The Boys of Buchenwald is a documentary made in 2002 by Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady that examines how the child survivors of the Buchenwald concentration camp had to assimilate themselves back into normal society after having experienced the brutality of the Holocaust. The documentary features interviews with the survivors, including Elie Wiesel.
The now elderly men all agree that their friendships in the orphanage made the tremendous losses they suffered more manageable. “I had just lost my father, and I had witnessed my brother’s murder right next to me,” one survivor says, addressing his best friend. “And then I met you. You were a God send.”
The inhuman treatment they had received in the concentration camps meant the boys needed to relearn how to live in society. The boys of Buchenwald spent their childhoods surrounded by terror and death, and, as a result, they were rebellious against authority, full of anger and under-educated. In fact, society viewed child survivors as damaged goods who would go on to become psychopaths.
The boys had to relearn everything — even their meals proved challenging. Their extreme hunger and inexperience with ordinary behavior robbed them of table manners. They threw food, shoved it in their pockets to save for later, and gorged themselves, clearing their plates in a matter of minutes.With the help of benevolent guardians who gave consistent discipline the boys slowly relearned how to behave.
Once it was time to leave the orphanage and go out on their own, many of the boys moved to Australia or Canada to distance themselves from their awful pasts. There they established homes and careers near one another so that they could still come together for meals and Jewish holidays.