Allan Sloane knew the shock and venom of this statement when he wrote it into his documentary Eleven Memory Street (1950). This piece of creative radio journalism tells the story of a girl who was a victim of a seditious Nazi program. Lebensborn, or Fount of Life, was a program meant to purify the German race by encouraging Aryan breeding. The program which provided care for racially acceptable mothers and their children is also associated with the planned kidnapping and relocation of thousands of Polish children. These children were chosen for their racial traits for the purpose of Germanization.
Yovinna Solyska, was one of those children, and starting with a letter from her mother (whose return address became the title of the radio play), Eleven Memory Street traces a detective hunt by a team of U.N. workers to reunite the mother and daughter. Allan Sloane, a reporter for the U.N., traced the development of the case with a microphone, and mixed the audio with his poignant narration. The result is a powerful documentary.
The United Nations, since its beginning, has used the medium of radio as one of its ways to inform the world of its aims and activities. And Eleven Memory Street is a prime example of why. Article 1 of the U.N. Charter states that one of the purposes of the U.N. is “To achieve international co-operation in solving international problems of an economic, social, cultural, or humanitarian character.” At one point in the investigation, Sloane stopped to consider the significance of what he was involved with. He recounts, “Something began to dawn on me. This is the United Nations really at work. A British bureau chief, working with a Danish assistant to find a Polish child who might be in Czechoslovakia and an American reporter standing by.”
Marr Sound Archives is now a wealth of information on U.N. historical radio. The J. David Goldin Collection includes over 400 episodes of “The United Nations Today,” a program of radio reports, interviews, and sound clips by the U.N. The collection has over sixty episodes of “U.N. Story,” a dramatic series. There is also a large collection of special documentaries similar to the one discussed here.
Eleven Memory Street stands out among these radio documents. It is an important experiment in international journalism and documentary making. And it shows the ugliest result of war. The children, the innocent, are lumped into the statistics of casualties and missing people. This story shows how much cooperation and energy it takes to change one of these statistics by a barely noticeable amount – and how much it is worth it.
For an introduction to U.N. Radio on the web check out the U.N. Radio Classics archive.
Troy Cummings, guest contributor