The Power of Pawel Pawlikowski’s “Ida”

ida“You are Jewish. And your real name is Ida.” These two trenchant sentences, uttered by Wanda, a Polish-Jewish communist, to her niece Anna, a twenty-year-old novitiate ready to become a nun, define the infinitely complex story captured in “Ida,” a 2013 Polish masterpiece. Historically, the film, situated in the grim atmosphere of socialist Poland in the early 1960s, deals with the visible and invisible traumatic effects of the Holocaust. Psychologically, it is a meditation on the many faces of human freedom, on what it means to be a woman, a Christian, a Jew, and a human being in a century marred by genocides and destructive ideological passions.

Before taking her celibacy oath, Anna follows the Mother Superior’s urge to visit her aunt, her only relative and, we find out, the only other survivor of a family that perished during the Holocaust. This encounter leads to a quest for a long-buried past, to appalling revelations, and to Anna’s final return to her monastic calling. But this is a different woman, one who has lost her original innocence by discovering, in a most concrete, material way, the existence of Evil. Anna the nun will remain forever indebted to her sinful aunt for having allowed her to recover a tragic family history, even if this confrontation with the past meant Wanda’s own breakdown. To say more about the plot in this article will spoil the experience of seeing one of the great movies of our times. Just one caveat: Do not expect simple questions in this film, and even less so simple answers.

Pawel Pawlikowski’s “Ida” is an entrancingly absorbing movie. A film of utmost purity, with frames that remain forever grafted in one’s mind. A film about memory, trauma, truth, and the pursuit of one’s inner self. It belongs in the same category with the great films of Jerzy Kawalerowicz, Andrzej Wajda, Jerzy Skolimowski, and Agnieszka Holland.

Wanda is an overwhelming character, right out of Jerzy Andrzejewski’s novel “Ashes and Diamonds.” Once the horrible, dreaded, “Iron Wanda,” “Red Wanda,” a fanatic communist prosecutor asking for death penalties against alleged “enemies of the people,” she is now merely pathetic. Her first name is reminiscent of the notorious Wanda Wasilewska, Stalin’s favorite amongst Polish communists, whom he otherwise detested (see Marci Shore’s book “Caviar and Ashes”). With the utopia shattered to pieces, all that was left were the cigarettes, the one-night stands, and the vodka. In the company of her niece, she rediscovers her lost humanity. Or, at least, she hopes to retrieve it, together with the long suppressed memories of her Jewish fate.

Most probably, Wanda’s character is somehow inspired by the famous, or rather the grisly Julia (Luna) Brystigyer and Helena Wolynska-Brus, both active members of the repressive apparatus in the 1950s (the former as an investigator and head of the Security’s anti-clerical department, the latter as a military prosecutor). In either case, these two avatars of Polish Stalinism at its harshest were what Agata Kulesza, the actress assigned to the role, had in mind when playing the part. Pawlikowski himself told her about the case of Helena Brus. Nonetheless, what the actress went for – and I believe she succeeded in – was an attempt to summon up the human in that which was, in fact, its very opposite: “It was a challenge for my character to carry around all this past and also remain someone whom people could like.” One year before her death, the sadistic Luna converted to Catholicism. But did she ever repent?

Anna (Ida), played by Agata Trzebuchowska, is seemingly glacial, seraphic, Antigone-like, in a tragic-discreet way. Her gaze is reminiscent of a Vermeer painting. Aunt and niece alike, marred by the curse of the totalitarian twins – as the great Polish writer Jerzy Giedroyc called them – Stalinism and Nazism. In sum, bloodlands, to use the title of Timothy Snyder’s great book. The psychological suspense is astonishing. Not to mention the use of shadows and silence (much like in Bergman’s films). And Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony is the ideal soundtrack for Wanda’s catharsis. Just look at the window.

Wanda and Anna’s conversation about the funeral of the boy who had been killed twenty years before is illuminating. Anna suggests bringing a priest, whilst Wanda – putting on a sarcastic, yet melancholy smile – responds: “A rabbi, perhaps.”

Politics is undetectable throughout the film. The political myth is, nevertheless, present. The story takes place in a dictatorship. An atheist tyranny born (enforced, actually) on the tormented soil of a martyred Poland. The same place where the catastrophe called Shoah had occurred. Where the Nazis had tried to obliterate all Christian compassion and human solidarity. The secret remains are discovered and put to rest where they really belong, in a Jewish cemetery with derelict, shattered tombstones. Wanda has fulfilled her destiny, but she could not have done it alone, without Anna. And Anna could not have done it without becoming who she once was, namely Ida.

The year is 1962, we are in a courtroom where Wanda is the judge. On the wall, just above her head, the picture of the party boss Wladislaw Gomulka. The restaurant is filled with Adriano Celentano’s music and a lot of jazz (John Coltrane). Tavern scenes play a key role in Polish cinema. In the films of young Andrzej Wajda, the song Czerwone maki na Monte Cassino – among others – is heard playing in restaurants. For us Eastern Europeans, “Ashes and Diamonds” was our very own “Casablanca.”

Someone asked Pawlikowski: why doesn’t Anna choose to remain Ida? In Poland back then, Jewish identity was dubious, negated publicly and denied privately. Just five years later, after the Six-Day War, overt anti-Semitism broke out afresh, as party and state policy. Then came March 1968, the students’ revolt, the arrests, the new and last exodus.

Historian Jan Gross wrote about post-Auschwitz anti-Semitism. Moreover, Anna’s way back to the monastery is related to her double orphan status. She had lost her family, she is now losing it once more. In a world of utter uprooting, Anna chooses to leave all that is worldly behind. She turns to Jesus, she absconds so that she may everlastingly mourn those “killed at dawn” (Zbigniew Herbert). She will wash the statue of Christ for all eternity, hoping to learn from the Son of Man how it was possible for humanity to descend into the horror of the Holocaust. A toil of memory and a toil of mourning, “Ida” is, above all, a harrowing confession about the damaged lives (to use Theodor W. Adorno’s words) of those who inhabited what was once Central Europe.

[This article was translated from Romanian by Monica Got.]

