An Unusual and Unlikely Scenario
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
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.