>> i was five when i was smuggled out of the warsaw ghetto to hide among the christians. (translated): do you remember me, sister? i am not alone. >> "hold your mouth! don't say anything!" "please, please, i want to live! i'm a child!" >> beyond the wall was life. inside the wall, where i was, on this side was death. >> the last witnesses of the holocaust. >> i had nothing. i didn't know the language, i didn't know anyone. >> so why do we return to this haunted past? why do we want this self-inflicted pain?
we came here with fragile pieces of our memories, afraid that after us, they may be erased. >> tonight ofrontline, filmmaker marian marzynski's search for a childhood lost in the holocaust. >> frontline is made possible by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. and by the corporation for public broadcasting. major support fontline is provided by the john d. and catherine t. macarthur foundation, committed to building a more just, verdant and peaceful world. more information is available at macfound.org. additional funding is provided by the park foundation, dedicated to heightening public awareness of critical issues. and by the frontline journalism fund,
supporting investigative reporting and enterprise journalism. >> marian marzynski: our american home. over 40 years ago, we came to these shores, raised two children, and after they left, this became our empty nest. my wife grazyna grew up in a polish catholic family, but already as a teenager, she had left her church. here in boston, we are in touch with our past: the folk art we've been collecting for years in poland.
the artists were farmers inspired by the stories they had heard in their catholic churches. all the characters are christians, but once in a while a jew appears. "that's me," i like to joke. i am a documentary filmmaker. for almost 50 years, i've been filming other people's lives. a few times, i've turned the camera on myself. my childhood still seems to be my psyche's unfinished business. in 1942, i was five. my parents handed me over to a woman who put me into a horse carriage. they told me that to stay alive, i must forget who i was.
no more than 28,000 survived. i am one of them. this is what's left of the warsaw ghetto. some condemned buildings, now being converted into luxury condominiums. (dog barking) under cover of night, i enter this ghost town hesitantly. in 1940, our family was forced by the germans to move inside the ghetto walls.
two years later, my grandmother was taken from here by the germans to the train station. in a state of shock, her mother, my great-grandmother, followed her daughter to the death camp. i remember my older cousin and me playing a strange wartime hide-and-seek. on her signal, "germans!", we both jump into a big wicker laundry basket, pull the cover over us and keep silent. when i say, "they're gone," we get out. i was three. i remember the security of holding my mother's cold ear, the touch of my father's unshaved cheek.
>> marzynski: i am not alone in my quest. other child survivors like me have come to warsaw for an annual gathering. the holocaust story has been told by others. this is our turn. in our old bodies, we are still children. >> i don't know how we got out. it was not an escape that i remember. i have no image of that in my mind at all. >> marzynski: saved by parents who often gave their lives for us, we are left with a few facts and lots of raw emotions. >> my father sat me across from himself,
showed me how to make a design of the cross. said, "from now on, your name is marysia kowalska. "never admit that you are jewish. whoever is with you, say, call her mama, call him tata." he said one more thing: "after the war, read newspapers. maybe someone will be looking for you." >> i remember boots. clean, beautiful, awesome, shiny boots. and for some reason, i was afraid of those boots. they were, you know, "bang bang," noisy. there was something about those boots, and i was a little girl, so you can imagine at eye level, that's what i see first. it's the boots. >> marzynski: so you are two years younger than i,
we were in the warsaw ghetto, but is it true that for 50 years you were in the closet about surviving the holocaust? >> yes. >> marzynski: why? >> because the feelings were too painful and i didn't want to think about it, let alone talk about it. >> marzynski: and why are you talking now? >> the last couple of years, i have become a little freer of the fear. >> marzynski: so why do we return to this haunted past? why do we want this self-inflicted pain?
five years older then me, she remembers more. >> this is exactly what it looked like to me. and somebody would put in a handkerchief some pennies, some groszy, of course, and throw it down. but the times then got worse and worse. but this is what it looked like. right here is death. except i see people in the windows. i see people, my people in the windows.
