During World War II, Poland lost more than six million of its inhabitants, about 22 percent of the entire population. That number includes about three million Polish Jews who perished during the war. The Holocaust was portrayed in several postwar Polish films, including the first two prestigious successes The Last Stage (1948) by Wanda Jakubowska and Border Street (1949) by Aleksander Ford. Later, Jakubowska regularly returned to her Auschwitz experiences in films such as The End of Our World (1964) and Invitation (1985). A number of films dealt with the Holocaust during the Polish School period, such as Stanisław Różewicz's The Birth Certificate (1961), Andrzej Munk's The Passenger (1963), Jerzy Zarzycki's White Bear (Biały niedźwiedź, 1959), and Ewa and Czesław Petelski's The Beater (1964). The motif of hiding, common to many Holocaust narratives, appeared later in Jan Rybkowski's Ascension Day (1969) and Janusz Nasfeter's The Long Night, which was produced in 1967 but not released until 1989. The Six-Day War between Israel and the Arab states in June 1967 and the tense situation within the Soviet bloc (which supported the Arab states) were the main reasons for this film's shelving. Also, several documentary films dealt with the Holocaust, including the classic Requiem for 500,000 (1963) by Jerzy Bossak and Wacław Kaźmierczak.
   The Holocaust was often present in Andrzej Wajda's films. In Samson (1961), Landscape after Battle (1970), and in his later films, such as Korczak (1990) and Holy Week (1996), he provided an examination of Polish morality and of the Polish experience of the Holocaust. In Korcźak, scripted by Agnieszka Holland, he portrayed a figure of great importance for both Polish and Jewish cultures, Dr. Janusz Korczak (Józef Goldszmit), who died in the gas chamber of Treblinka with two hundred of "his orphans" from a Jewish orphanage. Holy Week, based on Jerzy Andrzejewski's short story, was set during the first seven days of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising and depicted a Jewish protagonist, Irena Lilien, who seeks sanctuary with her Polish friend and his wife.
   Several films made in the 1980s also dealt with the Holocaust. A Postcard from the Journey (Kartka z podróży, 1984), Waldemar Dziki's impressive debut, is set in 1941 in the Warsaw Ghetto and portrays a middle-aged Jew, Jakub Rosenberg (Władysław Kowalski), who is preparing for death. Other lesser-known films include Jerzy Hoffman's According to the Decrees of Providence (1983), Juliusz Janicki's There Was No Sun That Spring (Nie było słońca tej wiosny, 1984), and Wojciech Żółtowski's In the Shadow of Hatred (W cieniu nienawiści, 1986).
   The return of democracy in 1989 has enabled Polish filmmakers to freely explore areas that were difficult to deal with under the previous political order. Apart from Wajda's films, Korczak and Holy Week, a group of notable films includes Warszawa 5703 by Janusz Kijowski, Farewell to Maria (Pożegnanie z Marią, 1993) by Filip Zylber, Just beyond This Forest (1991) by Jan Łomnicki, and Deborah (1995) by Ryszard Brylski. Warszawa 5703 (a Polish-French-German copro-duction) tells the story of a young couple escaping through sewers from the Warsaw Ghetto and finding refuge on the Polish side of the wall in an apartment owned by a half-German, middle-aged woman whose Polish husband is in a POW camp. Farewell to Maria, based on a classic, powerful short story by Tadeusz Borowski, is the story of two Jewish women who manage to escape from the ghetto. Just beyond This Forest depicts small, insignificant people overwhelmed by history. It introduces an ordinary hero, a washerwoman (Ryszarda Hanin), who performs ordinary deeds in exceptional circumstances— she is trying to save a Jewish child. The Holocaust theme is not limited to the aforementioned films. It also appears, although not explicitly, in Kornblumenblau (1989) by Leszek Wosiewicz, All That Really Matters (1992) by Robert Gliński, and The Burial of a Potato (1991) by Jan Jakub Kolski.
   In recent years, the theme of the Holocaust has been chiefly explored in documentary films, such as Paweł Łoziński's Birthplace (Miejsce urodzenia, 1992), Jolanta Dylewska's Chronicle of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising According to Marek Edelman (Kronika powstania w getcie warszawskim wg Marka Edelmana, 1993), and Grzegorz Linkowski's The Cross Inscribed in the Star of David (Wpisany w gwiazdę DawidaKrzyz, 1997). The few narrative films dealing with the Holocaust include Kolski's psychological drama about hiding, Keep Away from the Window (2002), and Roman Polanski's internationally acclaimed The Pianist (2002).
   Historical Dictionary of Polish Cinema by Marek Haltof

Guide to cinema. . 2011.

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