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Steal A Pencil For Me (2007) - Movie Review

True Love Survives the Holocaust

About.com Rating 3.5 Star Rating


Steal A Pencil For Me (2007) - Movie Review

Jack and Ina Soep Polak

Red Envelope Entertainment
Award-winning filmmaker Michele Ohayon's documentary is a touching tale of true love between Jack and Ina Polak, who celebrated 60 years of marriage in 2006. In the film, they talk about how they met in Amsterdam during the Nazi occupation, fell in love, survived the concentration camps and married. Their sustaining strength, indomitable spirit, and dedication to each other is absolutely inspiring.

An Unusual and Unlikely Scenario

When Jack Polak met Ina Soep at a friend's home in Amsterdam in 1943, it was unlikely that the they would fall in love and bond in an enduring relationship.

For one thing, their social circumstances were at odds: she was the daughter of a wealthy and rather strict diamond-dealing family, and he was a lower middle class accountant, much older than she was, and, most significantly, he was married--albeit unhappily.

Even more significantly, the Nazis had occupied Holland, and times were entirely uncertain and extremely tough for Jews who refused to or couldn't leave their hometown or go into hiding.

Jack and Ina were soon deported to concentration camps.

But, as it happened, they were sent to the same camps, at first to the 'model' Dutch transit camp called Westerbork, and subsequently (in 1944), to the brutally harsh Bergen Belsen, where they were placed in the same barracks.

Out of respect for Jack's wife, who had already agreed to get a divorce when the war ended, Jack and Ina kept their relationship discreet, communicating most often through love letters. Hence the title of the film--Jack asked Ina to steal a pencil for him so he could continue writing to her.

When the Germans began to lose the war, they closed Bergen Belsen. Ina and Jack were sent in opposite directions. Eventually, she was liberated by the Americans, he by the Russians. They didn't know whether they would see each other again, but surviving many twists and fate, Jack and Ina eventually found each other again in Amsterdam. They married and have been together ever since. They moved to the United States in 1951.

Family Photos and Love Letters

Jack and Ina's amazing story is illustrated with their treasured family photos and embellished with the actual love letters that Ina and Jack exchanged while they were in the concentration camps. Before the Germans separated them, they had actually returned the letters to each other for safe keeping. Jack managed to preserve most of his, but many of Ina's letters were damaged or destroyed when her rucksack ruptured and its contents spilled into a puddle. In 2000, the Polak's book, Steal A Pencil For Me, was published.

The letters are quite moving, and it's easy to understand that they would provide the lovers with some much needed relief from the brutal reality of the camps. Still, it's a miracle that Jack and Ina, their love and their letters, survived and can today reveal the story of their lives.

The Polaks both speak out about their experiences. If they're embittered by what they went through, they don't much show it. Rather, they speak with remarkable humor and dignity. You can't help but like and admire them.

This is an important film because it delivers some sense of reconciliation--Jack and Ina and their relationship have not only survived the Holocaust, they've lead very full and satisfying lives. And they're still going strong.

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