Maxwell Smart was finally reunited with the child he saved from the Nazi death camps during World War II. He sacrificed so much to save the baby girl, and he has been wondering all this time what happened to her after he last saw her. With the help of a documentary, his decades-long anxiety has been calmed.
A new documentary called Cheating Hitler will premiere tomorrow at the TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto. The film follows three Holocaust survivors and their stories during and after the war. The title was inspired by the fact that these people “cheated Hitler of a child” because they survived the atrocities of the time. Smart was one of these children, but he also cheated Hitler of a child by saving another.
The Ninth Fort Monument was built to honour the victims of the Holocaust. Watch Cheating Hitler: Surviving the Holocaust on November 11 at 9pm e/p. pic.twitter.com/2pvSW74yXD— HISTORY Canada (@HistoryTVCanada) November 5, 2019
Smart was living in the woods after his mother told him to run from the trucks that took people away to concentration camps. At the age of 11, he was living alone for months—surviving by sleeping in crude bunkers, eating mushrooms growing on old trees or grass, and begging for scraps. Eventually, he was joined by a younger boy also fleeing persecution, Yanek Arenberg. The two lived together for six months, finding some happiness in each other’s company.
One day, an execution took place near where they were sleeping. They woke up to seven dead bodies in the snow. Across the river, they spotted a woman who had been shot in the back, and she had an uninjured baby girl in her arms. Arenberg was reluctant to get wet because he was weak from malnutrition, but Smart urged him to help him save the baby.
Smart was able to find a group of Jews who was hiding several kilometres away who could care for the baby. Unfortunately, Arenberg caught bad infection from their rescue operation. Smart tried to get him some medicine, but he found his friend dead upon his return.
For years, Smart has lived with the guilt of not being able to save his friend. With the help of Natasza Niedzielska, an Israeli Holocaust researcher, he found the baby girl he saved from the cold. Upon seeing Tova Barkai decades after he saved her, Smart was brought to tears. Because the baby lived, his beloved friend didn’t die in vain. They both saved someone who went on to live a full life.