The beginning of a brighter future

© IWM (ARY 172)

In August 1945, a group of teenagers and younger children who had survived the concentration camps were flown to the UK by the RAF. The group of refugees arrived from Prague airport on Stirling bombers, touching down at the aerodrome at Crosby on Eden in Cumberland, where they began their long recuperation. The 300 young people, mainly Polish, had in most cases lost all their family and many had endured the notorious 'death marches' of that year.

Greatly against the odds - for there were thousands of refugees moving around Europe in 1945 - IWM’s Film Archive has film of these young people assembling at Ruzyne Airport near Prague just before they took off for the UK. The notes completed by the RAF film cameraman suggest that the departure of the young refugees was recorded almost by accident. The plan had been to film a Czech Air Force Squadron's return to the base, but bad weather caused the Czechs’ arrival to be delayed, and the cameraman's attention was caught instead by the group of children, their travel bags packed, bound for the UK.

Those who arrived that summer went on to form the '45 Aid Society - an organisation which kept the young refugees in touch with each other throughout their lives, and with which IWM has had a long association. Staff at IWM got to know many survivors during the making of the Holocaust Exhibition, and this film has a special resonance for that reason.

Some individuals in the film have been identified. One - Roman Halter - can be seen getting onto a motorised luggage transporter and gliding towards the camera. His entire family had been murdered by the Nazis.

The film is a unique glimpse of the start of a momentous journey for these Jewish children - finally freed from the persecution they had endured throughout the Second World War.

This is an edited version of the film. View the full film.

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