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Children of the Open Road

Kinder der Landstrasse
Kinderdlandstrasse plakat.jpg
Story by Johannes Bösiger
Directed by Urs Egger
Starring Jasmin Tabatabai
Andrea Eckert
Mathias Gnädinger
Nina Petri
Noemi Steuer
Theme music composer Detlef Petersen
Country of origin Switzerland
Original language(s) Swiss German, German
Producer(s) Johannes Bösiger
Helga Bähr
Veit Heiduschka
Alfred Nathan
Martin Schmassmann
Peter Spörri
Cinematography Lukas Strebel
Editor(s) Barbara Hennings
Running time 117 minutes
Distributor Metropolis Film World Sales
Original release
  • 1992 (1992)

Children of the Open Road (German: Kinder der Landstrasse) is a Swiss feature/drama film that was produced in 1992, focusing on the fictitious family, the Kesslers, and the historically real attempt of the Swiss to eliminate the Yeniche culture in Switzerland by the Kinder der Landstrasse foundation between 1926 and 1973.

The Yeniche Kessel family – Theresa, Paul and their five-year-old daughter Jana - escapes the Nazi terror and returns to Switzerland in 1939. Trusting to have escaped the hell, they get into their supposedly safe home into the clutches of the auxiliary Kinder der Landstrasse and victims of racial persecution in the name of so-called children's welfare: Jana Kessler (Martina Straessler, Jara Weiss as a child, and Jasmin Tabatabai as adult Jana), in 1939 five years old, has been snatched from her parents, and the following years she's consigned to a life of orphanages and foster homes, in order to sever her ties with her culture and to 'assimilate' Jana to a 'better way of life'.

Jana becomes the ward of Dr. Schönefeld, the director of the agency. But the system is not able to 'break' the young women, and instead of to preempt a new generation's caravans from following their nomadic traditions along Switzerland's country lanes.

Though grown sad-eyed, tough and wary after years as a ward of the state, imprisoned and stigmatized as crazy and unteachable and even declared insane for the same claimed 'reasons' by officials, Jana struggles to unloose the bonds of the system and starts to find her mother and father. Experienced with foster families and homes, Jana is convinced that she will always in the eyes of others be a Gipsy.

As a young adult falls Jana in love with the farmer's son Franz, and the plan for the future reunion with her parents, to the beginning ignoring that her family was finally destroyed by Schönefeld. At the request of their guardian, Jana is arrested again and imprisoned by the so-called administrative care, but Franz helps her to escape. The luck of the young pair is soon overshadowed by Jana's pregnancy.

From 1926 to 1973, the Swiss government had, according to the final report Unabhängige Expertenkommission Schweiz – Zweiter Weltkrieg (Volume 23) of the Swiss parliamentary commission of that name, a semi-official policy of institutionalizing Yeniche parents and having their children adopted by more "normal" Swiss citizens, in an effort to eliminate Yeniche culture. The name of this program, provided by the Swiss children-oriented Pro Juventute foundation, was Kinder der Landstrasse (literally "children of the country road"). In all, about 590 children were taken from their parents and institutionalized in orphanages, mental institutions and even prisons.

  • 1992 (1992)


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