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  • Mark Goldberg

    I’m sorry, but this is the best recollection a pole could muster regarding the slaughter of millions of jews in poland, and by poles who actively supported their persecution and annihilation? After the war, I can’t remember the name but there was a polish town that did the blood libel against the jews who had survived the german holocaust and returned to their polish town, and were burnt alive in a hotel/home? by poles when rumors of a kids murder was falsely attributed to the poor jews… and they were killed by poles after the war ended. And this, this movie is what the author calls brave and deep in exposing the darkness of the hatred that consumed all those poor destroyed people? Is he serious?
    Yes…. unfortunately, he is

    • Underzog

      I think you’re referring to Kleist where the survivors of the holocuast — survivors(!) were killed by rampaging Poles. Now, 44% of Polish teenagers are antisemitic according to a pole.

      • Mark Goldberg

        Thanks underzog… yeah, here’s the wikipedia info on that one:

        “…The Kielce pogrom was an outbreak of violence against the Jewish community centre in the city of Kielce, Poland on July 4, 1946, initiated by Polish Communist armed forces (LWP, KBW, GZI WP)[1] and continued by a mob of local townsfolk. Following a false tale of child kidnapping, including allegations of blood libel[2] which led to a police investigation, violence broke out which resulted in the killing of around 40 Jews. Polish Communist courts later tried and condemned nine people to death in connection with the incident.

        There is general academic agreement that the massacre was instigated by Soviet-backed Communist security forces, possibly for propaganda purposes to discredit Poland’s anti-Communism and maintain totalitarian control over the country. Because the top-secret case files were destroyed, there is an ongoing academic inquiry and debate about whether the violence resulted from antisemitism or secret coordination with the NKVD by the Polish authorities.[3][4]

        As the deadliest pogrom against Polish Jews after World War II, the incident was a significant point in the post-war history of Jews in Poland. It took place only a year after the end of World War II and the Holocaust, shocking Jews in Poland, many Poles, and the international community. It has been considered a catalyst for the flight of most remaining Polish Jews who survived the Holocaust away from Poland.[5]”

        • Americana

          I’m not sure which aspect of this story is worse… How tragic Polish townsfolk would believe and act on that blood libel story generated by the Polish NKVD and kill Jews who’d survived the Holocaust! How disgusting the Communist regime would use the blood libel myth to unleash lethal anti-Semitism for the sake of propaganda.

          • Mark Goldberg

            too true. Despite all our human potential, the biggest growth is downward as in this example. Politically ‘correct’ viewing is not the cure but a deceptive notion designed to put the elites in charge of ‘correction’ and does not nor could it ever end hatred: it is a user of hatred for it’s own sake.

    • Underzog

      Okay…. This article from The “New York Times spells the city as Kielce, Poland. It gives some information on the post holocaust massacre of the Jews in Poland.

    • mackykam

      Kielce. My dad was there the day before the pogrom. A priest’s sermon blaming the Jews for surviving Hitler and coming back to their pre-war homes set it off. And blaming the Jews for killing Jesus. Odd, isn’t it, how Poles love worshiping a dead Jew but hate the living ones.

    • Underzog

      Incidentally, in addition to getting the name of Keilce wrong initially, I also misspelled Poll in reference to a POLL of 44% of present day Polish youth harbor antisemitic feelings. I am 25% Polish myself :(

      Underzog studios regrets the error.

  • Mark Goldberg

    Here’s a way better review of the movie by Debbie Schlussel and

    * “Ida“: Leave it to the extremely anti-Semitic Poles to turn the Holocaust tragedy into a way to portray Jews as evil, slutty, and Communist murderers. That’s what this boring Polish-made movie does.

    In Polish, with English subtitles, it’s the story of Ida, a young woman who was raised in a convent and is training to become a nun in the early 1960s. She learns she has an aunt and that she and the aunt are Jews. She also learns that her family perished in the Holocaust. But those are tiny details compared to the fact that her Jewish aunt is a Communist judge, Comrade Wanda, who sentenced many non-Communists and freedom-seekers to execution. Oh, and did I mention that she’s an alcoholic and a slut? But, don’t worry, she realizes that she’s a bad person and jumps out a window.

    Soon, her niece is dropping the nun habit and getting into bed with men she just met, too. Then, she realizes that being a Communist slutty Jewess ain’t the life for her. So it’s back to the nunnery for the calm, decent life of a Polish Catholic. Yep, those Jooooos suck!

    My relatives cooked in the ovens for this? Apparently.

    There are real-life stories of Polish Jewish kids raised as Catholics to survive the Holocaust such as that of Miriam Ferber of the Detroit area. Ferber, raised by Polish Catholics, was finally told by her adoptive parents that she was a Jew. She became a practicing Jew, created and raised a thriving Jewish family, and today, her kids (with whom I went to school) own and run HoMedics (which brings you all of the great massage stuff you see as gifts for Christmas). Her story would have made a great movie.

    Instead, we get this trash. Before seeing this, I never imagined an 82-minute movie could seem like 820.

  • Mark Goldberg

    I’m wondering why my last post is being ‘reviewed for approval by frontpage’?
    I didn’t use any profanity, no hateful comments, merely posted another review by another movie reviewer, that pointed out the failure of the movie and the deficits it displayed?

  • quousque

    Your ignorance, sir, (and throw in Debbie Schlussel for good measure) is breathtaking.

    • Mark Goldberg

      With a simple ad hominem attack…. no facts, no hard dollars and in depth analysis by you, I’d say simply this- how vapid and droll you are. Or as a friend once noted about such comments as yours ” numb as a boot, and dead from the neck up”

      • quousque

        I am OK with your estimate of my dumbness; never consideredmyself even a mildly sharp tool in the shed. When it comes to analysis of thecolumn, let’s check if you can handle the analysis.

        I object to your attempt to taint the entire nation through
        the prism of terrible deeds done in the course of unimaginable terror. Per Timothy Snyder’s book these were the European Bloodlands. I have a better term
        for professor Snyder, you and your esteemed pal Debbie Schlussel; it was a human slaughterhouse 24/7/365 for five years. And nobody was excused, nobody. Here is a brief list of historical facts:

        Prewar anti Semitism – a fact. Anti Semitism is a true, centuries old European invention.

