New documentary recounts story of Czechoslovak Jewish children saved from Holocaust

'Into the North', photo: Mimesis Film

A new documentary called “Na sever” (“Into the North”) recounts the story of over 300 Jewish teenagers from Germany, Austria and Czechoslovakia, who found refuge in Denmark during the Holocaust thanks to the kindness of hundreds of Danish families. The story was discovered by chance just few years ago by a Czech journalist Judita Matyášová. Now, a Czech Israeli-based filmmaker Nataša Dudinská decided to bring the testimonies of some of these “children” to the screen.

'Into the North', photo: Mimesis Film
“Into The North” had its Czech premiere on Monday evening in Prague’s Světozor cinema. The film focuses on 80 Czechoslovak teenagers who fled the country in 1939 to start a new life in Denmark. Now, more than seventy years later, they recount the four years spent in their new home. Through the testimonies of four people, we find out what exactly happened between August 1939 and October 1943. Director Nataša Dudinská remembers what it was like to talk to the survivors:

“All of them people are now in their nineties they are just amazing and inspiring people. And despite the fact that they went through kind of trauma, lost their homes at the age of 14 or 15, lost all their families, there is some attitude to life that was amazing to see, something very positive, a decision not to give up, maybe some kind of gratitude.”

The director chose to narrate the story through the testimony of four people. Two of them are shown traveling back to Denmark to visit the places where they had lived with foster families, while the third one shares her memories from her home in Haifa. These three stories are tied together by excerpts from a diary written during the period by Hana Dubová, who ended up in the United States and is no longer alive.

“It is a very authentic diary, because she was writing it as things were happening. She started to write it few months before they left for Denmark, so it describes the situation in Czechoslovakia and how the situation slowly started to change. So this diary tells the story of a 14-year-old girl who was living happily with her family and suddenly the world around her collapsed and she was forced run to Denmark, which is where she grew up.”

'Into the North', photo: Mimesis Film
Although the film recounts events that happened over 70 years ago, Nataša Dudinská says they should serve as an inspiration today, as Europe grapples with the migrant crisis:

“For me personally the inspiration is that these Danish farmers knew very little about the outside world, but they knew there was a war and they knew the kids were in danger and needed to be saved, so they just simply opened their homes. It wasn’t always easy, because the kids had different lifestyle, different culture, different language, but both sides were open to each other and pretty fast found a way to each other. So for me this is the inspiration.”