It seems unlikely that a Holocaust docu could break new ground at this late date, but “Voices of the Children” turns out to be an important contribution to the cinematic and historical record. While commercial theatrical prospects are negligible, this should enjoy a rich ancillary life at festivals, museums, on homevid and TV.
Focus is on the memories of three survivors of the Terezin concentration camp in the present Czech Republic. It was the notorious “showplace” camp used for propaganda purposes by the Nazis, including a staged film quoted here. The three survivors were all children during the war, and the relatively lax standards at Terezin allowed many of their diaries, drawings and other creations to survive with them. Thus filmmaker Zuzana Justman, herself a Terezin survivor, is able to provide pictures and diary entries from the time period, mixed in with postwar recollections.
Justman also gives us a sense of what the lives of the survivors were like after the war, interviewing their adult children as well. A Viennese woman had her daughter baptized to conceal her Jewishness, and the daughter later publicly embraced her true faith. The one American here talks about trying to keep his experiences from his daughters and giving them everything he was denied as a child, but the now-grown children point out to him how his early experiences inevitably influenced the way he treated them.
In telling the story of Terezin through the eyes of the children who were there, “Voices of the Children” is a significant addition to our understanding of one of the darkest chapters of the 20th century.