        Post war anti Semitism – a fact. Now days there are better players at that than Poles

        Kielce pogrom – a fact (so were concurrent events in Lublin, Lodz, Bialystok Krakow, etc. Pogroms with the same provocation theme instigated either by communist security apparatus or Soviet NKVD ‘advisors’).

        Jedwabne (1941?) – a fact

        ‘Golden Harvest’ as stipulated by Jan Gross – a fact. The numbers in Gross’ book might be questionable but for profit murders of Jews by Poles and denunciations to occupying German authorities were not uncommon.

        On the other hand since you are an avid reader of Wikipedia; check the entry devoted to prosecutor Brus. In the post war Poland, prosecutor Brus took a real McCoy, one of the heroes of the Polish underground Home Army,
        Gen. Fieldorf (nom de guerre, Nil), and condemn him to the gallows. And she got away with this murder. British Government refused to extradite her back to Poland
        to stand trial. I do not know if Wanda in Pawlikowski’s movie is Brus or not and I do not care. The
        similar opinion applies to the other monstrosity, Julia (Luna) Brystigyer. Her proclivities for genitals centered sadism were very well documented by witnesses to her interrogations. By her standards, waterboarding would be
        kindergarten stuff. Both women were hard core communists and both were of Jewish roots. So were about 40% of personnel in the security apparatus of
        Poland and other communist countries of the Soviet bloc. That number interestingly carries over from the Soviet pre-war era. It is a historical fact that neither you, nor the ding bat Debbie can gloss over. No one, but no one, has a 100 % solid and rational explanation for that phenomenon.

        Yours truly,

        Numb as a boot, and dead from the neck up because of historical facts.

        • Mark Goldberg

          this reply by you is an analysis, as opposed to your previous one which is and was ‘numb as a boot’. In regards to your reply, let me remind you: “I object to your attempt to taint the entire nation throughthe prism of terrible deeds done in the course of unimaginable terror.” The attempt to portray the tone and tenor of poland is and filled with jew hatred. That being said, as I mentioned, there are always good people, good poles and even better than merely good. However the culture and atmosphere then clearly encouraged and not merely allowed for the bloodletting- as exemplified by Kielche and other events. 2.”Anti Semitism is a true, centuries old European invention”- no problem with this, although it does go deeper. 3.”for profit murders of Jews by Poles and denunciations to occupying German authorities were not uncommon.” – Indeed I do agree with this. And this is the tone and tenor of the polish culture that did what the chmielnicki massacres did in the 1600’s- slaughter and betray innocent jews, ordinary people who were slaughtered for nothing but the power to do so. 4. “…Both women were hard core communists and both were of Jewish roots40% of personnel in the security apparatus of
          Poland and other communist countries of the Soviet bloc. That number interestingly carries over from the Soviet pre-war era. It is a historical fact that neither you, nor the ding bat Debbie can gloss over. No one, but no one, has a 100 % solid and rational explanation for that phenomenon.”- no real problems with this except you missed the obvious- you said’they had ‘jewish roots’. No- they were no longer jewish in any sense- only that they abandoned it all for the ‘progressive marxists’ which helped murder some 40 millions in Russia, and 60 millions in China. why would jews succumb to this- that’s for another post but here’s the hint: they’re no longer jewish period when they fall to this. They obey none of the laws, none of the ethics, none of the precepts- and you can find them today in Israel, trying to destroy Israel helping the Islamo-nazi’s do their final extinction work.
          Anyway, you replied without simple ad hominem and that is a sign of real growth on your part. Anything is possible. Even my ending this without any invective at all…. see?

          • Jo

            Why do you assume that when Poles killed Jews it was because of their “culture”, but when Jews killed Poles or became totalitarian criminals they were “no longer Jewish”? How would you know?

            National identity of many people living in small towns and villages was dubious at best and often nonexistent. Poland existed for only 20 years at that time after 123 years of German, Austrian and Russian occupation. Many people considered themselves “local” and knew nothing of Poland and didn’t care. They were mostly illiterate and only culture they knew, they got from the Church. I just don’t see any of that as a part of Polish culture. Nowadays people like that don’t even exist, thanks to public education after the war.

            Those people who betrayed their Jewish neighbours betrayed also everything that is actually important in Polish culture, like honor, love of freedom and

          • Mark Goldberg

            A fair question, indeed, But let’s look with closer scrutiny.
            the jew hatred, the vast bigotry was extant, and quite large as almost all would admit. And historically it played out again and again. That is the totality of the ‘culture’ I referred too. When Jews killed poles, I assume you meant the marxists who certainly did and do disproportionality represent as previously ‘jewish’. And yes- that ‘culture’ today and then, is guilty of it’s actions. But equating the gassing and oven processing of millions
            and the slaughter that willingly was joined with by large swarths of polish population, cannot be equated- but I do not doubt this too has to mentioned as a betrayal of human values, these marxist jews who aren’t jewish but marxist tyrants in ‘progressive’ clothing like all the other non-jewish ones. And yes- Poland gave us many heroes as per it’s history. Jan Sobieski comes to mind. He lead the battle to throw out the Muslims at Vienna in 1665, heading the combined polish and german armies that saved Europe from it’s conquering by Islam. that happened on what day….. 9/11 1665 I believe was the year. I am aware of the great defenders of Liberty from Poland- I am not in denial about any of that. And the discussion as to why jews would become part of that infestation known as marxism is worthy of discussion.

          • Jo

            I would never deny there was a certain “culture” of jew hatred in Europe, especially Eastern. But it was not a part of national identity of Poles. It was rather a part of a peasant culture, as presented in Reymont’s Nobel winning book “The Peasants”. Their life was built around field work and Church sermons, after which they were drinking at a tavern owned by Jewish family. (historically accurate – in the old times only Jews were allowed to sell alcohol on lands belonging to nobles) They hated those Jews because they were spending way too much money on alcohol. They also hated everyone who was different or alien. They were superstitious, so they were believing in all those idiotic stories about blood libel and such. Their life was cruel, short and lived in humiliation. They let their own parents die in terrible conditions, often sending them away when they couldn’t be useful anymore. It was a peasant culture, very similar in every part of Eastern Europe. National cultures were created by other social classes and were pushing peasant culture away when education became more available.

            For those reasons people who identify with national culture will tell you that they have nothing in common with peasants and that phenomena like primitive anti-Semitism died away with peasant culture. Now it’s about as close to young Polish people as marxism is to you.