>> standing at this wall, i felt very strongly that beyond the wall was life, and inside the wall, where i was, on this side, was death. and i never forgot that, and i never stopped feeling incarcerated because of it. >> marzynski: lilianoraks-nemetz, a writer and poet, lives in vancouver, canada. her little sister was shot dead in the ghetto. her parents survived. >> i am digging my nails into my mother's flesh, and i'm asking, "mamusiu, where are we going?" and she says, "don't worry, i won't leave you alone."
and we start marching and we walk and we walk, and i keep on crying and asking my mother, "where are we going?" and then people are saying things, and i hate the way the people are, they smell. i see stars of david. i see german soldiers running alongside, and somebody starts shrieking and screaming, and somebody shoots. and my mother and i fall back, i'm still digging into her flash, and suddenly there are arms around us and we are passing by a gate and we are thrown in and we are told to lie quietly and not say a word. it was my father. and the line goes to umschlagsplatz without us,
we were maybe a block or two away from it. >> marzynski: and that was your father. >> that was my father. he always saved us. >> marzynski: how did he do it? >> he saw... he told me later, he saw the opportunity. he said in this chaos, they wouldn't notice us. and he just put his arm around me, my mother, who was holding my sister, and threw us into that gate. >> marzynski: was he a jewish policeman? he was working as a guard first, and then he became... he was guarding, he was asked to help with the deportations. he hated it, but it's a complicated matter. >> marzynski: why?
>> because he hated doing what he was doing, but he did it because to survive in that insane jungle, he told me, "you have to become an animal yourself." >> marzynski: my earliest memory begins in a horse carriage. in 1942, when a massive deportation of jewish children from the ghetto to the death camps started, my parents hatched a plan. my guide is a family friend. a christian. she covers my mouth as i sob and scream, "i want to go back to the ghetto!" a street blackmailer stops the carriage. he could turn us over to the germans. he gets my grandfather's gold watch.
for now, i am free. my guide places me in different apartments on the christian side of warsaw. she has a small sack of gold teeth inherited from my dentist grandfather. one tooth is worth perhaps a few nights of what might be called a bed and breakfast for jews in hiding. playing with other kids in the courtyard, i pretend i am part of the landlord's family until a neighbor says, "i don't know anybody in their family looking like him," and i must disappear. when the money dried up, my mother escaped the ghetto and joined me on the christian side.
my father stayed behind. we spent days in warsaw churches, then slept in basements, attics and behind fake walls. my mother had blue eyes and didn't look jewish. but i did. (elevator whirring) she realized that two of us together could not survive, and she did not want to survive alone. when all doors had shut, we took the elevator to the top floor of an elegant warsaw apartment building. she decided to jump and take me with her.
she opened the window. but she couldn't do it. she brought me to this courtyard belonging to a christian charity. she hung a sign around my neck: "my name is marys. my parents are dead." she gave me my favorite sugar sandwich and watched me from across the street, fearing i would run after her. i didn't. i stood still. i was supposed to be found by a charity worker my mother knew, but instead, a drunk man approached me and took me to his basement. he was the building's janitor, living in poverty with five children,
and he wanted me as his sixth. the charity worker called my mother and told her that i was nowhere to be found. her plan was ruined. she lost me. 11-year-old celina jaffe was still in the ghetto. the only one from her family who survived, she lives in los angeles. >> the people were all over, they were running away, and the soldiers were running with guns and shooting and screaming at them, and they were just running from every side, and i completely was petrified.
i walked into one little side of the house and i hide. while i was hiding there, the soldier came and grabbed me and he pulled me against the wall. after he put me against the wall, i was petrified. i was totally in one big fear. he came to me with the gun in his hand, and he just put the hand towards me and he says to me, "put your hands up in the air!" i said, "what are you doing to me? what do you want?" he says, "stop talking, just listen, just put your hands up in the air!" and i said, "what are you doing with the gun? "what are you trying to do with me?
i am just a little girl, what do you want from me?" "hold your mouth, don't talk, shut up! don't say anything!" "please, please, i want to live! "i am a child, i am a young little girl, "don't do it to me, don't kill me! "i want to live, please, please, please, have mercy on me. "if you kill me and i will be dead, "you'll never forget my face. "you will always remember that you killed the little girl, an innocent little girl." and he said, "shut up! "just run! don't talk, run!" i was petrified. "run, run, run, run, run, run, run..." >> marzynski: celina was taken out of the ghetto
to the christian side by a stranger, a woman who smuggled goods through the wall. >> "...run, run, run!" >> marzynski: for weeks, the janitor was asking me about my family. at one point, i revealed the address of a christian frien of my father. this film was taken 30 years ago, when krysia baranowa was still alive. >> marzynski: krysia! >> marzynski (translated): was i a good kid? >> (translated): you were an intelligent child. you had an amazing memory. you were able to find streets, buildings without knowing their names and numbers and always recognize people. and now you are a filmmaker. that's wonderful.
