When I’m looking for a film to watch, concentration camps aren’t exactly my first choice. But somehow I ended up watching the documentary Steal A Pencil For Me. The film shares the story of two Dutch Jews who fell in love while in a concentration camp during World War II. It’s a remarkable story — especially since one of them was married during the entire time — and that much better because they survived to tell the tale.
Leading up to World War II and the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands, a working class accountant in his late 20s/early 30s Jaap is married to Manja. But Jaap is really in love with Ina, the young daughter from a wealthy diamond family. It isn’t until both families are placed in a concentration camp that the two connect and begin secretly courting. The story is told through the couple’s handwritten love letters, by surviving friends and family and by the couple themselves.
The beautiful and most inspiring part of the film is seeing them today telling their story. Jaap, now in his 90s, gives a speech as a Holocaust survivor, giddily announces the couple’s upcoming 60th wedding anniversary and lectures children visiting the concentration camp on the horrors of what they experienced. Hearing their letters read aloud offers poignant moments that are both touching and reflect just what they were experiencing from hunger to serious illness.
Steal A Pencil For Me is no ordinary documentary, no ordinary story from a concentration camp. Steal A Pencil For Me is about so, so much more.