            I have a few ideas about what brought some part of Jewish population to marxism. There were many people that never fully assimilated to local folks and felt detached from their culture, but also were not religious and didn’t wanna leave for Palestine (as a region, it was called so then, obviously) Marxism was interesting, because it went against national states and promised creation of the new man. That’s all people like that could dream about.

          • Mark Goldberg

            The thing I tend to disagree with was provided by another in this thread. A recent poll of poles showed according to the polish poster- 44% antisemitism. Hence this is not merely a peasant phenomenon. And as you intimated, it always comes from the top down. It was used, curried and carried along by the nobles to help control the populace. After all… if you can make a bugaboo, to distract from the more real and actual problems then it’s a win win situation for the rulers.
            As far as your assessment of the jewish participants in marxist ideology, I think it’s more complex but I don’t disagree with your ascertions.

          • Jo

            If you mean the ADL poll, I completely disregard it. Its failures were criticized by many, Jews and non-Jews alike. First of all, questions asked in this poll sounded like that: “Jews are…” true or false. What does it even mean? All, some, few, none? And where is maybe, possibly, definitely yes/not? It’s like making a poll on racism in America with questions like “Black people are aggressive” true or false. Some are, some aren’t, but both possible answers will be wrong to some extent. No other poll conducted in Poland showed results like that. Some people still have trouble with the concept of what is improper to say about different groups of people, but I’ve never noticed any serious hostility against Jews. There are dozens of Jewish cultural events every year, tens of thousands of Polish people participate and there never was any problem with that.

            Peasants were controlled by vodka. Levels of alcoholism among them was in a large part nobles’ fault. They conducted their policy with intent to get peasants dependent on their monopoly. Is it a coincidence that only Jews were allowed to sell it? I don’t know, but I don’t have enough to suggest it was designed so to create anti-Semitism. But I’m sure that they were not teaching peasants anti-Semitic ideas themselves, mostly because they didn’t socialize at all and peasants were naturally suspicious of everything they would say. If they got those ideas from somewhere it was priests in small villages. In Catholic Church it surely comes from the top down, straight from Vatican City. Thank goodness they recently stopped spreading filth.

            Of course it’s more complicated, writing a thesis on this subject is not my goal;) but it’s always something.

          • Mark Goldberg

            I disregard the ADL on most matters- they are an anachronism. They unwittingly aide the jihadists now instead of recognizing them for what they are. It was a poll someone else posted here, so I don’t know where it came from. And I agree about schewing polls with weighted questions.
            I hope you are correct about your opinions about the poles. Although my polish family was all wiped out, as an american guy, albeit jewish, I think of people like Sobieski, as great saviors of western civ, kosciosko, et al.
            And it is always as you say, something

          • Jo

            I’m sorry about your family, the war took its toll on mine too, some were executed by SS and some were sent to Auschwitz or to work as a slave in Germany, maybe that’s why I’m just a little too emotional when I think someone accuses them of being killers only because they were Polish.

            Anyway, it’s always interesting to share ideas. I hope I am correct too, after all I live in a bubble of a cultured, metropolitan city and I have little connection to rural areas. What I wrote is definitely true for everybody I know here.

          • Jo

            I’d like to add just one more thing. Some time ago I was reading Goldhagen’s “Hitler’s willing executioners” and I was absolutely shocked by the power of German “highbrow” anti-Semitism – a vast number of writers, philosophers, musicians and other cultured people, who were spreading Jew-hatred with racist and genocidal connotation. When you have a real elite of a country sharing ideas like that, you can assume it’s a part of a culture. But there was nothing like that in Poland. I’ve heard of one anti-Semitic Polish poet, the rest criticized him for that.

          • quousque

            I hoped and prayed that the conversation will end, but my
            prayers went unanswered. So let’s start at it again. History of Jewish (Hebrew?) presence is as old as Poland itself and goes back to late X / or XI
            century. First minted coins in the kingdom had Hebrew inscriptions on them. By the late XIV century there were multiple codified rights given to the people of
            Old Order. They were awarded to them by multiple royal edicts carrying different names and years. Engagement in many professions and privileges of banking operations
            were included. Your other interlocutor (Jo) mentioned alcohol consumption and distribution network and its effect on the ‘average’ population; exceedingly apt observation. But, Polish Jews were never given the right to own land; they could build on it, rent their fruits of
            labor but not own it. In another words, the path to assimilation was largely closed. Some of these rights have had very far reaching consequences which over
            the centuries created tensions, fault lines, and, yes hatred. Traditional Roman Catholic doctrine prior to one of the very current pope, had probably very detrimental effect on the state of religious relations. As a sidebar; it is at times necessary to separate Jewish religion and Jewish ethnicity; these are not one and the same. Way back, Denis Praeger had excellent series of radio broadcasts on that topic. In Poland, both aspects
            played a role; Jew was of a different ethnicity (hear race) and of different religion (hear a primitive statement of JC sent to a cross by one of his own).
            Your position is that that ‘tone and tenor’ of Poland as a
            nation-state, in its innermost core. is a country, atavisticaly anti-Semitic.

            In my modest opinion, “da liegt der hund begraben” for it is historically unsustainable proposition. We have established the existence of anti-Semitism over there beyond any reasonable doubt. But there is also persistent virulent strain in opinion of many American Jews and non-Jews alike, that makes an attempt to equate (moral equivalency anyone) of what transpired during the Shoah with a segment of brutalized Polish society that opportunistically contributed to that horror. I take a very strong exception to that opinion.

            In the history of the human race, until the 1930, there was
            no case whereby a nation state, introduced as an official policy, the policy of total cleansing and eradication of a specific religious /ethnic group. That policy was first proposed, propagated and eventually implemented by Adolf (the Mein Kampf ) Hitler, the head of Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, NSDAP. I Kindly please split the first word in its subcomponents; National Socialist. Poland with its latent anti-Semitism does not even come close, sir. You are aware that ‘Mein Kampf’ in literal translation means the same as propagandized meaning of the word ‘Jihad’??

            On June 21 1941, the National Socialists come into a mortal conflict with the Komintern Socialists lead by Joseph Vissarionovitch Dzoughashvili, a well known sociopath, aka Joe (the Ploughman) Stalin. In the course of the WWII, FDR threw economic might of the USA behind one of these characters, and the rest, as they say is history.