your father would have been very proud of you. >> marzynski (translated): what was he like, my father? >> (translated): he had a great sense of humor. he loved flowers and candies. >> marzynski: in this room, my mother and i were baptized by a priest brought in by krysia's mother. we were given christian birth certificates. "now you are not jews anymore," she told us.
>> marzynski: the balcony i loved to play on, until a man walking on the street looked up and called me a jew. i started to sob and scream, "i am a jew, come here and take me!" the next day, an anonymous letter arrived: unless my mother and i leave immediately, the gestapo will be notified. once again, i had to separate from my mother. krysia brought me here to the apartment of a polish priest, jozef kaminski. this elegant part of warsaw was largely occupied by german dignitaries. the priest looked at my christian birth certificate
and agreed to take me in. eventually he learned that i was jewish, but he let me stay. i would look through these windows and watch the german officers walking by. i imagined myself a holy man. i made the sign of the cross with my hands and blessed the evil-doers do below. the priest arranged for my stay at a catholic orphanage 20 miles from warsaw, run by the italian order of brothers orione. there were 45 orphans there. i was the youngest. only the brother superior knew who i really was.
when german police came to the orphanage looking for jewish children, he would hide me behind the altar. at six, i had my holy communion and became the most dedicated altar boy, a favorite of the priests. (ringing bells) during the evening mass, i would sometimes fall asleep at the altar. a brother would pick me up and carry me to my bed. when i filmed here 30 years ago, one sister was still alive. >> marzynski (translated): do you remember me, sister? >> (translated): you look a little different. i don't remember your name.
>> marzynski (translated): it's marys. >> (translated): oh, marys! the youngest of all the children, very small boy. >> marzynski (translated): and i remember you as a sister who always gave me sugar. >> marzynski: i spent two and a half years at the orphanage. when we saw the heavy smoke over the warsaw ghetto, i overheard the words, "the jews are burning." was my father still there? (bells ringing) (men praying) in the ghetto, i wanted to be a fireman when i grew up. here, my only dream was to become a priest. i was fascinated by the power of religion. god was the most powerful man that was. i saw him as someone with enormous shoes on the ground
and his head high in the clouds. the priest was second in command. i wanted his power of making miracles. whenever i touched his robe in the sacristy, smelled the incense or rang the bells, i was closer to my miracle of survival. i would sweat while taking the communion, afraid of biting it. "does god know who i am? am i entitled to his body?" (men praying) >> marzynski: then the war was over. i was sitting in the dining room at the table. a woman came from the entrance. an old woman with sunken cheeks was looking at me.
"marys!," she said. "we can't speak," i told her. "we have meditations now." "i am your mother," she said. "i don't know you, ma'am." "i am your mother. don't you remember your aunts and uncles?" "no, i don't remember you." "i would like to take you to warsaw." "do you have enough money to take care of me? i am okay here," i said. she cried. >> marzynski: back in warsaw, i asked her to take me to a big church so i could serve the mass. the altar was high above my head. while serving the priest wine and water, i dropped one of the sacraments. at that moment i understood: i had been discovered.
god didn't want me anymore. (jewish festival music playing) most of the survivors left poland just after the war. mother decided we should stay where our family graves were, and for 24 years, we did. (crowd clapping along to music) when i lived in poland, "jew" was a stigma, a dirty word. a scene like this would have been unthinkable. in today's polish democracy, young poles dance to jewish tunes on the streets of the former krakow ghetto. from here, thousands of jews were rounded up and loaded into cattle cars for auschwitz as their polish neighbors watched on.
the annual krakow jewish festival is a way of ritualizing a troubled history, perhaps a form of atonement. in krakow, i met ed herman, an economist and his wife halina, a psychologist. both are holocaust child survivors. neither of them has been back since the war ended. (tower bells ringing) as a six-year-old boy, ed lived in katowice, an industrial city in southern poland. >> you see, there was a courtyard.
