Film Review: Stories for my Children’s Children: Lessons from the Holocaust
Stories for my Children’s Children: Lessons from the Holocaust
Director: Christopher Wells
Sarah Rolnick sits in her home in Long Island, leafing through an old family photo album. She comes to a photograph of an obelisk containing the names of Jewish families and a count of how many family members they lost to the Holocaust. The name “Putter” is among them.
Rolnick goes on to recount the story of her parents, Genowefa Pioro and Roman Putter, both of whom were Polish Holocaust survivors. Rolnick’s mother, Genowefa, was fortunate enough to be hidden by non-Jewish neighbors, but for two years she had to spend most of her time hiding in barns and attics. Years later, Rolnick actually traveled to Poland to meet the children of the family that sheltered her mother, a reunion that brought tears of joy to both parties.
Rolnick’s father, Roman, on the other hand, was separated from his then–wife and kids and shipped off to a labor camp. Though he survived, he never saw his first wife and son again, and due to the trauma of that, he spoke very little of his experiences. Rolnick never knew much about her father’s time in the camps, but after his passing, she made it a goal to find whatever answers she could. To make a long story short, she eventually discovered that her father was on Schindler’s List, a fact that she never knew, despite having seen the movie many times.
She tells of how her parents met in Krakow after the war, fell in love, emigrated to the United States, and lived a long, wonderful life together—proving that great joy and happiness can still be found in life, even after the strongest of tribulations.
Rolnick recounts many of these stories with a twinkling in her eye, clearly with much love, respect and affection for her parents and their sacrifices. Indeed, it’s Rolnick’s good nature that grounds much of the film. Genowefa and Roman’s story is incredible, and every Holocaust survivor’s story deserves to be told and heard.
There’s not much more to Stories for my Children’s Children than this. There are a handful of b-roll cutaways and plenty of family photo albums, but the film never really ventures outside the walls of Rolnick’s home, both physically and thematically. In this sense, Stories for my Children’s Children feels less like a feature documentary and more like a fireside chat that might be given by an aunt after a family dinner. It’s fairly barebones from a filmmaking perspective, making the presentation of an interesting subject frustratingly dry.
That is to say, Stories for my Children’s Children: Lessons from the Holocaust is heavy on stories, but quite light on the “lessons” side of things. Once Rolnick concludes her parent’s story, she never really draws a moral out of it other than “these stories deserve to be remembered,” as true as that may be.
There’s no deeper investigation into The Holocaust, the events that led to it, nor any indication of how a genocide of that scale could be averted again. Just a sweet tribute from a loving daughter to her courageous parents. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but you get the feeling that this film will be more enjoyable for Rolnick’s family than a wide audience. Like the treasured photographs of her parents, hopefully this film is something she will be able to pass down to her children’s children for generations to come. –Seth Turek
Read more reviews on the films that shed light on the dark parts of history:
Film Review: The Mission
Damn These Heels! Film Review: 1946: The Mistranslation That Shifted Culture