            Pre-war Poland was the home to roughly 40%
            of European Jewry; question to you and my fave anti Polack, Ms. Debbie. How in the world over 3 million Jewish victims of the Holocaust (and Polish citizens
            to boot), found home there, created one of a kind cultural tradition, cultivated their separate language, theater, newspapers, separate schools, hundreds and hundreds
            of houses of prayer in the most unfriendly land in Europe???? Can you imagine such presence in modern day Saudi Arabia or in the extreme case, in the Gaza
            strip???? France?? England?? Why not???? The fabric of Polish society was shredded, torn and left way, way diminished after Shoah and it was NOT due to the organic Polish anti-Semitism.

            Last brief statement and I will shut up for good; Bohdan Chmielnicki was not Pole; he was a historical figure very
            dear to the Ukrainians and Russians hearts. He was hetman and leader of Cossack sotnias if you catch my drift. The word ‘pogrom’ is either Ukrainian or Russian
            in its root and it means to strike like a thunderbolt and totally obliterate without any mercy. Chmielnicki’s massacres in the mid XVII century were revenge taken for Jewish financing of eastern boarder expansions (or defense) by Polish – Lithuanian Commonwealth nobility, and they were true precursor of all other pogroms. Czarist Cossacks sotnias carried that ‘tradition’ for the next two and a half centuries. We are supporting their descendants as we speak. There is just
            too much irony in all that.

            And BTW about the irony of our present times; Der Fuhrer went in front of the Reichstag and asked for approval from Weimar Republic parlamentarians to create the laws as he would see fit. He got an OK and the huge applause. Our current leader went in front of the House and said that he has a phone and a pen and got a huge applause. My head is about to explode, sir; numbness is a much better state of mind. Shalom.

          • Mark Goldberg

            When I think of this 3rd rate hack- Obummer, and his ‘progressive’ (i.e. socialist ) imperatives I can’t help but a large helping of bovine fertilizer. What a pile of soft softed tyranny he plies under his indifferent telepromted words. The socialist candidate, Norman Thomas ran for president in the US and back in 48’ I think he said that the only way a socialist would win was if they created him as a ‘progressive’ which is what they’ve done- ruining liberalism, and falsifying it beyond repair. He has empowered every small and large tyrant across the globe with his impotency and pretensions.

            I don’t scoff at your evaluation of history, but there are a couple problems with the conclusions. The fact that 3 million jewish folks could build a culture and society in Poland unlike Saudi Arabia doesn’t exactly answer why they were erased, nor why when they came back such as in Kielce, the locals and the clerics weren’t ashamed to their core and even encouraged the locals to do again what had just erased the entire population of jews. Just because they could never even exist in Saudi Arabia doesn’t mitigate what was done.

            That said, your statement that there never was previously until the 30’s a policy of total eradication and cleaning of a specific religious/ethnic group. It was indeed attempted in ancient persia, against ‘Jews’ and the holiday of ‘Purim’ is a celebration of the miracle that prevented that dreadful edict from being carried out against an entire nation. As for bigotry, it didn’t begin in Europe, and if you want to see it, Read ‘Against Apion’ by Josephus.

            Chmilenicki was indeed not Polish but the polish jews were wiped out in the hundreds of thousands- not merely as you demur- for financing of eastern boarder expansion ( again, the hint that there was some reasonable prima facie reason for the slaughtering), but rather, that they were easily thrown to the wolves.

            Not to muddy the waters, one of the tomes you might take a look at, and there were two or three versions- was Hitler’s own words on the matter. Let me sum it up, as his personal statements to his closest intimates and henchmen.

            If the Nazi’s killed the pope, the nuns, the priests, the world would assume it’s ‘natural order’ with the aryans ruling on top, the magyars, bulgars, poles, czecks, italians, french english assuming there subordinate positions etc as per their rightful roles beneath the aryans.

            But- if even one jewish child was left alive, one, who didn’t even know what a Torah was, let alone be able to read and or learn from it- why the curse of Sinai would grow again. What was the curse of Sinai, according to Hitler? Accrording to herr schicklelgrubber, it was the curse that the Jews alone brought to the world from Sinai.

            That was that the young should protect the old, that the strong should protect the weak- this was the curse of the ‘commandments’ of G-d carried out by the Jews, and their Torah, and their G-d, that created Christianity, which would simply die if the clerics were eliminated.

            It goes on but the gist isn’t that Poles were evil, it was the evil exists in this world and Hitler represents the inversion that allows evil to assume angels wings and erase life as easily as killing a fly- and for some under it’s aura to erase whole swarths of humanity with whatever excuse seems to fit at that moment, making the excuse seem to have force and substance beyond the absurdity that it truly bespeaks. Horror is horror, and rationalizing it away only strengthens it again….. and ……. again.

            To the further farther shore

          • Jo

            OK… you asked a question why this huge Jewish minority was erased during II WW? Let’s imagine an experiment, shall we?

            Take for example city like Baltimore (because I’ve seen The Wire and I know a little about racial issues there), establish a military quarantine around it, allow only 1000 kcal per citizen of incoming food (but only 600 for Polish Americans), randomly catch and shoot 100 people every day on the streets in a public execution. Then tell those people that white Polish Americans are like cockroaches, they can be killed with impunity and steal their goods and if someone tries to help them in any way, they get executed along with all of their family, but if they tell you their whereabouts, they get additional food and money and maybe you’ll be lenient on them and won’t choose them for public execution.

            How long would Polish Americans survive in Baltimore? Years, months?

          • quousque

            If you go to pray, so will I.

          • Mark Goldberg

            Reminds me of that scene from the old movie, ‘Fiddler on the Roof’. You remember- that poor village of Russian Jews, struggling under the czars edicts for a 100 yrs, and about to be expelled- the whole 3 millions of the and the fake creation of ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ to help give it the justification. Anyway- some poor quiet slob in the village, naively asks the old rabbi – ‘Rabbi, is there a prayer for the czar’
            Yes… he replies “May G-d bless and keep the czar….. far away from us”

  • Jo

    Seriously, Debbie Schlussel is your authority on history, Poland and Polish people? Woman who wrote that the phrase “Polish death camps” is correct, because Poles killed millions of Jews? When people criticised her anti-Polish paranoia and ignorance and suggested reading a book, she said it’s an anti-Semitic attack. Seriously, you can be racist against Poles, but you just cannot defame them by accusing them of commiting mass murder when it’s obvious that it was the Germans.