and the car would sometimes be right here. that's my mother, that's my dad. that's the picture we had, that's my dad. and we had a driver. and that's in katowice somewhere, walking in the park. >> marzynski: so that's prince edward. >> that's me, "prince edward," that's right. >> marzynski: and the king and the mother. >> and men were swarming around her like flies, and my father was just constantly... he was extremely jealous and he threatened if she doesn't marry him that he would commit suicide. i will tell you, she was the real hero during world war ii. >> marzynski: when the war started, katowice was inundated with germans, forcing ed and his family to flee.
his father went to hide in eastern poland. his mother brought ed to krakow. >> we lived in krakow and my mother expected the police to come, and she didn't want me in the house, so she gave me a salami and some money and said, "be away for the whole day. don't come home until the evening." >> marzynski: he rode the trams all day, every day. >> one thing which was against me is my circumcision. the other thing that was against me is that most of the polish kids were fair, they were blond, they were blue-eyed. i was dark. so i went to the barber and asked him to cut my hair,
and unfortunately, i looked more jewish without hair than with hair. from time to time, i would be thinking about my mother and very concerned. what happens if i me home and she's not there? what would i do with myself? >> marzynski: desperate to save her son, ed's mother made a decision as difficult as the one my mother made. she brought him to this polish-slovak border and arranged for the 10-year-old boy to cross the mountains. (birds chirping)
>> when we parted, i wasn't sure whether i would ever see her again. for her, it must have been a very difficult moment. it's like moses' mother letting him go to save his life. i had to get out from poland. it was just too dangerous. and the only thing i had is... (sobbing) just nothing. i had nothing. i didn't know the language. i didn't know anyone. >> marzynski: he ended up as a homeless child in budapest, hungary, before finally being taken in by an orphanage.
halina kramarz's memory is even more fragile that mine. she was born the year the war broke out in the family of a jewish doctor in the small town of starachowice. (door creaking) she knows she was born on pilsudski street, number 27. when the local ghetto was created, halina and her mother fled to krakow to hide with the christians. her father stayed behind and became a physician,
>> i'm sure they'd be proud of me and of my family and of my dearusband and... >> i think your parents are with you right here. >> i hope so. i am really excited to be here, and i kind of felt like an orphan up to now, i guess, but i do have roots. these are my roots. it's really nice to see this, that something like that really exists, number 27 on ulica pilsudskiego. i am right here, always the smallest, probably because i was undernourished. my big dream was after the war i would have a roll and butter someday. so my mother sat me down and said, "you're not going to church today."
i said, "what? "i am not going to church? it's a sin, it's a sacrilege." she said, "well, the reason you are not going "is because you are actually jewish, plus we are going away tomorrow, we are leaving the country." >> marzynski: so now i am halinka and i say, "mamiu, co to znaczy jewish? what does jewish mean?" did you ask this? >> i knew what jewish was. when i was in czernichów when i was very young, i used to tell my mother stories about the old jews that had payos and they were rocking and saying, "oy vey." my mother had to listen to all this. and i said, you know, told little gossip stories that i'd heard in the village, so i knew what jewish was. i knew it wasn't good, i knew one thing. >> marzynski: so it was bad news? >> it was bad news, absolutely. i said, "no! "me, jewish? i can't be because you're not jewish." she said, "actually, i'm jewish too." i said, "impossible, maybe your mother wasn't jewish?" she said she was too. this was really stunning, absolutely stunning.
i said to my mother, "i have nothing personally against jews, but i don't want to be one." >> marzynski: ed is my distant cousin. i learned about him only 40 years after the war. but in this car, we are becoming a close family. ed's grandfather lived in the warsaw ghetto and was brought here, to the gas chambers of treblinka.
when the train slowed down, he and other men jumped out and disappeared into the forest. this could be the spot he jumped. i have always known the location of this forest, but i never had the strength to enter it. he contacted a railroad switchman, who sent a postcard to my mother. mother came and found him. during her visit, my father gave her his watch and asked her to keep it for me, if i survived. as her train was leaving, she heard gunshots. she came a week later and found out
that he and his companions had all been killed. he is somewhere here. >> marzynski: that's the father that saved my life because he decided not to circumcise me, because in 1937, he somewhat knew there would be a holocaust. and it was totally unheard among jews that the young boy would not be circumcised, but he didn't circumcise me because he didn't want me to have a sign, proof that i am jewish. so this is just as simple as this, this is how i am alive, because of his ideas and my mother's care. and i have the watch. he wanted me to wear this watch. i didn't wear this watch ever.
