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political world

Frontline: Shtetl

jan peczkis|Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Marian Marzynski has produced a long and tedious film that not only exhibits a pronounced Polonoophobic slant, but fails to inform the viewer about the proper context of the tragic events that took place. A much better and objective source of information about Shtetl life, in my opinion, is the book SHTETL, by Eva Hoffman

The content of Marzynski's film is so strongly Judeocentric that the viewer is almost made to think that nothing happened during WWII except the destruction of Jews. The viewer gets no hint of the fact that Poland, which had fallen to the Nazi German and the Soviet Communist aggression, was to suffer the loss of 3 million gentile lives in the hands of the Germans alone. Not a word is mentioned about the large number of Poles (and also some Jews) who had been deported from the Bransk area to horrible deaths in the Soviet gulags, partly the outcome of the large-scale collaboration of local Jews with the Soviets.

Marzynski presents other content in a tendentious manner. For instance, a scene depicts anti-Jewish prejudices in the form of a Polish peasant who supposes that Jews have lots of money. No context is provided. The viewer gets no idea of the economic disparities that had arisen between Poles and Jews, partly the result of centuries of a cozy relationship between Jewish merchants and the foreign rulers of Poland after the Partitions. And, of course, no mention is made of the fact that many Jews had equally distorted (not to mention also negative) views of Poles as that Polish peasant had of Jews.

Marian Marzynski pays a great deal of attention to a small group of Poles who collaborated with the German Nazis against Jews. This completely ignores the fact that Poland had a much lower collaboration rate than most other European countries. Moreover, it ignores the sad fact that the biggest assistants to the Germans in the roundup and sending of Jews to their deaths were none other than the Jewish collaborators-especially the notorious Judenrats and the Jewish Ghetto Police.

Marzynski presents a scene involving modern Israeli students. Judging by their questions and the tone and content of their anti-Polish accusations, one is struck by their frightful ignorance of basic historical facts. Not only do they have no idea of what Poles went through: They almost seem to think that Poles lived in freedom and prosperity during German rule. The tenor of Marzynski's scene involving Israeli students is corroborated by the kind of questions asked of Poles by visiting Israeli high school students (e. g., "What kind of pensions are those Polish guards of Auschwitz getting?"). The informed viewer cannot help but ask questions such as the following: "Who is teaching Israeli children such venomous bigotry against Poles?" "Denial of the Holocaust is not tolerated, so why are such Polonophobic prejudices tolerated?" "What kind of portent do the warped attitudes exhibited by Marzynski's sample of Jewish students have for present and future Polish-Jewish relations?"
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