1. In the nineteenth century, according to Davies, “the lands of partitioned Poland … contained four-fifths of world Jewry” (2005:176). By 1930, even after the mass migration of Jews to the USA, the world Jewish population was estimated to be 12-13 million of which about 3.5 million lived in Poland and a further 2.7 million in neighboring lands (that is, about 50% of the world’s total).
2. For a summary of the three partitions leading to the dissolution of Poland see the Wikipedia article at
3. Assimilation was usually an individual choice though there were some assimilationist mass movements, such as the Frankists in the 1760s (Davies 2005:181).
4. For example, Cherry refers to the Jewish “elder” brother and the Christian “younger” brother in a common faith (Cherry and Orla-Bukowska 2007:xi).
5. See, for example, Mendelsohn (2002) on Jewish and Polish art, Cizmic (2011) and Trochimczyk (2007) on music, Wisse (2003), Steinlauf (1989) on theatre, and Segel (1996) on poetry and literature.
6. See, in particular, Baron (2007), Bartov (2005), Coates (2000a, 2000b, 2003, 2005), Falkowska (2007), Haltof (2002, 2007, 2011), Mazierska (2000), Ostrowska (2000), and Stevenson (2003).
7. Though the Republic was founded in 1918, it was not until 1921 that its boundaries were settled. See Davies (2001:100-106).
8. More than 25,000 Polish prisoners of war were executed at Katyn in 1940 in a deliberate policy, authorized by Stalin, to eliminate much of the Polish military and intelligentsia. The Russians only belatedly acknowledged this event in 1990 (Davies 2001:422). Until then, Wajda believed the Germans had killed his father.
9. See Wajda’s official website (Lezenska 2000–2011), and the extensive recorded interviews at
10. The films concern the Polish resistance movements (communists and the Home Army) first at the time of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising, then during the general Warsaw uprising, and finally at the end of the war.
11. For useful insights into the influence of Wajda’s films in Poland see Falkowska (2007), Stevenson (2003), and Mazierska (2000).
12; See, for example, Fabian Schuppert for a description of state control of Polish cinema (2006) and John Bates’ wider discussion of censorship (2001)
13. Despite acknowledging the conditions under which his films had to be produced, Mazierska, rather unjustly, accuses Wajda of opportunism, of attempting always to “please his audiences” at the expense of truth and avoiding anything that would “seriously offend… anyone” (2000:225). Clearly Wajda was forced to compromise in some respects but his commitment to an examination of Polish identity and the Polish-Jewish relationship is not in doubt (see also Haltof (2011:87).
14. The film is set in the Austrian-controlled zone of Poland, which at this time was partitioned into three areas occupied by Austria, Prussia, and Russia.
15. Man of Marble seems to anticipate the workers’ movement that led to the formation of the Solidarity Trade Union that is the subject of Man of Iron, and which was critical to the ending of communist rule in Poland. Wajda has since made a third film, Man of Hope (2013), which tells the story of Lech Walesa, leader of the Solidarity movement who became the first President of the Polish Republic.
16. In his interviews Wajda quotes French poet Alfred de Musset (1810-57)—“Poles, if there is nothing you can do to stop them from swallowing you, and you have been swallowed already, then do everything to stop them from digesting you.”See
17. Shoah is a painstakingly made documentary commissioned to reflect on the Holocaust from the Jewish perspective. It materialized as an indictment of Polish complicity in the murder of Jews and caused much controversy in Poland and the United States both for its methods and its partial account—see, for example Cherry (2007:35-37).
18. While Wajda’s films caused storms of criticism among Jews, Lanzmann’s film caused an equal storm among Poles. But, as Polonsky notes, the results of the uproar were not entirely negative as it opened up the subsequent dialogue (2007:124-26). See also Zborowski’s brief foreword on the contemporary relevance of this dialogue (2007:x).
19. These notes draw principally on the work of Norman Davies (2001), Eva Hoffman (1999), Mark Mazower (1999), Misha Glenny (1993), and Neal Ascherson (1987).
20. In the period 1500-1650 the Commonwealth was remarkably diverse both ethnically and in religious practice (Steinlauf 1997:5).
