The filmmakers initiating this project aim to create a powerful visual poem that will
illuminate the lives of Jewish children who experienced the Holocaust. Jewish children,
many of whom spent precious years of their childhoods within Nazi concentration camps
or in hiding, were a special target in the scheme to eradicate the Jewish race, for
they were the crucial link to the future. Who were these children? How did they muster
the will and ability to survive under such enormous duress?
Rounded up throughout Europe, speaking different languages and coming from varied traditions
and cultures, these children shared a common need to learn, to remain intellectually curious
and, most stunningly, to play, like children everywhere. They played, passionately, with
anything and everything, whether manufactured or handmade — dolls and board games, balls and
books, toy trains and drawing tools. This need to retain childhood in the midst of extremity
imposed its own hardships and proved, in some cases, impossible. But for many who did
survive, the creative capacity to play and fantasize, the ability to escape mentally from the
death camps and hiding places, provided vital sustenance and helped them endure this inhuman
experience, allowing them to go on to fruitful, rewarding lives.
During the Nazi reign of terror, 1.5 million Jewish children were murdered. Those children who
survived are now elderly, the last living connections to one of the most tragic events of human
history, and their lives are now rapidly nearing completion. This moment provides a compelling
opportunity for us to reach back into history and touch the experiences they had as children.
The filmmakers for Hidden Things are uniquely suited to bring those experiences to the screen,
through access to telling artifacts collected from that time and to the stories of child survivors
The filmmakers will have the co-operation of the curators of Yad
in Jerusalem, a museum with an extraordinary collection of artifacts, many of which have
never been seen by the public. Bearing witness to the attempts of victims to escape from the nightmare
world in which they were trapped, these artifacts possess what can only be described as a powerful
aura — something causing one to instantly feel the presence of those long-ago children. They
are saturated with the stories, the inner lives and dreams of their now-absent owners. The film will
convey the characteristics of these objects in a way that makes present the ghosts of those children.
There will also be extensive interviews with child survivors of the Holocaust. Now, much later in
life, they look back at a stolen childhood and confront painful memories. Some — ashamed,
uncertain they'd be believed, or simply unable to bear recounting the horrors — have never
before told their stories. Now they are ready to speak. All of them have accomplished wonders.
People like Fred Lessing, who as a small Dutch boy in Amsterdam posed in the front row of a group
photograph of several hundred children. He was the only survivor.
The fullness of their lives testifies to the strength of the children they once were, as well as
to the unique adults they've since become.
An international array of accomplished performing artists will contribute to a wonderfully rich
aesthetic experience. Ranging from traditional songs performed by an opera singer and clarinet
quartet in a beautiful synagogue in Prague, to a commissioned segment developed by a Czech puppet
theater, to exciting new compositions created for this project by several renowned rock musicians,
the contemporary performances will blend fluidly with the interviews, archival footage, and close
examination of children's garments and toys. Employing diverse visual imagery, language, and music,
this film will make palpable the intense emotions and enduring struggle of remarkable people.
In the opinion of this film's producers, though a number of wonderful and important documentaries
and other films about the Holocaust have been created in recent years, no other work has been
similarly conceived as a visual poem. This film is not intended as a definitive piece on the
Holocaust, not intended primarily to convey facts and information or exhaustive research. Instead,
its creators intend, through art, to provide an opportunity for new experience, to provoke new
questions and a new sense of connection with past children's lives, both tragic and inspired.
Emmy Award-winning filmmaker Elliot Caplan
will direct this film.
Caplan is best known for his documentary and art filmmaking collaborations with artists such as Merce Cunningham, John Cage,
Nam June Paik, and Bruce Baillie. The Washington Post said, of Cage/Cunningham
much-awarded feature-length documentary),
"One of the things that make the film remarkable
is that although the ingredients are familiar from other documentaries... the tapestry that Caplan
has woven from these threads is not like any you've seen before."
With the same sense of combined
documentation and artistry, Elliot Caplan will present an emotionally powerful, beautiful, and
lasting work on the children of the Holocaust.