it is the first time in my life that i'm even showing it to anybody, because i didn't want to remember. >> marzynski: dear father, i want you to know what happened to me after you died. in poland, i became a filmmaker and a television personality. millions of poles watched me, but when i was 32, i learned that i wasn't polish enough. (speaking polish) november 1969. we are packing our belongings. my wife is making a last phone call to a friend.
the first secretary of the communist party said that the 25,000 jews remaining in poland must now condemn a zionist conspiracy. at first we laughed, but then we saw the purge coming. television was staging anti-semitic media events. thousands of innocent people were losing their jobs. using the first secretary's words, we declared ourselves "bad polish citizens." my mother, my stepfather, my catholic wife, me and our two-year-old boy leave the country to become "agents of western imperialism" and to spy against poland. mother lived with us in america until she died at 82.
grazyna and i have been married for 50 years. dear father, you have two grandchildren: bartek is now 45, anya, 38. people often ask me if i am religious. a son of secular jews, i was raised catholic, but abandoned god after the war. my mother used to say that during the holocaust, god was taking a long nap. and i agreed. so i call my religion "survival." escapes and travels are my life's refrains. i am leaving the ghetto again, but this time i am going home.
watch additional stories of child survivors of the holocaust. >> i was asking my mother why i have to go through all this stuff. >> read more from filmmaker marian marzynski about what it was like to make this personal film. >> my childhood still seems to be my psyche's unfinished business. learn more about the warsaw ghetto then and today, and connect to thefrontlinmmunity on facebook and twitter, or tell us what you think at pbs.org/frontline. >> next timfrontline... >> fraud and potential criminal conduct were at the heart of the financial crisis. >> titans of wall street. >> no one going to jail, no individuals being held accountable. >> too big to jail. >> a pervasively corrupt pattern of behavior.
>> more than 90% of the underlying loans were defective. >> isn't that fraudulent? >> yes. >> frontline investigates... >> this is stain on the american justice system. >> "the untouchables." >> frontline is made possible by contributions to your pbs station from viewers like you. and by the corporation for public broadcasting. major support fontline is provided by the john d. and catherine t. macarthur foundation, committed to building a more just, verdant and peaceful world. more information is available at macfound.org. additional funding is provided by the park foundation, dedicated to heightening public awareness of critical issues. and by the frontline journalism fund, supporting investigative reporting and enterprise journalism.
for stories that define the american experience. all of this stuff was just erupting revealing our strengths... you create a new future. our struggles... it's very american to say this is not right. these are our stories. we were so innocent and oddly enough we were so american our american experience. only on pbs.
is by looking at art. now i spend several hours every day looking at art and writing about it. all great art deals with human emotions, and takes us deep into somebody else's world so we can learn more about ourselves. leaving my life of solitude even for a short time is a very big thing. but i haven't had the opportunity to see many paintings in the flesh, so i'm going on an odyssey to see some of the greatest art in various cities around britain. i hope to share with you the impact that they have when i meet them face to face.
i'm beginning my odyssey in liverpool. i can't help thinking this is a wise choice. this city is so full of galleries and museums, that i can't really go wrong. but there's one place i can't miss, and that's the walker art gallery. the walker has many treasures, but i've come today to see one great marvel in particular. hmmm, two really. perhaps three. i must confess that i have a passion for poussin. i wondered if i could share it because i will never have a better opportunity than with this very great painting. it's one of the great love stories of antiquity,
how phocion, the athenian general, was unjustly condemned to death. and worse than death... 'cause they burned him and scattered his ashes, which meant in their mythology that his spirit would never rest. and his wife came secretly, scooped up the ashes-- here you can see her-- put them in a bowl, put in water and swallowed them, so that he would have a tomb. she would be his tomb, his living tomb. notice how afraid her companion is, terrified they're going to be caught and punished as of course, they might well be. and the whole picture... displays to us the great might of authority. all these great, stately buildings so splendid, so strong, so upright, so perpendicular, so full of masculine power. the rule of law, which doesn't take much account of the human heart--
and the world goes on unchanged and unheeding. it's a splendid portrayal, a moving, poignant portrayal... of the eternal conflict between the individual and the state-- between the human heart seeking what is right and the great authoritarian powers of the government imposing law. the "poussin" can be called a great icon of true love. there's another picture that i want to see that shows just its opposite, the sad inadequacy of lust. this is the most haunting depiction i know of the story of salome and john the baptist. you remember salome, the dancing girl who wanted his head on a plate?
