Warsaw: A City Divided (2019) Movie Script

(the sound of a moving streetcar)
(peaceful music)
There's nothing here to remind me
of my birthplace.
There was once a beautiful square.
Muranowski Square.
I remember trees, and benches.
I was born in Warsaw,
into a traditional Jewish family.
I went to a pre-school
for Jewish children,
where they taught Polish.
At home we spoke Yiddish,
but I had no problem with Polish,
as we spoke that too.
My parents and grandparents
lived in Warsaw.
We lived at 91 Zelazna Street.
By the gate was a tiny shop,
owned by a Jew, our neighbor.
He used to impress us kids
by pretending to stitch
his fingers together with a needle.
We'd be horrified.
He had a daughter Lonia,
who was a friend of my sister,
and we lived
just like normal neighbors.
My mother was from Warsaw.
Her family had lived there
for hundreds of years.
Nowolipie - that was my street.
I often see it more clearly
than the Warsaw around me today.
It's still the same in my mind.
In the morning,
warm pretzels would be delivered -
they were called bagels.
You won't find bagels like those
You could take one and untwist it.
My parents lived
at 49 Marszalkowska St.
It was a so-called
good neighborhood.
My nanny would take me
to the Church of the Holiest Savior.
I remember we had to recite prayers.
Some children would say
they didn't know the prayers.
And I would say I did,
because my nanny taught me.
It was in the Jordan Garden
on Bagatela St.
That the War began for me.
I was sitting in a sand box,
and my mum came over.
There was a war on, she said,
and what were we going to do now?
(minimal music)
Its the special quality
of the Nazi system.
People who had the energy to
develop something,
had the power to do it.
(minimal music)
When Mr. Dengel took over in Warsaw,
in early December 39
he had the idea
to invite Hubert Gross
to come to Warsaw and build
a German "Construction Department".
Hubert Gross was the architect who was
at that time head of the town
planning office in Wurtzburg.
Gross joined the party in May 33
knowing that something great
is coming up.
In contrast, my father, who became
the chief architect of Hamburg,
joined the party like in fact most
architects in Germany on 1st May, 1937.
I started to call myself a
private detective
and I was searching for
the German architects
who worked in Poland during the War.
Gross upon the advice of
Mr. Dengel developed a dream
of reducing Warsaw to next to nothing.
(minimal music)
On the screen is a visualization
from one of my projects.
It's based on fascist plans
for the construction
of a new German city,
die Neue Deutsche Stadt Warschau.
This is a virtual re-construction
of that new Warsaw.
This is the city centre.
It's a relatively small city.
Entrances were to be guarded
by watchtowers on all sides.
These are the main buildings.
On the Praga side,
there was to be a district for Poles,
who were to be slowly exterminated.
The New German City of Warsaw
was to be inhabited only by Germans.
There was to be no Jewish population.
With regard to Warsaw,
the Fhrer has decided
that the reconstruction of that
city as a major Polish metropolis
is absolutely out of the question.
The Fhrer's wish is that in accordance
with plans for the development of the
General Government territory itself, Warsaw
be reduced to the level of a provincial city.
From the diary of Governor
General Hans Frank.
(minimal music)
Once the Germans arrived,
the terror began almost right away.
The official announcements
and notices...
Everyone had to hand over
all their valuables.
radios, cameras, furs.
Anything of worth
had to be turned in.
Jews were identified and
forced to wear arm-bands
with the star of David.
It was very unpleasant.
In my mind,
this was a form of degradation.
At any moment I could be humiliated.
In the spring of 1940,
consultations were begun
with a view to creating one or more Jewish
housing districts within the city of Warsaw.
In the end, however, it was decided that
a single district should be established
in the area where Jews
were traditionally in the majority.
Dr Friedrich Gollert,
Head, Division of Regional Planning,
Office of the Governor
of the District of Warsaw.
(calm music)
Where was the Jewish
neighborhood in Warsaw?
There were Jewish neighborhoods,
Nalewki, Nowolipki
where it was almost all Jewish,
but when youre a third of the city,
youre all over the city.
And the interaction with non-Jews
was a normal daily event.
That comes to a crashing halt
with the building of the
Warsaw Ghetto wall,
which goes through the heart
of the city and divides
Jews from non-Jews as they
were never divided before.
The wall didn't suddenly appear.
Bits and pieces
started going up in April 1940.
These were sections of wall,
or barriers with barbed wire.
They popped up in various places.
They interfered
with people's mobility,
but it was still possible
to get around them.
(calm music)
The Schmidt & Mnstermann Company
The Jewish Housing District
1 linear meter of border wall
is equal to 1.3 cubic meters
of wall.
Daily requirement for 100 masons:
12 cubic meters of white lime,
1,500 kg cement,
37,000 bricks.
I had no idea I was Jewish.
So first I was asking:
Why do we have to move?
And later: What does it mean
that I'm Jewish,
and why do we have to leave
our home?
(dramatic music)
When we arrived in the Ghetto,
the first thing I saw
was a horrible poster.
I didn't want to be
like that Jew on the poster.
I was distraught at being forced
to live there.
I thought that every Jew
had to look like that,
and I was so terribly humiliated
by all this
that I said to my mum
I didn't want to be a Jew anymore,
and I wanted to go back
to Marszalkowska St.,
and why was all this
happening anyway?
