In search of living memory: film encounters with witnesses to the Warsaw Ghetto

Watch all six episodes this April, May and June 2023 that will reveal the stories and personal portraits of Warsaw Ghetto Survivors, and people who were influenced by the history of the Ghetto. Hear their accounts of contemporary encounters which have been saved within the context of family history, personal objects, and urban space.

Watch the first episode featuring Irena Agata Bołdok, "I felt hidden by myself": the ghetto and identity

Hear the personal story of Irena Agata Bołdok. This episode explores the childhood experiences of the Warsaw Ghetto, and hiding in the so-called "Aryan side," as well as the impact of that experience on the construction of identity and subjectivity in the Irena’s life later on.  Here, the experience of the ghetto is an "initiation into Jewishness," the unwanted and shameful identity. In circumstances of extreme experience of antisemitism and exclusion. Her story is an account of discovering one's own identity, shaped by the "collective shadow of others." It was also about finding one's own worth and place in the world, for which the role of "confidants" is crucial. Finally of the loved ones with whom one can be oneself.

Watch the second episode featuring Barbara Góra, "My dad asked me if I wanted to leave the ghetto"

Hear the personal story of Warsaw Ghetto Survivor, Barbara Góra, who was sent to the ghetto as a child. She was born as Irena Hochberg in 1932 in Warsaw.  Her mother's family was religious, unlike her father's family.  In 1940, the Hochberg family was moved to the ghetto.  After some time, Irena was led to the so-called Aryan side, where, with the help of various people, her hiding places would often change. Her parents and sister also managed to escape to the Aryan side and survived. This episode explores a child’s perspective and experience of the Holocaust. Focusing on the protection of parents  who shielded their children from the cruelty of the outside world. As well as the selectivity of memory and people, who were the ‘depositories and facilitators’ of the memory to what she witnessed. Barbara Góra passed away during the preparation of the material in February 2023.

Watch the third episode featuring Hanna Szmalenberg, "We wanted the names of people who passed this way to appear"

Hear the personal story of an architect from a Protestant family, Hanna Szmalenberg , who was a collaborator with two of the most influential Polish urban planners of the second half of the 20th century: Oskar Hansen and Marek Budzyński. She was an oppositionist and friend of Marek Edelman, a co-founder of the Social Committee for the Care of Jewish Cemeteries and Monuments in Poland, founder of memorials in the area of the Warsaw Ghetto (co-author of the Memorial Route of Jewish Martyrdom and Struggle), the Monument to Szmul Zygielbojm, the founder of the memorial at the Anielewicz Mound, the Umschlagplatz Monument-Wall, and the monument in the Jewish cemetery at Okopowa Street Okopowa Street. The material for this episode was filmed at Hanna’s apartment, at the Umschlagplatz Monument-Wall, and photographs were provided by Elżbieta Oyrzanowska, which document the conceptual work and the creation of the Umschlagplatz Monument.

Watch the fourth episode featuring Ludwik Górski, "Sometimes I think to myself: if I live, it is at the expense that they died"

Portrait of the Survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto – Ludwik Górski. Ludwik Górski admits he can hardly tell whether his memories (he remembers, for example, being taken by a rickshaw to the Umschlagplatz) are his own or ones acquired through intergenerational transmission. The short film touches on key issues for this generation of survivors – who experienced the Holocaust as children – such as the lack of factual memory of their stay in the ghetto; survival by leaving the ghetto; the concealment of Jewish identity on the so-called Aryan side. Another important aspect of the childhood experience of the Holocaust is the attempts of adults to protect children – which in the post-war period also translated into a reluctance to tell children about wartime experiences.

Watch the fifth episode featuring Irena Landau, "I don't like discussing my experiences in detail"

A film portrait of a Warsaw Ghetto survivor, the narrative of which is based on special memory media – drawings that the protagonist began to create as an adult – decades after her experience of the ghetto and the Holocaust. The film etude tells, on the one hand, about the difficulty of verbalizing the experience and the possibility of representing the Holocaust – on the other hand, about the difficulty of receiving the image of the raw, "naked" world experienced and told by a witness of history – which transgresses narrative and aesthetic conventions.

Watch the sixth episode featuring Aleksandra Sobiecka, "A look at the ghetto"

A joint portrait of Aleksandra Sobiecka, and her grandfather Rudolf Damec. Mr. Damec was the creator of photographs which documented the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising from outside the ghetto wall, from the so-called ‘Aryan side.’ This is the story of the creation & collection of these unique photographs, which are presented through the prism of the creator’s family history. This episode also shows the interpretation between two worlds separated by a wall. By fate Rudolf Damec had moved with his family to Warsaw, and their apartment was located near a portion of Warsaw ghetto wall. During the occupation of the Nazis, he helped Jewish people, including the Ronin family, which remained in contact with the Damec family after the War.  Rudolf Damec's photographs are currently on display at POLIN Museum's temporary exhibition, "Around Us a Sea of Fire. The fate of Jewish civilians during the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising."

The film series "In search of living memory: film encounters with witnesses to the Warsaw Ghetto" is an attempt to capture authentic, living memory: a corporeal and emotional memory associated with individual experience. The memories also have a somatic character, anchored in the body. Memory and remembering are often problematic processes that also consist of gaps, discontinuities, contradictions, imagination and attempts to reconstruct - one's own fate, family or social history.

The filmed personal portraits are a documentary showing the impact of the direct and mediated experience of the Warsaw Ghetto on the identity of the protagonists at different stages of their lives.

  • Conceived and realized by Józef Markiewicz / POLIN Museum.