Telling the story of the man who tried to derail Hitler’s train

Telling the story of the man who tried to derail Hitler’s train

Alan Solomon accompanied film producer Ilana Metzger to the School for the first-ever screening to under-18s of her documentary about her father, a Holocaust survivor who once attempted to assassinate Adolf Hitler.

The film, Breathe Deeply My Son, was shown to Year 9, with a question-and-answer session afterwards.

Alan (OE 1951–1957) suggested the screening to the Headmaster after being impressed by the way it told the story of Ilana Metzger’s father, Henry Wermuth, and also looked more widely at the Holocaust and its origins.

In the film, Mr Wermuth, who died in 2020 at the age of 97, explains how in 1942 he broke out of Klaj ammunition camp in Poland when he learned that Hitler was scheduled to pass through the village. He piled the railway track with sticks and rocks, but the attempted derailment was unsuccessful. He told The Jewish Chronicle in 2013: “A train passed with three wagons, and in the window was a man who I recognised by the moustache as Hitler. I stood there mesmerised, waiting for the crash, but it never came. Either a local farmer or someone patrolling must have removed the logs.”

Mr Wermuth survived the war weighing just 5st 3lb (33kg). His father, mother and sister all died in concentration camps.

He was awarded a medal for his attempt by the German city of Frankfurt in 1995. After liberation, he settled in the UK and built a property business in London.

After her visit, Ilana, pictured here with her late father, wrote to the Headmaster, praising the boys’ “interesting and insightful questions”.

In fact, she was so impressed with their maturity that she is donating 30 copies of her father’s autobiography – gifted to her by an anonymous viewer of the film – to the School.