Warwick Davis And The Seven Dwarfs Of Auschwitz
Wednesday, Oct. 5, 2022 at 10:15 p.m. on KPBS 2 / On demand now with KPBS Passport!
In “Warwick Davis And The Seven Dwarfs Of Auschwitz,” actor Warwick Davis undertakes a fascinating and self-reflective journey of inquiry into the miraculous story of a family's survival in Auschwitz. In this infamous Nazi death camp, The Ovitz's - particularly the dwarf children - faced longer odds than most.
In this riveting documentary, Davis ("Harry Potter," "Star Wars," "Willow") reveals an extraordinary story, exploring the history of dwarfs during WWII and, in particular, that of the Ovitz's. During WWII, when American films were banned from German film theaters altogether, an exception was made for "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." It became one of Hitler's favorite films, so much so that he commissioned a German live-action version. It told the story of a fair maiden who toils alongside seven humble and hard-working dwarfs; but, unlike the original, it was mutated into anti-Semitic propaganda. Warwick explores the story of the Ovitz family - Rozika, Franziska, Avram, Micki, Frieda, Elisabeth and Perla - traveling to their birthplace in Rozavlea, Hungary. Known as "The Lilliput Troupe," they performed throughout Eastern Europe even though it was forbidden by Jewish artists to do so.
They were eventually captured in 1944 when the Germans invaded Hungary. In the Auschwitz concentration camp queues, the Ovitz children were spotted by the notorious Dr. Josef Mengele, who was interested in anyone beyond the norm, be they twins, giants or dwarfs. Mengele instructed that they be studied but instead, they were sent to the gas chambers.
"The heavy metal door slammed behind us," Perla said. "Suddenly we smelled gas. We tried to push up for air and one of us collapsed. It seemed to me like minutes but it can only have been seconds. Then we heard a shout from outside the door: 'Where is my dwarf family?' The door was opened and a soldier dragged us out and sloshed cold water over us."
Mengele, nicknamed 'The Angel Of Death', saved the Ovitzs for his depraved research in creating the Aryan master race. The doctor wanted to decipher the secrets of human growth, especially as the family included two sisters who were normal-sized. Warwick discovers what conditions were like for the family as they became human guinea pigs, enduring endless agonizing and bizarre experiments.
In parallel, Warwick recounts his own personal experiences of being a dwarf growing up in Epsom, England. At age eleven - 2 feet 11 inches tall - he filled the role of the ewok 'Wicket' in "Star Wars." He was subsequently cast in the film "Willow," written by Ron Howard and George Lucas with Davis specifically in mind. Perhaps his widest fame came from playing Professor Filius Flitwick in the Harry Potter franchise. This is a personal, respectful and intelligent journey in which Warwick charts us through moving and inspirational territory, dark fairy tales and human endurance.
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Distributed by American Public Television.