    Have you read the article? It explicitly says why Wanda character was created like that, she takes after a couple very real Jewish communists, director of Ida even met one of them. That makes Schlussel’s whole review pointless and idiotic. Are her feelings so hurt by this Jewish-communist-killer character that she goes into racist and offensive tirade about anti-Semitic Poles? Doesn’t she realize it hurts Polish people’s feelings? You’re no better in this if you second that.

    Imagine that many Poles criticised Wanda character of being too sympathetic, that this movie whitewashes communist crimes.

    BTW, there are real stories of kids raised by Catholics who stayed Catholic. What’s so strange about it? Ida is believable in her fear of the cruel world and will to stay safe and hidden in a convent, especially after finding out about her past and after her aunt’s death.

    You need to take a long, hard look at yourself if you deny existence of Jewish murderers but constantly remind other nations of their own. Hipocrisy much?

    • Mark Goldberg

      a serious question. Did I call her an authority on history or poland?
      No, however, her criticisms, which I usually find pointed, sometimes too severe, but rarely factually incorrect, lead me to enjoy her movie reviews and insights. As far as her critique of the polish jew hatred, which was pointed out by others at what 44%? would you think it spurious of her to be so pointed and cynical reportage. But now we get to the crux: you point to the ‘existence of Jewish murderers, as if somehow, that is a reasonable expression of history? Are you serious? Jews had no nation, and whatever jewish murderers were they sure as hell didn’t do any in the name of the Torah, or G-d.
      It is you that needs to get the wax out of your ears with your moral and historical inversion and take a really good look at the hate you likely hide in your gut. Lot’s of poles were decent human beings- no doubt. And many many were jew hating assistants who gladly helped the germans shove my relatives into ovens. My people were from Lodj, and the sons were in the polish air force. The parents and other kids and all the family went to death camps. It is not guilt that is called for for all of us the living. It is a real good hard look at this without the bs that you brought up about 1. the germans only did it, not the poles- untrue and 2. that Jewish murderers, are somehow in any way equatable to mass genocide.

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    • Atikva

      “Doesn’t she realize it hurts Polish people’s feelings?” The truth may hurt, but it’s no reason to hide it.

      The hatred of Jews demonstrated by many Poles before, during and after WWII is a fact. So are the admirable feats of other Poles, such as Irena Sendler, who risked their lives to save Jews from the nazis.

      On the other hand, not all Jews were heroes or innocent lambs during WWII, and even nazis were not all monsters, as witnessed by Wladyslaw Szpilman. We should remember these facts before generalizing.

      As to those Jews who fell under the spell of a totalitarian ideology such as communism ever since 1917 and became murderers, they are a fact, too. Only the antithesis between “Jew” and “murderer” forced them to renounce any expression of their identity. Unfortunately, the myth of this ever elusive “socialist paradise” survives for too many of them nowadays.

      • Jo

        Making general statements such as “extremely anti-Semitic Poles” (about today’s Poles, not those from 1930s!) and insinuating that making a movie character – based on real people – Jewish is a reflection of “eternal Jew hatred” is not telling the truth. If she were Polish and wrote such things about Jews, you’d call her anti-Semite, if it was about some other race, you’d call her racist. It’s not OK, it hurts.

        • Atikva

          As I said, the truth may hurt, but it is the truth. If today’s Poles resent being seen as antisemites, they should blame their ancestors, not the Jews. Why do you think Hitler chose Poland to conduct most of his genocide program instead of Italy, Belgium or France?

          When you feel justified in stating “it is obvious that it was the Germans who committed mass murder”, don’t you think that you too are hurting today’s Germans and therefore that you fall into your own definition of a “racist”?

          You can’t face the crimes of your ancestors by denying them or rejecting the blame on someone else. It doesn’t work, neither at the family level nor at the national level. All you can do is acknowledge their guilt, refrain from walking in their steps and raising your children so that they will never repeat the same deadly mistake.

          And if you are lucky enough to count in your family one of those heroic Poles who risked their lives to save Jews against the rest of their kin and country, be proud and thank God.

          • Jo

            Making negative general statement about Poles is a clear cut prejudice and discrimination based on ethnicity. That’s why you can’t say “Poles are extremely anti-Semitic”. It’s not the truth. The truth is saying that Poles killed Jews in a pogrom in 1946 in Kielce or that Germans carried out the Holocaust. Statement of the historical fact vs. statement on supposed group attributes. How are you still not getting it?

            Let’s look at some of the questions asked by ADL in their poll, which are supposed to measure anti-Semitism. “Jews always like to be at the head of things” or “Jews have a lot of irritating faults”. That’s really mild in comparison to “Poles feel a lot of irrational hate towards other ethnic and religious group”. Do I seriously need to explain that stuff?

            ” Why do you think Hitler chose Poland to conduct most of his genocide program instead of Italy, Belgium or France?” OMG, that’s like the stupidest argument for supposed Polish anti-Semitism ever. How many Jews were in Western Europe comparing to Poland? It’s easier to transport 250.000 people from France to Poland than 3 million the other way. Add to that the level of terror in occupied Poland, which is unimaginable in Western Europe. They could just kill off or send away everyone living around Oświęcim and establish Auschwitz. They weren’t doing that kind of war crimes in France or Belgium. Do you even know that French officials were helping Germans in arresting French Jews and sending them to Auschwitz? They would gladly do more if Germans decided to establish a camp there. Polish authorities established a death sentence for helping Germans and turning Jews in. See the difference?


            Do the math yourself.

            My ancestors were too busy getting brutally murdered or working as a slave to save anyone. There is no guilt when you can’t help someone because your own life is in grave danger. Trust me, I’m a lawyer.

          • Atikva

            Jo, you are full of it! Your last sentence, in particular, made me burst into laugh.

          • Jo

            Really, nothing interesting to say in response to my rational arguments? I recommend reading more on reality in Poland during II WW, about racism and concept of guilt. I really am a lawyer, so I’m already educated on culpability.