21. Jewish presence in Poland was welcomed, at least by the monarchy and nobility, because of the benefits that Jewish artisans and traders brought in terms of economic development (Hoffman 1999:80-84). Though the welcome was not uniform—there was considerable resentment amongst the peasant population at what they perceived as the unfair privileges accorded to many Jews, and there was visible economic disparity—the conditions at this time were so favorable that it is estimated the Commonwealth was home to about three-quarters of the world’s Jewry.
22. In Prussia, Jews migrated to the cities in great numbers and became increasingly “Westernized”; the position in Austria was more mixed between urban success and rural poverty; and in Russia, the Jews were confined to the Pale of Settlement and subject to ever-increasing restrictions, expulsions and pogroms.
23. The assassination of the Russian Tsar in 1881 caused riots in Warsaw as the result of rumors of Jewish responsibility. In addition, pogroms in the Pale caused a destabilising influx of Jews to the Austrian controlled partition (Davies 2005:182-84).
24. Pilsudski was Head of State and then Prime Minister of the Second Polish Republic (between 1918-35).
25. Dmowski was a right-wing nationalist ideologue with significant influence in Poland between the wars. He openly espoused strong anti-Semitic views.
26. Jews were regarded as a “race” under the Nazi classification rules. [return to page 2]
27. It is estimated there were over 18 million non-combatant victims of Nazi Germany, of which 11 million were killed in Poland. Between five and six million European Jews were killed, almost half of the total estimated in 1941. Over six million Polish citizens were killed including almost the entire Jewish population of about three million. See, for example, Mazower (1999:173-75).
28. After the war, some 300,000 Jews returned to Poland from territory ceded to the USSR causing serious conflict with Poles. In one notorious incident in 1946, forty-two Jews were massacred in the town of Kielce. Subsequently, other incidents of this type led to a wave of emigration. The reinstatement of Gomulka to the leadership in 1956 and the anti-Semitic campaign by General Moczar in the 1960s to cleanse public life of “alien elements” resulted in the purging of Jews from the communist party and caused most of the remaining Jews to leave (Davies 2001:323).
29. From a speech made by Rafael Scharf at a conference in Oxford in 1984 - see Polonsky (1990:196). This segment is quoted in Blonski (1990:45).
30. See, for example, Onecki (1987:12-23, 51-53, and 114-116), Mazower (1999:164-69), and Goska (2001).
31. For a reasonably balanced view of the arguments see Sinnreich (2007).
32. The article was originally published in a Catholic weekly journal, Tygodnik Powszechny January 1987.
33. This appears in the poem, “A Poor Christian Looks at the Ghetto”, written by Czeslaw Milosz in Warsaw, at the time of the Ghetto Uprising in 1943. His own translation is reproduced in Polonsky (1990:51).
34. The sequence can be seen on YouTube at:
35. The poem “Campo di Fiori” (1943) by Milosz refers to the carousel erected by the Germans directly next to the walls of the Warsaw Ghetto. He notes how the “vivacious music” of the merry-go-round drowns out the sound of gunfire and explosions from the Ghetto and how:
36. The sequence can be seen on YouTube at:
37. The sequence can be seen on YouTube at:
38. See, for example, Michalek (1973) and Mazierska (2005).
39. See Haltof (2011:81, n10).
40. Mickiewicz, often compared to Byron and Goethe in the pantheon of Romantic poets, was active in the movement for Polish independence. He was exiled to Russia in 1824 at the age of 26 and five years later was permitted to travel abroad. He travelled through Germany and Italy before settling in France. He died of cholera, contracted in the Crimea, at the age of 56. For a brief description of the genesis of Pan Tadeusz see Di Bartolomeo (2003:172-76).
41. All quotations from the poem are taken from the translation by Kenneth R. Mackenzie.
42. According to Falkowska, Wajda was meticulous in his preparation and research before making the film. He consulted critics and audiences alike to ensure his screenplay adhered to the spirit of the original (2007:249-52).
43. The film was an instant success with audiences in Poland and continues to be viewed frequently on DVD and on YouTube where it has had over 120,000 views in the last 12 months (as of January 2014).
