To understand the value and legacy of a film like Christopher Wells‘ Stories for my Children’s Children: Lessons from the Holocaust, it’s necessary to observe our capacity for looking back. Not nodding at historical facts and testimonies of trauma, but really recognizing the past and how we are anything but a consequence of what took place before. Our relationship with our civilization’s history is essential to prevent a disconnection from what makes us human, and what has allowed us to live in a society for centuries. If war feels like evidence of our ability to lose our human element, then a war motivated by hatred feels like a driving force to eradicate everything that doesn’t resemble our belief. We can’t let something like that happen again.
Once we get past that moment of self-awareness, the words of Sarah Rolnick will flow directly into your train of thought as she exposes the reality of her ancestors, some of which lived throughout the Holocaust and are not living only in her memory, photographs, and the historical documents that thrive in the battle to not let our past die. Rolnick bravely goes back through the dusty bins of her memory to imprint a story in the audience about courage, will and everything that allowed an entire civilization to survive the trauma of being persecuted because of something they couldn’t and didn’t wish to control.
Rolnick’s parents were Holocaust survivors. Alongside her family, Rolnick’s mother was forced to hide because of the Nazi invasion in Poland. Her father wasn’t so lucky as he was taken to a concentration camp, where they lost track of him. The legacy of the Rolnicks is only possible by taking the challenge of rebuilding their path to become refugees and ultimately start over again in America. Sarah’s resources are basic. Whatever memories she has, and what she can conclude from pictures she still holds close to her heart. However, a strange glimmer of hope is present in the film as the process for filling the empty spots takes her to organizations that have a single purpose: shedding light on unknown facts. This is how Rolnick discovers new information about her family, allowing her to get rid of doubts, and letting some of those ghosts from the past rest in peace.
With a simple premise, and based on a single subject, Stories for my Children’s Children: Lessons from the Holocaust doesn’t necessarily bend the documentary format. But it’s heartwarming enough to be a compelling piece about the long-lasting effects of a war that’s still felt inside the bloodlines of Jewish families that were broken and never repaired. If films like these will work as evidence of legacy, then it’s about time we celebrate the challenge of looking at the horrors of the past to understand our present, and model our future into something better for our children’s children.