Rare footage of the Warsaw Ghetto in Warsaw documents daily life for those who are locked up
The Warsaw Ghetto was the largest of its kind in Europe – but the story of its inhabitants has always been told through images of the Nazis.
Recordings never before made by amateur Polish filmmaker Alfons Ziolkowski in 1941 show what life was like for Jews in the ghetto – of children smuggling food, to a dying man on the sidewalk, to Nazi guards handing out abuse.
The 10-minute film is the only known visual material of the ghetto that was not recorded by Nazis and offers a historical historical account of the Jewish experience there.
Polish filmmaker Alfons Ziolkowski recorded these images in the Warsaw Ghetto in 1941, and it is the only known visual material that was not made by Nazis and shows life inside
The rare images, which decayed in family archives for decades before they were discovered, show Nazi guards who beat Jewish children
A child is beaten for smuggling food into footage shot clandestinely by Ziolkowski, who was a driver before he decided to document the ghetto during the war
Until these images were discovered, the only known film in the ghetto – the largest in Europe – was shot by a Nazi film crew for propaganda purposes
The black and white footage of the Jewish Quarter is included in a new hour-long film & # 39; Warsaw: A City Divided & # 39; from the Polish-Canadian director Eric Bednarski.
Mr. Bednarski said: & # 39; The footage that many of us have seen from the Warsaw ghetto was shot in 1942 by a German German propaganda film crew.
& # 39; Their work has been used in literally dozens of documentaries about the Holocaust and the Second World War.
& # 39; It was shot from the perspective of occupiers and perpetrators and used for anti-Semitic propaganda purposes.
& # 39; The footage that appears in my documentary was shot by a Pole, with a completely different perspective.
& # 39; This is the first known non-Nazi non-propaganda film of the Warsaw Ghetto. & # 39;
Despite its value, the film had sunk into the family archives of Ziolkowski for decades until Bednarski managed to get hold of it.
This film, first seen this month at the Millennium Docs Against Gravity documentary festival in the Polish capital, shows the daily life in the ghetto.
& # 39; We see masses of people on the street. We see partially destroyed buildings & # 39 ;, said Bednarski, who started the film 15 years ago after the film academy.
& # 39; We see children smuggling food from the Aryan side, as it was called, to the Jewish side. Desperate children who were hungry, pushed food through a hole in the wall, & he said.
A Jewish child trapped in the ghetto runs to the wall to guide food through a drain
Documentary maker Eric Bednarski was allowed to use the footage in his film Warsaw: A City Divided, the first time it was shown to the public
People who seem to be newcomers in the suitcases of the ghetto coupler before they are arranged inside. At its peak, the ghetto contained 400,000 people in an area of just 1.3 square miles
People walk through the streets of the ghetto. Sometimes Ziolkowski seems to be secretly filming, while at other points people are looking at the camera, aware that they are being shot
A year after the invasion of Poland in September 1939, the Germans of the Nazis created a special district in the capital for 480,000 Jews.
Many would die from hunger or ghetto disease, while 300,000 would be sent to Treblinka extermination camp to be gassed.
In 1941, Ziolkowski was 30 years old. An amateur filmmaker, motorcycle racer and merchant before the war, managed to get a pass in the ghetto.
There he risked his life by documenting what he saw.
This was before the terrifying scenes of the ghetto in its final phase when the streets were strewn with bodies on the eve of the liquidation in 1943.
But all the sight of a lifeless body on a sidewalk full of elegantly dressed passers-by gives an idea of the tragedy to come.
Some images were made secretly from a car. But Bednarski is convinced that other scenes must have been made public while people look directly into the camera and seem to know that they are being filmed.
& # 39; I like to think that he [Ziolkowski] did what he did to document the horror that occurred in the city where he lived & # 39 ;, said Mr. Bednarski.
& # 39; He clearly chose locations for their meaning. This was not a random random film recording.
& # 39; He had made films before the Second World War, so he could use an 8mm camera & # 39 ;, said Mr. Bednarski.
& # 39; But as a Polish motorcycle racing champion of the 1930s, he was clearly someone who liked to take risks. & # 39;
Little is known about Ziolkowski – such as why he made his film or how he entered the ghetto as a non-Jew
A tram rattles the streets of the Jewish Quarter, which became the largest ghetto in Europe after the Nazis captured Warsaw
The film has been verified as authentic by survivors who were able to identify locations, and historians familiar with other ghetto images
Ghetto survivors in Warsaw who saw the images said they recognize some scenes but none of the people could identify them.
& # 39; How lucky the film has been preserved, that the Ziolkowski family has saved the film and did not end up in the trash, & # 39; said the Warsaw teacher, Kaja Rupocinska, who was present at the film screening.
& # 39; Did he want to document the war? Did he go there out of curiosity? Could he tell that an unprecedented tragedy would come? & # 39 ;, she asked AFP.
& # 39; We don't know and we will never know. One thing is certain: what he did was invaluable. & # 39;
Previous images of the Warsaw ghetto were published by Jewish filmmaker Yael Hersonski as part of her documentary A Film Unfinished about life in the ghetto.
But for her source material, she was forced to draw on images shot by a Nazi film crew as part of the propaganda before the ghetto was eliminated.
Although it was never released in Germany during Hitler's reign, the fact that the film was shot at because of its mission makes it an unreliable historical record.
For a glimpse into daily life in the ghetto, historians rely largely on the Oyneg Shabes – an archive buried in time capsules shortly before the ghetto was wiped off the map.
The archive contains around 35,000 pages – including documents, materials from the underground press, photos, memoirs, belles lettres, labels of ration packages and more.
However, it does not contain any footage of the ghetto – making Ziolkowski's record all the more valuable.
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