Sundance movie sheds light on secret adoption practices

The documentary, Three Identical Strangers, says the Jewish Board of Family and Children's Services has not made amends for a defunct adoption agency under its auspices that separated identical siblings. PHOTO: WASHINGTON POST/SUNDANCE INSTITUTE

ATLANTA (WP) - A film screened at the Sundance festival has put a prominent charity on the defensive over allegations of stealth experiments on humans.

The documentary, Three Identical Strangers, says the Jewish Board of Family and Children's Services has not made amends for a defunct adoption agency under its auspices that separated identical siblings and conducted a secret study on them in the 1960s and 1970s.

The subjects of the film have demanded the release of records from the study, an apology and even compensation.

"It was cruel; it was wrong," Mr David Kellman, a triplet separated at birth from his brothers Bobby Shafran and Eddie Galland, said.

Added Mr Shafran: "I think the first thing (the Jewish Board) should have done once they became aware of this movie is reunite any twins still surviving and advise those who've been deceased, just so they can know who they are."

British director Timothy Wardle's documentary tells the story of New York triplets born in 1961 and placed with three local families by the now-defunct Louise Wise Agency.

The boys never knew of one another's existence until they were 19, when a coincidence at a college reunited two of them. Mr Kellman was reconnected with them soon after when he and his adoptive mother saw news coverage.

It turns out that they were not split up because the adoption agency wanted to ensure that more families received babies.

Instead, they were part of a secret study by Austrian-born psychoanalyst Peter Neubauer. The triplets, along with as many as a dozen more sets of identical siblings, were split up and placed with families of different socio-economic backgrounds, then raised separately so that his team could study the effects of nature and nurture.

No one told the adoptive parents that their children had identical siblings.

Researchers over the following years were regularly sent to the adopted children's homes to test and observe them.

At the Sundance screening, Wardle turned to the brothers sympathetically.

"You still haven't got the answers you want," he said. "You still don't have the truth."

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