75 years on: the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in film | Film | DW | 19.04.2018
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75 years on: the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising in film

The uprising by Jewish people entrapped in the Warsaw Ghetto 75 years ago has been well documented in art and literature. Here, a look at how the event has served as fodder in films.

On April 19, 1943, 75 years ago, the inhabitants of the Jewish ghetto of Warsaw started an uprising against their tormentors. They refused to simply let themselves be sent to death.

Between July 1942 and that day, the Nazis had some 300,000 people deported from the Ghetto to concentration camps. The remaining Jews resisted. The Nazis stopped the rebellion by burning down every block of the Ghetto. By May 16, 1943, the Germans managed to crush the uprising; a total of 13,000 Jews died. It was the largest act of revolt by Jews during World War II.

The rebellion in film

"The Pianist," "Jacob the Liar," and "Run Boy Run" are among the best-known films about the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Several film directors, most notably Roman Polanski, adapted the historical events into film.

The renowned French-Polish director personally survived another Jewish ghetto in Poland, in Krakow, and his mother was assassinated in Auschwitz. Polanski's film "The Pianist," a box office hit, received three Oscars.

In his work "Korczak," Andrzej Wajda reminds the world of the Polish pediatrician and educator Janusz Korczak, whose Jewish orphanage was moved to the Warsaw Ghetto in 1940. When the SS stormed the ghetto in 1942, his 200 orphans were driven to the train station. But Korczak  refused to leave "his children" in the lurch. He joined them on the train that brought them to the concentration camp Treblinka.

Watch video 05:26

Poland: Warsaw Ghetto Uprising 75 years on

Schoenberg's musical tribute  

Along with the films looking back the events, the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising is also reflected upon in other art forms.

Vienna-born Jewish composer Arnold Schoenberg emigrated to the US in 1934, so he didn't experience the horrors of the Holocaust firsthand. He however composed a cantata in commemoration of its victims. The 1947 work "A Survivor from Warsaw" narrates the story of a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto and his time in a concentration camp.   

An iconic photo

In December 1970, former German chancellor Willy Brandt went down on his knees in front of the monument honoring the Warsaw Ghetto, begging for forgiveness for the atrocities committed there by the Germans. The picture became an icon.

To this day, the Warsaw Ghetto is a symbol of misery and annihilation, and of Jewish resistance against Hitler.

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