44. See, for example Di Bartolomeo (2003) or Mazierska for her dismissive review of the film as merely a “heritage” piece (2001).
45. Jankiel’s playing slides into a polonaise composed by Wojciech Kilar for the film. This became an instant hit in Poland. The sequence can been seen on YouTube at:
46. Reymont went on to become the first Polish winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature for his 1924 novel Chlopi (The Peasants).
47. The population of Lodz, a small town near Warsaw, grew from a base of less than 1000 in 1820, to over 300,000 by 1890 (Young and Kaczmarek 2008:58).
48. Lodz became known for labor troubles, culminating in a general strike in 1892 (Young and Kaczmarek 2008:58).
49. Further turmoil resulted from the migration of considerable numbers of Jews from the Russian area of the Pale (known as the Litvak invasion) who brought with them Marxist and Communist ideologies (Davies 2005:184).
50. Edward Gierek came to power in 1970.
51. For Wajda’s account of the making of The Promised Land see the interviews at
52. See Nurczynska-Fidelska (2003) for a comparison of elements of the novel with the film, and Falkowska for a discussion of some analyses of both forms (2007:148-50).
53. Promised Land received an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Film in 1976 and Wajda had high hopes for a successful distribution in America for what he called his “most American film.” However, Danièle Heymann, a reviewer in Le Monde labelled the film anti-Semitic and as a result distribution in the US (and some other countries) was blocked—see (Michalek and Turaj 1988:154). Wajda was extremely bitter about this criticism—see, for example, the interview at
54. The sequence, without subtitles, can be seen on YouTube at
55. The sequence, without subtitles, can be seen on YouTube at
56. This is the version generally available on DVD.
57. References to the original text are based on the translation by Noel Clark (Wyspianski 1998).
58. One of the penalties of adapting a literary classic is that it becomes subject to close textual comparison (Falkowska 2007:140-41).
59. Falkowska suggests the film is “virtually inexplicable” to audiences whose knowledge of Polish history is limited (2007:135), and even Adam Michnik finds obscure a number of the allusions to the past (2000:152).
60. Wajda inserts a sequence behind the credits that follows the guests from the wedding in the town to the farmhouse.
61. The strawmen, or chochol, are rose bushes covered in straw to protect them against frost.
62. Coates notes that this theme, that sounds like a Jew’s harp, implies a link between Jewishness and the ghostly exterior (1992:132).
63. In a couple of places the innkeeper is referred to as Moishe or Moses, but this seems to be a generic reference. In the poem he is simply called the Jew.
64. Stage directions call for the icon to depict Our Lady of Czestochowa, one of the most revered Catholic symbols (Wyspianski 1998).
65. According to Vinecour, not just the Endecja was commited to anti-Semitism, but “Every Polish political party with the exception of the Socialists” (Vinecour and Fishman 1977:5). For a more detailed discussion of this period and the ideological and political battles between Pilsudski, who provided some support for the Jews, and Roman Dmowski, leader of the strongly nationalist and anti-Semitic movement, see Davies (2001:113-128).
66. Hoffman notes that, on the eve of World War II, Jewish entrepreneurs controlled many major industries; Jewish firms employed more than 40% of the Polish labor force; and Jews were seen as disproportionately represented in the professions (1999:88-89).
67. For a summary of Brandys’ life and works, see (Adamczyk-Garbowska 2003: 181-83)
68. Much has been made of the casting of French actor Serge Merlin as Jakub. For example, both Quart and Haltof argue unconvincingly that the choice of a “scrawny” or “slender” intellectual as opposed to a powerful, physical actor changes the nature of the character and the film (Haltof 2011:87) and (Quart 2009). Coates is more perceptive, noting that by reducing the emphasis on physical strength, the casting positions the film as an allegorical rendering of “human isolation” (2005:163).
69. See, for example Eva Hoffman (2011).
70. Stefa was enormously important to the work of the orphanage. For more details of her life and work see Lifton (2005).
71. See Coates (2005:96-99) and Haltof (2011:189-91) for a discussion of the previous attempts at this project.
72. Ford went on to make his version of the film, Dr Korczak, the Martyr, an Israeli-West German co-production, released in 1974. This was a failure both critically and commercially, and apparently was criticized for largely suppressing Dr Korczak’s Jewish roots (Haltof 2011:191).