  • Jo

    I never equated a phenomenon of communists coming from Jewish families (sounds better to you?) to pogroms or other ugly cases of crimes. It’s your misinterpretation, just as this piece about supposed hate in my gut. Have you met me? I expressed my annoyance at the fact, that a film which quite mildly portrays ex-bloody killer (after all, watching this film I actually felt sorry for that lost soul while thinking I’m not supposed to be that considerate) is so unfairly criticized only because that killer happens to be Jewish (and what, if you mention that it means you’re a Jew hater? Come on…). I never said that character represents a whole nation, it’s just an interesting case based on real events.

    If Jews had no nation, does it mean Poles can have Rubinstein, Szpilman, Korczak, Schulz etc. all for themselves? Thanks, man! And you’re willing to give up Einstein and Chagall too? After all, they didn’t do their brilliant work in the name of the Torah. Einstein was an atheist. You can’t have it both ways – either communists and artists/scientists were Jewish or none of them were.

    The Germans weren’t alone, but they created and operated this terrible killing mechanism of camps and ovens. Poles were in places like Auschwitz only as victims, not guards. A couple of criminals denouncing someone or killing over money and food (Germans allowed Poles to have about 1000 kcal per day in cities) do not equal state-run system of genocide and you seem to blur that line. No matter how rampant crime was in occupied country, it’s still not mass genocide. Isolated cases of pogroms (like Jedwabne or Kielce) are not Nazi-style genocide either.

    • Mark Goldberg

      My daughter- who just got married, was there three years ago, on a summer tour for a month going thru eastern europe. They spent two weeks teaching jewish kids who were barely jewish something of what it meant to enjoy camping and what it means to be, practice judaism. I do consider the history of poland, and as I mentioned in another response, the efforts of such greats as Kosciuszko
      and Sobieski. But it is difficult to swallow the wholesale slaughter of an entire people and realize that they are no more. There is a fellow I know, a fine religious jewish guy, rabbi, learned, smart, worldly, who happened to be touring thru poland, who asked directions a couple times and got the cold shoulder just because he had the yarmulke, the short beard, and trust me- this guy is as genial as they come, and a dammed interesting conversationalist. And he wouldn’t relate it unless it happened and several times.
      And yeah, it would be interesting to trek anywhere to see and feel people as they are, and I’m that sort of guy. And I appreciate the fact that poles understand as well as any nation, the foolishness of marxism of socialism and the US my nation, has let them down mightily with BHO doing his bs nero impersonation of a leader. We… owe the poles for this stupid betrayal along with all the other american allies, especially of course, Israel.

      And remember, nowhere has it ever been a problem for any of those bigoted populations to have to fear reprisals from jews, either theologically, or merely practically. Unlike of course, Islam which gives even sociopaths as bad name by codifying their hate, their madness and evil under the rubric of theologic and historical justification.

      about 12 yrs ago, I went to Israel for 10 days, after that evil Jenin assault by the muzzies and blamed upon Izzy.
      I wanted to go and do my own research and I did and went for 5 more yearly trips. On that first one, it was just the biblical tour, going to all the places and events of the Torah, tanach etc, studying that and the history at night having a cigar and a draft and feeling 4000 yrs of history under my feet, and getting up and doing the same the next day. On the friday morning, I was so exhausted I missed the daily bus and thought- ok, what to do before Shabbas comes ( the Jerusalem sirens wail about 3:30 pm) so I went to Yad Vashem- the holocaust museum. And I previously had no intension of going there. I had felt it and heard of it and read it and studied and had no desire to dive into it but I like museums so I went. Ok, so I look at all the exhibits, especially the polish ones and put it in my historical grabbag but what got me, what I didn’t want to see was what got to my core, was the children’s memorial. It was a vast room with star like lights and faces of innumerable babies, children, youngsters flashing gently in the darkened recesses, and with loving loving memorials to them. I gasped and choked and the horror of it all. I had to remove myself to a janitors closet or a hallway so as not to disturb other visitors and I was drained, and done. As I exited the museum it was maybe 3 pm, and a short vaguely chubby cab driver got me out of there and headed to my hotel. He was a balding guy, going on about his eight or so generations of fmaily since the early 1900’s, and it was a good distraction to forget what I had just experienced, and then he pulled one of those unexpected moves that rescued the day. The guy, not all that religious, no yarmulke, says’ say, do you mind if we drive by the western wall plaza? We could go pray the afternoon prayers…. this will bring me some energy after this long week. It was charming and I could have said no, or I’m in a rush, but yeah, sure let’s go say some prayers and off we went- after of course asking him if he was going to turn the meter off while we went there and he roared with laughter at the suggestion. It made the day and rescued it from sadness that I really didn’t want to dwell upon.
      I knew a guy from Poland, who was a big devotee of chinese martial arts, which I played with as a hobby and I got some videos from china back in the late 90’s. I’m sure I could find his address and pop over for a visit one day. I dunno about going to where my relatives were shipped in cattle cars to be immolated and erased from this earth. It’s a tough call, and it’s also difficult to see others pain. If I hear that 10,000 chinese died in a series of earthquakes, I like most people, go, ‘gee, how horrible but it doesn’t hurt as much as cutting carelessly thru an orange and dinging my own finger bleeding. This is an age old problem for all. You know this whole discussion began when I demurred that that movie seen thru the prism didn’t do justice to those erased. And it remains a valid point indeed, although just look at the sum of the resentment at being reminded, that maybe the horror really can’t be felt unless poles drop the guilt bit and also look at what they did and how it began. It’s not going to happen, but yeah there are good people there, and I don’t have to be reminded that the world is a tough place, and there’s no simple answers to complex questions.

