Tuesday, April 23

Truus’ Children – Manchester Jewish Museum

Special Eyes Productions documentary tells the extraordinary story of the largely unknown Dutch resistance heroine Truus Wijsmuller (1896-1978), who managed to rescue more than 10.000 people from the hands of the Nazis in the years immediately before and during the Second World War thanks to her unprecedented perseverance, tact, and courage. Most of them were between 2 and 18 years old.

This September, as part of European Days of Jewish Culture and Heritage 2022, in cooperation with Margaret and Richard Jacobi, and with the support of the Dutch Embassy in the United Kingdom, the story of a remarkable lady who did what everybody could have done, but nobody did, is being shown.

This improbable story, hidden for almost 80 years, comes to life in great detail in ‘Truus’ Children’. When filmmakers Pamela Sturhoofd and Jessica van Tijn started their research about the Kindertransport, the name Truus Wijsmuller kept being mentioned. After years of research, they were able to find more than 20 “Children of Truus” worldwide – all between 83 and 97 years old – who were ready and willing to reflect on and share the story of this woman whose bravery in the face of much adversity was to give them their lives.

How has this story remained hidden for so long? Often history requires the passage of time for it to properly unfold and certainly after the war, many people did not want to look back on the past, preferring to focus on building a new although still uncertain future for themselves, and this is true to some extent of the children she saved.

There was also a sense of collective guilt when many of the horrors came to light and people did not want to acknowledge what they had perhaps allowed to occur by not doing anything. In contrast, Truus Wijsmuller made a difference through her own force of personality, which in itself some found off putting, and yet without it so many lives would not have been saved. Sadly, there is also an element of gender bias where at least one renowned Dutch historian repeatedly chose to ignore her role in his published works.

Often considered the Dutch Oskar Schindler, this heartfelt and moving documentary allows some of the ‘children’ she brought to safety to take on the task of giving her the tribute she deserves, 80 years after they were rescued, and many of whom who were to stay in the UK and build new lives.

Whilst she was recognised in the Avenue of the Righteous Gentiles at Yad Vashem, it is important that this tale becomes more widely known, now more than ever: currently there are 100 million refugees in the world, of whom half are children – it is time we all took a long hard look at ourselves and asked, what difference are we making?

Special Eyes Productions make films about people. About their dreams and ideals. About their talents, perseverance, and courage. For further information including their work compiling a Truus Wijsmuller Archive go to https://eng.special-eyes.nl/

Manchester Jewish Museum is a place to experience and explore how we are different, together. In doing so it looks to spark reaction and change and to make real the knowledge that there is more that binds us together than separates us. For more information https://www.manchesterjewishmuseum.com/

Truus’ Children premiered in the UK at Manchester Jewish Museum on 11th September 2022; it will be screened at the Midland Arts Centre in Birmingham on 13th September at 7.30pm, and at JW3 in London on 14th September at 7pm. A trailer and further details of the children are available at https://www.truus-children.com/

Reviewer: Mark Davoren

Reviewed: 11th September 2022

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★★