WHY A DOCUMENTARY ABOUT TRUUS WIJSMULLER?
I started to read about the ‘Kinder transports’ when Lody van de Kamp talked to me about his new book ‘Sara, the girl who went on Transport’.
Wasn’t that a subject I could handle for a documentary? he asked me. I told him that making documentaries is often a long and complicated road. He looked at me with this but-of-course-we-will-succeed expression on his face. Enough for me to feel triggered.
Soon after, we started to get ready to make a short film about some aspects of these Transports, meant to be an introduction to Lody’s book during its official presentation.
Quickly, it became a subject that was too hard for us (Jessica and me) not to be drawn into all the way. While we were reading more and more about the subject, we kept stumbling on this one name: Truus Wijsmuller, a Dutch social worker who took it upon her from 1933 onwards to find homes for Jewish children who had fled Nazi-Germany. She managed to arrange transport for thousands of children to England, just before WW II started. On May 14th 1940 – one day before the Netherlands capitulated – Wijsmuller managed miraculously for 74 Jewish children to be allowed to leave our country on the very last boat that was allowed to leave the harbour of IJmuiden.
We read about her thoroughness, her incredible perseverance. Without her fearless rescue operations many more innocent children would have been murdered.
Her actions almost read as if it were it no more than an adventure novel. But Truus Wijsmuller’s story is a very real, down to earth one: ‘whoever has a chance to be saved, needs to be helped’, was her credo.
By saving so many lives (she helped around 10.000 children to safety), she not only saved the lives of those children, but assured the lives of future generations too.
During our months of research there is this one thing that we can not understand is: Why don’t we know this woman? Why is her name not written in ‘gold’ in our history books? Why did we never even come close to choose her as the subject for one of our speeches during our school or university years? Why does ‘our’ Amsterdam – the city where Truus Wijsmuller lived while saving these children – not have a street named after her?
One thing we do know: the documentary about this special woman and the incredible children she saved will be made!
We use ‘Tante Truus’ (as she was often called) as our greatest inspiration on our long road to finding the financing needed to make this a worthy documentary. The way ‘Tante Truus’ used her internal moral compass to be able to silence the voices of the frightened mass, will become helpful when we will, no doubt, be confronted with people and authorities that will try to convince us to face the impossibility to find enough funding.
Truus Wijsmuller refused to shut her eyes for the unimaginable evil of the world she observed all around her. Instead choosing to stay loyal to her undying optimism.
As much as the world tends to paint a little bit darker these days, it doesn’t compare to the pitch-black times Truus Wijsmuller and ‘her’ children were facing almost 80 years ago.
We are ready to give it us all; and serve a hero.