchenwald are reunited on a warm, sunny day. As tearful embraces and joyous songs mark the occasion, the pride and love they feel for one another is overwhelming.
Luck brought them through the Holocaust alive, but it was their friendships with one another that made their lives worth living again.