73. Holland had been living in exile in France since the establishment of martial law in 1981. Unable to make her own films, she worked with Wajda on Danton (1983) and he offered her the chance to write the screenplay for Korczak. See
74. Holland used the diaries kept by Dr. Korczak in the Ghetto as the basis for much of the screenplay (Haltof 2011:192).
75. See, for example the discussion in Polonsky (1990:19-21).
76. There are many accounts of both positive and negative Polish behavior during the war: see for example Bartoszewski (1988), Goska (2001), Onecki (1987), Sliwinski (1997), and Joseph Kermish’s introduction in Ringelblum (1976). [return to page 4]
77. Ziarno is a member of the Home Army hated by the communist censors. See Haltof (2011:28).
78. Wajda’s picture of the ghetto is faithful to accounts of eyewitnesses. See, for example, Ainsztein (1979:16-17) and Zuckerman (1993).
79 See, for example, Colombat (1993:113-16), Michnik (2000:170-73), Haltof (2011:195-99), Ginsberg (2007), Insdorf (2003:271-72), and Baron (2007:44-48).
80. Claude Lanzmann was particularly incensed by this imbalance in the film, see Michnik (2000:171-72).
81. In the winter of 1941 the Jews were ordered to turn over to the Nazis via the Judenrat all the furs they possessed (Lifton 2005:section 32).
82. Wajda’s picture of the way the Jewish Council were led into the process of trying to save what they could from the ghetto is accurate and sympathetic—see Bauman (2000:129-42). The other events are much as described by Lifton (2005).
83. These notes rely extensively on the excellently researched biography of Henryk Goldszmit alias Janusz Korczak by Betty Jean Lifton (2005).
84. As Lifton remarks: “Perhaps because Korczak was determined to live as both a Pole and a Jew in prewar Poland, he was not above criticism in his lifetime: many Jews saw him as a renegade who wrote in Polish rather than Yiddish or Hebrew, while no amount of acculturation could make the right-wing Poles forget that he was a Jew.” (2005:Introduction).
85. Andrzejewski lived close to the ghetto walls in 1943 when he wrote the original version of the novel, which has several autobiographical elements. It was not immediately published and appeared in a much-revised edition in 1946. See Coates (2000b:25-26), Rostropowicz Clark (2007), Swan (2007), and Haltof (2011:201) for a discussion of the origins of and changes to the novel. [return to page 5]
86. All references in this paper to the novel Holy Week refer to the English translation by Oscar Swan (Andrzejewski 2007).
87. Davies convincingly argues that the Polish resistance was not strong enough to provide a greater level of support until the more general Warsaw uprising of 1944 (2001:63-8).
88. I am indebted to Mike Stevenson, Elzbieta Ostrowska, and Oscar Swan, for providing me with a copy of the film and English subtitles for the dialogue. The translation of the subtitles is a collective work of Professor Swan and his students at the University of Pittsburgh.
89. The opening sequence of the film is based on the short story, “Silence,” in (Borowski 1976).
90. The battle of Grunwald is regarded as the most important in Polish history as it epitomises the victory of Poland against invaders. For a short summary see
91. The missal would appear to be Catholic but hides the Hebrew text.
92. Jedwabne, a small town in north-eastern Poland came under German control in June 1941. A few weeks later, on July 10th, a group of Poles massacred several hundred of the town’s 900 to 1600 Jewish population while others failed to intervene. A report by Poland’s Institute of National Memory in July 2002 concluded that at least 350 men, women, and children were murdered and that the Polish population played a central role in the massacre. Others, including Jan Gross in his book Neighbors (2001) argue that all 1600 Jews were killed. For an account of the Jedwabne controversy, and links to related articles see
93. The Jewish population of Poland is tiny, around 10,000. See Salmonowicz (1997:54).
94. Their attacks on Promised Land and Korczak argued that he consistently defames Jews and that his films suppress anti-Jewish activity in favor of showing Polish heroism. See Fogler (1996b).
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