SKU 3388

OUR CHILDREN (1948) * with hard-encoded English subtitles *

Natan Gross, Sholom Aleichem, Rachel Auerbach, Shimen Dzigan, Ysrael Szumacher, Niusia Gold

Out of the more than three million Jews, who lived within Poland's border in 1939, only 300,000 of them were left alive at the end of the Second World War, many of those only surviving, because they fled deep into Soviet territory ahead of and away from the Germans' mobile execution squads.  Two of these survivors were the famous Jewish comedians, Simon Dzigan and Israel Schumacher.  Having spent the War in the USSR and not being personally exposed to the horrors of German occupation, the two return to Poland and decide to re-create the old classics of Yiddish vaudeville for a group of children at a Jewish orphanage in the outskirts of Lodz, a city which once housed one of Europe's largest ghettos and which managed to far outlive most of the other ghettos in Poland (most of the Jewish ghettos in occupied Poland were liquidated by late 1942; the ghetto in Litzmannstadt [Lodz] lasted until January 1944). The reception the comedians receive from the children is quite different than what they anticipated. Having miraculously survived the attempt to exterminate them, the children find this lighthearted re-enactment of one of Sholem Aleichem's works to be naive and frivolous.  Eventually, the two sides "perform" for one another and, in doing so, a kind of therapy develops, permitting everyone the freedom to talk about the terrible memories of the past and to begin the process of healing.  The film was meant to re-launch the Yiddish talkie, whose promising development in Poland was cut short by the German occupation.  Alas, Our Children ended up marking its end; not a rebirth.  The hostile situation which greeted most of the surviving Polish Jews returning to their homes led to a mass exodus, ironically with many of them transiting through or settling down in postwar Germany.  This film, shot in Poland and meant to blossom there, had to be smuggled out and was not shown there until almost fifty years later.  The re-enactments of ghetto life by the comedians, based on assumptions and stories, and the counterperformances by the children, which mirror reality much more accurately, are truly heartbreaking at times (example:  after having placed a large group of children into the back of a truck earmarked to bring the children to their deaths, an SS man asks watching Poles whether any of them would like to buy one of the condemned.  Suspecting a trick, a farmer cautiously hands over some money to the SS man, who, in turn, grabs a random child out of the back of the truck and tosses it like garbage into the mud at the feet of the villagers).

Though never marketed as a documentary, the "fictional" events of the film mirror the reality of the occupation and the situation in postwar Poland so accurately, that one could be forgiven for considering this unintended memorial to Yiddish theatre as a work of non-fiction.

Po powrocie ze Związku Radzieckiego słynni żydowscy komicy, Szymon Dżigan i Izrael Szumacher, wystawiają sztukę na temat życia w getcie podczas okupacji. Zaproszone na przedstawienie dzieci z pobliskiego żydowskiego sierocińca, które cudem przeżyły wojnę, z miejsca wyczuwają fałsz przedstawionych sytuacji. Po rozmowie z dziećmi komicy decydują się je odwiedzić. Ich wizyta w sierocińcu sprawia, że poznają oni prawdziwy dramatyzm życia pod niemiecką okupacją, a opowiedziane przez dzieci historie stają się dla obu stron rodzajem terapii umożliwiającej uwolnienie się od straszliwych wspomnień z przeszłości i poczucia zagrożenia. 

DVD-R is in Yiddish with hard-encoded English subtitles.  Approx. 66 mins. + two newsreels totaling 3 mins. 


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