Polish Film Stirs Debate on Shoah Complicity

'Poklosie' Focuses on Village That Helped Massacre Jews

getty images

By Reuters

Published December 13, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 2)

The story echoes a real event in the town of Jedwabne, about 160km (100 miles) north-east of Warsaw.

An investigation ordered by the Polish government has found that on July 10, 1941, at least 340 Jews were killed, some burned alive after being locked inside a barn. The investigation found Nazi occupiers and local people colluded in the massacre.

Some argue the film harms Poland by creating the impression that events like the massacre in Jedwabne were the norm in war-time Poland. The reality, they say, is that such events were an extremely rare aberration.

“‘Aftermath’ is mendacious and harmful for Poles,” the right-wing Gazeta Polska newspaper said in a review. “It will bring dreadful results for the nation, particularly abroad.”

“(Its rendering of history) will be received literally … and that’s how Poles will be received: as a dehumanised rabble at least jointly responsible for the Holocaust.”

In Ostroleka, a small town in northeastern Poland only 60 km from Jedwabne, local authorities cancelled screenings of the film. The town’s council is dominated by a right-wing opposition party whose members have criticised it.

Arkadiusz Czartoryski, a member of the national parliament with the Law and Justice Party, who lives in Ostroleka, said that a work of fiction was the wrong way to address such a complex and difficult issue.

“In my opinion the movie is not even 1 percent in line with the facts,” Czartoryski told Reuters. “Making movies that are aimed at presenting reality, and are not like this, may paradoxically do more harm than good.”

The Soviet-installed Communists who took power after the war conducted a purge of officials with Jewish ancestry in the late 1960s. Many of the Jews who had survived the Holocaust responded to the purge by emigrating.

Today, Poland’s government and all mainstream political parties renounce anti-Semitism. A museum dedicated to the history of Polish Jews is under construction in the capital. The president regularly meets leaders of the Jewish community, who now number about 8,000, according to official figures.

But there are still signs of anti-Semitism on the margins of society. Graffiti by soccer fans routinely uses the word “Jew” as a term of insult directed at supporters of rival clubs.

Many people say the film, by opening up a debate about how Christian Poles interact with their Jewish compatriots, has performed an important service.

“The debate has begun and this is a very positive sign,” Israel’s Ambassador to Poland, Zvi Rav-Ner, told Reuters. “It is good that we can talk about painful issues now.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • Will Americans who served in the Israeli army during the Gaza operation face war crimes charges when they get back home?
  • Talk about a fashion faux pas. What was Zara thinking with the concentration camp look?
  • “The Black community was resistant to the Jewish community coming into the neighborhood — at first.” Watch this video about how a group of gardeners is rebuilding trust between African-Americans and Jews in Detroit.
  • "I am a Jewish woman married to a non-Jewish man who was raised Catholic, but now considers himself a “common-law Jew.” We are raising our two young children as Jews. My husband's parents are still semi-practicing Catholics. When we go over to either of their homes, they bow their heads, often hold hands, and say grace before meals. This is an especially awkward time for me, as I'm uncomfortable participating in a non-Jewish religious ritual, but don't want his family to think I'm ungrateful. It's becoming especially vexing to me now that my oldest son is 7. What's the best way to handle this situation?" http://jd.fo/b4ucX What would you do?
  • Maybe he was trying to give her a "schtickle of fluoride"...
  • It's all fun, fun, fun, until her dad takes the T-Bird away for Shabbos.
  • "Like many Jewish people around the world, I observed Shabbat this weekend. I didn’t light candles or recite Hebrew prayers; I didn’t eat challah or matzoh ball soup or brisket. I spent my Shabbat marching for justice for Eric Garner of Staten Island, Michael Brown of Ferguson, and all victims of police brutality."
  • Happy #NationalDogDay! To celebrate, here's a little something from our archives:
  • A Jewish couple was attacked on Monday night in New York City's Upper East Side. According to police, the attackers flew Palestinian flags.
  • "If the only thing viewers knew about the Jews was what they saw on The Simpsons they — and we — would be well served." What's your favorite Simpsons' moment?
  • "One uncle of mine said, 'I came to America after World War II and I hitchhiked.' And Robin said, 'I waited until there was a 747 and a kosher meal.'" Watch Billy Crystal's moving tribute to Robin Williams at last night's #Emmys:
  • "Americans are much more focused on the long term and on the end goal which is ending the violence, and peace. It’s a matter of zooming out rather than debating the day to day.”
  • "I feel great sorrow about the fact that you decided to return the honor and recognition that you so greatly deserve." Rivka Ben-Pazi, who got Dutchman Henk Zanoli recognized as a "Righteous Gentile," has written him an open letter.
  • Is there a right way to criticize Israel?
  • From The Daily Show to Lizzy Caplan, here's your Who's Jew guide to the 2014 #Emmys. Who are you rooting for?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.