Tim McInnerny has said it was “overwhelming” meeting Holocaust survivors after making a BBC film about children who were brought to the UK after being liberated from concentration camps.
The Windermere Children tells the story of a coachload of child survivors of the Nazi Holocaust who are taken to Lake Windermere, England, in 1945, carrying only the clothes they wear and a few meagre possessions.
The 732 child survivors were rescued and rehabilitated by The Central British Fund (CBF) now known as World Jewish Relief, a humanitarian and development charity.
McInnerny plays philanthropist Leonard Montefiore, one of the people charged with looking after the children.
The film was screened for the cast and survivors, and the actor said: “Seeing it for the first time and listening to the survivors talk is overwhelming.”
“I just feel very grateful to be in it,” he added.
“It’s one of those jobs that you just feel is important and I’m glad to be a part of it in some small way.”
The actor also told how he could not really put himself in the shoes of his characters in case it became “too much to bear”.
“It’s odd,” said the 63-year-old. “It sounds almost slightly cynical, but in a way you have to forget about that.
“You have to forget that it’s real in a way, because otherwise it’s just too much to bear, it becomes about responsibility and that emotional weight becomes very hard to carry.”
His co-star Iain Glen agreed, adding: “I think the problem with the Holocaust, generally, is it has an incomprehensibility about it for those who had no direct contact with the future generations.
“Either it’s documentary footage, of which there is a lot, but how do you find a way of telling it?”
He added: “We’re never going to understand – and that’s what’s so moving about hearing them (the survivors) afterwards.
“They are! They’re alive and they did such a huge variety of different occupations and went on to do such extraordinary things; they’re incredibly grateful to the United Kingdom for providing a safe haven for them and so yes, that underlying knowledge, for me, made it really moving watching it with them present.”
The Windermere Children, which also stars Romola Garai and Thomas Kretschmann, airs at 9pm on BBC Two on January 27, which is Holocaust Memorial Day.
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