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The story behind
The Story Behind the Film
In 1940 Warsaw’s population was 1,200,000 out of whom 400,000 were Jewish. That is one-third. The Germans established the Ghetto and ordered that one-third mass of humanity to be crammed into what was less than 5 percent of the city’s area and encircled with a 10 feet high wall topped with broken glass.
The daily food ration was one thin slice of bread. Sometimes also a potato. On that kind of food people dropped like flies. There is that gnawing feeling in the stomach. One feels so lightheaded that he has to lean against a wall to keep from falling down. Ultimately, one falls down and lacks the strength to get up. He eventually falls asleep and never awakens.
From dawn to curfew they roamed the streets. Feeling cooped up in their homes, people needed air to breathe. They had nowhere to go, yet they hurried as if in a fever… Like people feeling condemned to a menacing fate they could not understand or escape.
With the sunken faces and tragic eyes of those who are starving, they huddled on the sidewalks, shivering in the bone-chilling cold. They were crying Rachmones, which means "have pity on me" in Hebrew and Yiddish.
The posters depicted on this Morris column reflect the Ghettoites' hunger for preserving the Jewish
spiritual, cultural, and moral values. These posters advertise theater performances, literary evenings, choral ensembles, and appeals to help starving children.
Poster for Goldfaden’s opera ‘Shulamith’ at Nowy Azazel Theater. The Ghetto was a place where Jewish culture flourished. At least half a dozen theaters were open, offering a variety of operettas, comedies, skits, satires, and ballet performances.
Deportations to death camps begin. Everywhere, cowering men, women and children guarded by German sentries. This is the Umschlagplatz, the place from where trains with Jews departed for Treblinka.
Zionist Hashomer Hatzair youths at a peacetime outing. Historically in times of war young people living in a slum are vulnerable to moral rot. By all logic, Jewish youths in the Ghetto should have become juvenile delinquents, hoodlums, thieves. These high-minded young people were different. They had high morale, bonds of personal comradeship and a shared faith in a new better world. For them to fight was their last desire in life.
A Jewish sniper on a rooftop. The revolt broke out in January 1943. In April, three thousand soldiers and police surrounded the Ghetto and tried to break in. Against these 3,000 with their tanks and artillery there were only about 500 Jewish fighters, 17 to 23 years old and all the weapons they had were handguns, old rifles, and incendiary bottles. Yet it took the Nazis more than two months to suppress Jewish resistance, longer than it took them to conquer Poland and West Europe. The Ghetto revolt was the first armed revolt in German-occupied Europe.
A carousel was set up by some enterprising spirit next to the Ghetto Wall. The “Aryans” rode merrily on the carousel to the tune of carnival music while the din of gunfire, machine gun fire, and groans of people dying emanated from behind the Wall.
The protagonist of this semidocumentary is Borys (James Radak) who joins the Ghetto police from idealistic motives. He becomes disillusioned as the police prove to be corrupt and German stooges. He tries in vain to save his parents from deportation and helps the Bergman family to escape from the Ghetto.
The film is narrated from the viewpoint of Eugene Bergman (acted by Wesley Brown) as a boy experiencing life in the Ghetto.
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