Marian Marzynski: Returning to My Warsaw Story

by
In addition to Never Forget to Lie, Marian Marzynski has made a number of films for FRONTLINE, including Shtetl and A Jew Among the Germans.

In the summer of 1942, the liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto was in progress. Within the next few months, a quarter of a million Jews were to be deported to death camps.

I was 5-years-old, spending my days in the attic of a woodworking shop my father was running in the ghetto. To this day I smell fresh wood from that attic. At the end of each day, when German soldiers were returning to their barracks, my parents carried me to bed in our tiny room above the shop. The German owner of the factory told my father that his work permit, temporarily protecting him from deportation, would no longer cover his family. My parents decided to smuggle me through the ghetto wall to the Christian side of Warsaw.

My father and almost all our relatives, were killed. My mother and I were among a handful who managed to be saved outside the ghetto. After the war, most Holocaust survivors left Poland. They could no longer carry on with their lives in a country that had became an enormous Jewish cemetery. We stayed on in the ruins of the Warsaw Ghetto. My mother remarried. My stepfather gave me a new name, one of many I had to use in my childhood to stay alive. I was a fugitive child, an imposter.

In Poland I became a filmmaker and a television personality, struggling with the Communist censorship to maintain my integrity, but in the late 60′s, during an antisemitic campaign lunched by the government, I was pointed as unpatriotic and had to run again. I became a political refugee and went to the United States where I continued making films.

In 1981, my assignment for the PBS series World, a predeccesor of FRONTLINE, was a story called “Return to Poland,” about the “Solidarity” period, a people’s movement, that put a crack in the political system. In Warsaw I saw Communist leaders, who instead of watching the national holiday parade from a podium, were walking in it for the first time on their own feet. I had a feeling of liberation and a realization that in Poland I had lived in a closet: as a 5-year-old boy hiding during the liquidation of the Warsaw Ghetto, running for my life on the Christian side, but also, as an adult after the war, trying to forget my past.

In Warsaw I stopped a wartime horse carriage and asked the owner how his business was. These days, only people who need to carry a piece of furniture or a big mirror hire him, he complained. My cameraman and I jumped in. I wanted to describe how in 1942, after being smuggled from the Warsaw ghetto and denounced by the blackmailers, I rode such a carriage with a policeman who arrested me and my woman-guide, her hand covering my mouth as I was shouting: “I want to go back to the ghetto. I want to back to mommy!” Turning the camera on myself was a painful experience. My speech was not coherent. I broke down. As an adult I would not stand the terror of being this 5-year old boy, again.

In Never Forget to Lie I am returning to this story.

Explore photos of Marian Marzynski and his parents below.

Slide 1
Slide 2
Slide 3
Slide 4
Slide 5
Slide 6
Slide 7
Slide 8
Slide 9
Slide 10

blog comments powered by Disqus

In order to foster a civil and literate discussion that respects all participants, FRONTLINE has the following guidelines for commentary. By submitting comments here, you are consenting to these rules:

Readers' comments that include profanity, obscenity, personal attacks, harassment, or are defamatory, sexist, racist, violate a third party's right to privacy, or are otherwise inappropriate, will be removed. Entries that are unsigned or are "signed" by someone other than the actual author will be removed. We reserve the right to not post comments that are more than 400 words. We will take steps to block users who repeatedly violate our commenting rules, terms of use, or privacy policies. You are fully responsible for your comments.

SUPPORT PROVIDED BY

FRONTLINE on

ShopPBS
Frontline Journalism Fund

Supporting Investigative Reporting

Funding for FRONTLINE is provided through the support of PBS viewers and by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. Major funding for FRONTLINE is provided by The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation. Additional funding is provided by the Park Foundation, The Ford Foundation, the Wyncote Foundation, and the FRONTLINE Journalism Fund with major support from Jon and Jo Ann Hagler on behalf of the Jon L. Hagler Foundation.
PBSCPBMacArthur FoundationPark FoundationFord Foundationwyncote

FRONTLINE   Watch FRONTLINE   About FRONTLINE   Contact FRONTLINE
Privacy Policy   Journalistic Guidelines   PBS Privacy Policy   PBS Terms of Use   Corporate Sponsorship
FRONTLINE is a registered trademark of WGBH Educational Foundation.
Web Site Copyright ©1995-2014 WGBH Educational Foundation
PBS is a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization.