During 1938 and 1939, transports carrying over 9,000 Jewish children between the ages of five and seventeen arrived in England, ferrying their valuable cargo away from the rising tide of war. The first transport left barely six weeks after Kristallnacht, the last, just two days before the war broke out on September 3, 1939. These “kindertransports,” German for children’s transports, took German, Austrian, Polish, and Czech children to private homes and institutions in England while their parents remained behind. Many of those children never saw their parents again.
My Knees Were Jumping: Remembering the Kindertransports is a feature-length documentary about this heart-wrenching Holocaust story. Melissa Hacker, the film’s director, producer, and editor, found motivation for the film in her own life. Her mother, Ruth Morley, was one of the kindertransport children. The film’s title comes from Ruth’s memory of her own childhood reaction to the terror that forever altered her life.
As documentary filmmaker, Ms. Hacker uses her mother’s testimony and interviews with other now-adult child survivors, along with archival film and photographs, to tell of this incredible rescue attempt. The interviews include not only kindertransport survivors telling stories of their secure lives being uprooted, but also of parallel experiences by their children. The kindertransport “second generation” speaks of vaguely knowing something traumatic had happened to their parents but never fully learning the details or understanding why this experience overshadowed their lives. Melissa Hacker says, “I knew what she had gone through was so much worse than what I thought were, in comparison, my petty childhood traumas. I couldn’t bring myself to trouble her with my problems.”
Both generations express comfort and understanding in being with others that shared common experiences. These emotional moments occur in the film during Kindertransport reunions, family events, or friends gathering. Historical events with psychological ramifications link the generations and their stories together.
The film has received numerous honors, including the National Educational Media Network’s “Bronze Apple” award, and was selected for the 1996 Sundance Film Festival, among others.
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