Jozef Sowa was only nine years old when his parents were murdered. Following their slaughter, he and his three siblings were taken from their home in Poland and transferred to Germany. Now 86 years of age, Sowa tearfully recalls the childhood trauma that continues to haunt him. He was one of the countless victims of the Nazis as they descended upon Poland, engaged in a horrific spree of murder and mayhem, and kidnapped young children for the purposes of reconditioning. His is one of three personal tragedies recounted in the searing and unforgettable documentary Stolen Children: The Kidnapping Campaign of Nazi Germany.
These stories come from a largely unreported story in the annals of this shameful history. Beginning in 1939, Nazi Germany invaded Poland and went on to terrorize much of Eastern Europe. Under the orders of Nazi Party leader Heinrich Himmler, up to 20,000 children from Poland were kidnapped. They were raised in Nazi run homes, their identities were changed, and attempts were made to condition them as members of the Aryan race. These efforts were looked upon as essential in sustaining their prominence throughout the region and beyond.
Hermann Lüdeking remembers nothing of his birth parents. Placed with a German family at the age of six, he has worked to recover the traces of his early family life for a number of years. He combs through birth records but finds them unreliable. He's not even certain which year he was born.
Alodia Witaszek was five years of age when her life forever changed. The filmmakers follow her as she visits the grounds of the camp in which she spent eight grueling weeks. She recalls the inescapable stench of death and desperation.
These are unimaginable horrors that have continued to resonate throughout their lives. Even after the war ended, they were cursed by their unwilling association with the Nazis. Now, as they approach their final years, they are more determined than ever to retrace the origins of their journeys.
Stolen Children: The Kidnapping Campaign of Nazi Germany is a haunting experience that sheds invaluable light on a forgotten chapter of history.
Directed by: Elisabeth Lehmann, Monika Sieradzka