Roush Review: 'Windermere Children' Is an Unforgettably Moving Story of Survival

Matt Roush
The Windermere Children Iain Glen
Review PBS

Few children suffered more grievously than the young survivors of the Holocaust, and their reintroduction to a society of caring strangers is the subject of PBS' The Windermere Children, an overwhelmingly moving 90-minute movie based on a true story. Offered as a companion piece to Sunday's premiere of the WWII Masterpiece miniseries World on Fire, this is even more highly recommended.

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The emotional impact is especially strong in the opening scenes, set in August 1945, when 300 children and adolescents rescued from Nazi concentration camps arrive at the lush Calgarth Estate near England's Lake Windermere. Bewildered and skeptical of their new surroundings, fearful of new handlers and uncomprehending of the plates of bread presented to them at their first breakfast, these young survivors will spend the next four months learning what it means to be free again.

As they emerge from a world of deprivation and cruelty to one of comfort and kindness, their joy in newfound liberty is clouded by anxiety over learning the fate of missing family. Under the patient supervision of child psychologist Oscar Friedmann (Thomas Krestchmann), a German Jew, the children slowly respond to the ministrations of a staff that includes a sympathetic art therapist (Romola Garai) and a gruff soccer coach (Game of Thrones' Iain Glen) who instills a newfound appreciation for teamwork and friendly rivalry.

Iain Glen The Windermere Children

(Credit: PBS)

While they do encounter occasional instances of local prejudice, the youths are mostly shielded from the worst of humanity as they forge lifelong bonds with an emphasis on offering hope for the future. Like Schindler's List, the story ends with testimony from a few of the elderly real-life counterparts who have never forgotten their days at Windermere.

Nor will you.

The Windermere Children, Sunday, 10/9c, PBS (check local listings at pbs.org)