      • Jo

        Mr Cogito Reads the Paper
        by Zbigbniew Herbert

        on the first page
        report: the killing of 120 soldiers

        war was long
        one can accustom

        right beside news
        re a sensational crime
        with murderer’s portrait

        Mr Cogito’s eye
        moves with unconcern
        across soldiers hecatombs
        to delve delightedly
        into descriptions of the everyday macabre

        thirty-year old farmer
        suffering from nervous depression
        killed his wife
        and two young children

        they described precisely
        the run of the murder
        layout of the bodies
        and other details

        120 fallen
        you can search the map in vain
        much too large a distance
        covers them like jungle

        they don’t speak to imagination there are too many
        digit zero at the end
        transforms them into an abstraction
        subject for consideration:
        arithmetic of commiseration

        There’s something on when it comes to numbers. Huge number is abstract, but when you see a face of a child, you break inside. I was in Auschwitz with my class when I was 15. I was serious about it, because I knew about a family member that died there and of course many many others, but not emotional. In one room though my friends screamed and started crying. When I saw what they saw, little children’s clothes, it hit me and I had to try really hard not to cry.

        It’s very sad that this rabbi was shunned like that. It’s rude and senseless. Once I read in a newspaper a story of a journalist who was visiting America. He was standing in some sort of a line and talking nicely to a man in front of him. It was a very interesting conversation. This man was Jewish and the journalist knew it from the start because of his accent (like Ross and Monica’s parents from Friends for example), but never eluded he knew that. They enjoyed this conversation so much, they carried it on after they finished their business in that line. Finally this man asked him where is he from. When he answered he’s from Poland, the old man was very upset and said angrily “I’m Jewish, I don’t talk to Poles, they’re antisemites!” and walked away before this journalist could ask what just happened. I just hope people from both sides would stop doing that.

        Do you know what I feel when I think about all those poor Polish Jews who died? Anger, helplessness, sadness, compassion. Anger at Nazis and all those vermin who helped them. Helplessness because I wish good people had superpowers just to protect our citizens. A man I deeply care about once told me, while laying his head comfortably on my shoulder, that his grandfather had 8 brothers in Poland and he was the only one to survive. All I could think about is how I would burn those who would try to touch one hair on his precious head because he’s Jewish. And I was so glad we don’t live in those times. I don’t believe in national guilt, but I do believe in national honor. The day that Poland was destroyed and foreign powers were able to freely kill our people, regardless of faith or ethnicity, Poland’s honor took a terrible blow. The fact that some of our own helped them is even worse. That’s why we don’t like to talk about it and get defensive. That’s why you could get some nasty responses from some self-righteous Poles. It doesn’t mean we feel fine with everything that’s happened. But we like to keep as much dignity in it as possible.

  • Jo

    Dear people, that’s enough of trying to convince you I’m not a camel (that’s how I feel when I fight with a phrase anti-Semitic Poles). Let me give voice to Poland’s favourite politician. Everyone loves him, all political fractions, media and common people. Ladies and gentleman, I present former Israeli ambassador in Poland, Shevah Weiss!


    • quousque

      Your arguments are classy and classic. I will retain the whole discussion for future use if its OK with you.

      • Jo

        Thanks, no problem:)

  • Mike Marconi

    Says Goldberg/Schlussel! How unpredictable!

    What an unbiased review! Thank you for gracing us with your neutral, non-bias review! Where would we be without it!?

    • Mark Goldberg

      Are you cracked? It’s one man’s view- that’s all. I happen to like many of her movie reviews, although now, I’ll be forced to go sit thru this movie to confirm her opinion. As for you…. no popcorn for you.

  • Mike Marconi

    This movie is beautiful cinema art.

  • quousque

    Mark; if the home town of your ancestors is Lodj(sp?), and it is the same as city of Lodz (German war time name, Litzmanstad), then you ought to visit it. The most comfortable way would be to hitch the trip with any
    Israeli group. Many of them travel with their own eating utensils and tableclothes, so culinary requirements of kosher eating are not imperiled. While there, go to the corner of Kosciuszko Ave. and Zielona St. (Green St) and set your bearings so you will be looking at the South East corner of that intersection. It is either still an empty lot or possibly something has already been built on it; (Google trip perhaps?). That is the place where the main
    synagogue of the City of Lodz once stood. It was the city of the highest concentration (percent wise) of Jewish population in the pre-war Poland Just a short walk from there, there is Kosciuszko Plaza and his monument. When Germans entered the city in September of 1939, within hours (days?) of each other, both items ceased to exists. Kosciuszko monument was blown into the smithereens with explosives, and synagogue was burnt to the ground (I am not sure, you may want to check if it was, or was not, packed with the faithful). That was the dual format of terror that has been employed throughout the country. Not a very far distance away (by taxi or trolley) you will get to the old Jewish cemetery, the
    biggest and the only one originally preserved from the times past. Another short distance away (these cities were exceedingly compact with exceedingly high density of population), there is a railroad spur, can’t call it a terminal, named Radogoszcz (Radegast). This was departure point for transports of the human ‘cargo’ to the points of ultimate ‘disposition’. That is probably
    the place where your family members boarded.

    Check the following names related to Lodz:

    Chaim Rumkowski the elder of the Lodz Ghetto, a very
    controversial man.

    The Chronicles of the Lodz Ghetto (1941-1945) edited by
    Lucian Dobroszycki

    While you are at it, beef up on Marek (your name sake) Edelman; the second in command initially and then the leader, after the death of Mordechaj Anielewicz, in the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. Marek Edelman survived, fought through the rest of the war with his Polish comrades at arms and died amongst the people many presume are inbred and eternal oppressors of the Jews. He had the gumption to stand his ground as a Polish Jew, even though, he had ample opportunities to get out.

    My man, by no means have I ever tried to whitewash bad
    actors of the deep past and the recent past. Germans smartly apologized and with the help of Marshall Plan, paid their reparations. Poles on the other hand paid
    their dues in the war effort on the side of the Allies (fourth greatest) and ended up under the Soviet occupation. Their country looked like Humpty Dumpty; broken
    politically, destitute economically and burnt to the ground by both Soviets and Germans. Within the new boarders (thanks to FDR, Churchill, Stalin at Yalta), the new and ‘improved’ population of Poles was reduced by about 8 million (that includes Polish Jews). No apologies and no reparations. My man, take your tinted glasses off and if you are really interested in that horrific period and
    locale, study it without any preconceived notions.

    I will be taking my dirt nap in not so distant future, so it
    will be incumbent on people like you to convey to next generations what transpired and if you do not speak well balanced truth, the horrors will repeat; different players, different costumes, different rationales, different ideologies, but the horrors will repeat. Over and out.

  • tagalog

    This review was good (despite the references to