Synopsis by Eleanor Mannikka
Jewish life in Poland between the end of the first "Great War" in 1918 and the beginning of World War II is the subject of this documentary that aims to illustrate both the complexity and the traditions of a culture that was almost completely destroyed by Hitler's "final solution." Director Josh Waletsky uses footage from 1930s home movies, photographs, interviews with survivors of the holocaust, and telling narration to paint a picture of a rich and multifaceted culture, thriving within a broader Polish society. Scenes of family life in village and town, a look into an educational system that was advanced for its day, and widely disparate stands on Zionism, socialism, and unions round out this view of a community of 3,500,000 people just before WW II. Jewish culture in Poland struggles to retain its solidity as pogroms and prejudice increase; but emigration slows down in spite of the growing reality of harsher treatment -- there is no money for most Jews to emigrate, and no nation willing to take them in any significant numbers, if at all. The result of Hitler's extermination campaign and the inability to escape it was that only 250,000 Polish Jews were left at the end of WW II. This documentary shows what that loss meant in simple human terms, beyond the shocking numerical totals of murdered victims.
Holocaust, Jewish, Nazism, Poland, prejudice