guercino is the only artist who has tried to show why she wanted that head on a plate. and here you can see why. she longs for him. she loves him or at least desires him. and he rejects her utterly. it's a haunting picture of one person yearning and another person saying, "no." i don't think it's a very saintly attitude, but clearly he feels happy in it because he sees her as temptation, the "other" that he has to reject. and then you have the strange wonder of who really is imprisoned here. is it john-- manacled, naked except for his cloak, shut up in a cell? or is it the wealthy princess salome, with all her jewels and her freedoms, who's shut up in a prison of her own desire?
look at the hands. his hands, so free, so relaxed, so at peace; and hers so clenched, so tight. and look at the witty way in which guercino has made us wonder "who really was beheaded here?" 'cause it looks here as if salome's beheaded. "she's lost her head" is what he's trying to tell her. lost her head in a desire for what she cannot have. so that's what the picture is about. where is freedom? does self-will imprison us far more than any stone walls and bars could ever do? contemporary artists also can show us profound and moving images. they're different from the old masters, of course, and challenge us in a different way. the walker have an impressive david hockney, "peter getting out of nick's pool"--
a very personal title. and that actually is the reason why this is one of his important pictures. hockney's always good when he's dealing with things that matter to him. and peter and nick were two of his closest friends. in fact, he's dealing here with the three things he loves best: that's water just gently moving, the sunlight pouring over the simplicities of a californian landscape, and a beautiful young man. and what's very interesting about hockney is that he suddenly discovered when he was still a student that art only works if it comes from love. it was no good him deciding, say for the highest political motives, that he'd paint dole queues in bradford in the rain. it just wouldn't work for him. what worked for him was painting beautiful young men in sunlight, full of joy.
i must confess i'm not myself a great fan of hockney's. it's not all that easy to say why, because clearly this is a splendid work. i think perhaps i find it a little bit too... diagrammatic. perhaps i feel he's got the world too intellectually ordered here for me to wholly respond to it as the real world. but i don't want to end on-- on a minor note, because this really is a major hockney and i get great pleasure out of it. among liverpool's many galleries is the tate of the north. they've a fascinating stanley spencer exhibition. and this will give me a very good opportunity to take a long, hard look at his work and try and make up my mind about it.
well, this is a fair example of a strong spencer. i, too, think it's a strong spencer. in fact, i can leave out the qualifications. it's a strong picture. look at the wonderful wallpaper, those lovely curlicues on the bed, the wonderful sheets. i love his hair too, all the glistening strands. he was very proud of his hair was stanley spencer. and her hair... he's a bit unconvincing about her head hair but her pubic hair is lovely and fluffy. and he's painted the bodies so differently too. here's these two weird contrasts: the sort of corpse-like
lividity below, and those are hectic flushes meant to show emotional excitement, i presume, above. the woman is patricia preece the upper-class girl who tantalized him and taunted him-- all of which he lapped up somehow-- and for whom he finally divorced his wife. his dearly loved hilda, whom he went on loving till the end of his days and writing to every day. they had one night together. patricia having insisted that he make over the deeds of a house to her, and then goodbye, stanley and welcome back, live-in girlfriend. she's not spread out for his delectation. patricia's completely indifferent to him. of course to some extent, that was the attraction. i must admit i find her very unappealing.
and you wonder where the elegance was. perhaps in the hip bone. here's quite an interesting instance, actually, of an artist painting what subliminally he knows well, but which intellectually he does not know. at some level, stanley knows they can never be mates. his art understands. he doesn't understand. but having said all that, and expressed admiration for many of the qualities here-- especially that wallpaper, which i really think is lovely-- i'm left feeling... unsatisfied. and yet, i can't think why i should be.