Notice. By order of the District
Governor and effective immediately.
A self-contained Jewish quarter is
to be created in the District of Warsaw
with a view to preventing
the spread of disease.
In the city of Warsaw a boundary running
around the Jewish quarter has been established
and all border streets are to be
simultaneously closed off from it,
on both sides, as follows:
From Zielna to Krolewska and Zlota.
From Zlota to Zielna and Zelazna.
From Twarda to Zelazna and Srebrna.
From Srebrna to Twarda and Miedziana.
From Miedziana to Srebrna and Kazimierz
Square. From Kazimierz Square North...
(minimal music)
Poles could enter the Ghetto,
representatives of companies
could enter,
and so could city workers.
Basically, it was
for official matters.
We already lived
in the area that was now the Ghetto,
as Muranowski Square
fell within the Big Ghetto.
However, Jews who lived
outside the Ghetto
had to move in,
and Poles who lived in the Ghetto
had to move out.
This led to very painful situations
for people.
They left their homes,
their furniture and possessions,
carrying only a few small bundles.
The Ghetto became very crowded.
We see images of the expulsion
of the Jewish community.
Something similar happened
the other way around too.
There were tens of thousands
of people like us.
I remember sitting on a cart,
full of our things.
We were thrown out of Zelazna,
because the Ghetto was created there.
We were moved to Brzeska Street,
number 5, apartment 110.
It was a ruin.
Measures involved the resettlement
of around 700 Ethnic Germans,
113,000 Poles and 138,000 Jews.
The Warsaw Jewish housing district
is an enclosed area,
cut off from its surroundings
by walls, fences, and so on.
Movement of persons and goods in and out
of the area is by special permit only.
Dr Friedrich Gollert,
Head, Division of Regional Planning,
Office of the Governor
of the District of Warsaw.
For people like me,
being outside the Ghetto wall
didn't mean life was easy.
We were given a single room
to live in.
There were five of us.
(minimal music)
The Jewish population
always looked
for contacts outside the Ghetto wall
to get food.
At first, Lonia came to us
on Brzeska St.,
though we weren't well off
at the time.
We were three siblings,
my mum, my dad.
Dad did smuggling,
because there was no other way then.
But my mum put aside potatoes
and peelings for her.
I'm not sure what else she got,
but we somehow shared.
Later, Lonia stopped coming.
Of course, we didn't know why.
Father kept rolls of banknotes.
I don't know if they were
larger denominations then,
but the rolls
grew smaller and smaller,
until there was no money left.
After that my sister
simply disappeared.
I don't know how. She and my father
just ceased to exist.
I don't remember any farewell
or any of the circumstances.
Maybe my memory rejected it
because it was too terrible.
(the noise of moving cars)
The city center was cut off,
and ceased to function normally.
When you see which part of the city
made up the Ghetto,
you realize it was
the heart of Warsaw.
If you take into account
that the Germans
also carved off
a piece for themselves,
what was left of Warsaw
for Varsovians
was just a part.
There was the German residential
district in the south of Warsaw,
and this also had a demarcation.
And its very clear that nobody
else was supposed to live there.
The German housing district
has been created
for the protection of the German
population at their request.
The Police cannot guarantee Germans
living outside of this district
the same degree of personal safety as
is provided to those living within it.
Hans Pfliegner,
Nazi Party Stabsamtsleiter, Warsaw
Soldiers must not be seen on the street or
in any public place in the company of Poles
men or women nor should
they enter restaurants with them.
Beware when making acquaintances.
You can never be sure
who it is you are dealing with.
No Pole, and certainly no Jew,
can have honest intentions
towards a German.
From instructions
to Soldiers of the Wehrmacht
temporarily stationed in Warsaw.
(minimal music)
Night and day,
by rail, in carts and buses.
Jews arrive here
from Polish towns and villages.
The individual vanishes
in this enormous human mass.
People are crammed in,
individual faces are unrecognizable.
(minimal music)
(the sound of a moving streetcar)
The German army and civilians
must in any event
be protected from the Jews,
immune carriers of disease bacteria.
The separation of Jews from the
rest of the population,
Polish as well as Ethnic Germans,
is a moral and political imperative.
Traffic in the center of Warsaw
has only been minimally affected by the
creation of the Jewish housing district.
Above all in the interests of
the Wehrmacht and the economy,
great care was taken to ensure that certain
main thoroughfares would remain crossable
without obstruction to through traffic.
Waldemar Schn, SS-Standartenfuhrer,
Director, Department of Resettlement,
Office of the Governor
of the District of Warsaw
(minimal music)
The German planners divide,
and then administer their division.
They even designate which streets
a tram is to travel along,
to shorten its route through
the Ghetto, creating two ghettos.
It would all be
a terrifying mishmash of evil.
(knocking noises)
Some Ghetto borders
changed literally every week.
This was the subject of haggling
between the city administration
and the Ghetto management.
Whether a building would stay
in the Ghetto or not,
especially buildings
on the periphery.
Chlodna Street ended up
dividing the Jewish District.
The District was cut into two parts
by the critically important tram line
that ran along Chlodna.
The ghetto was divided into two parts,
a small ghetto and a large one.
In order for Jews to move back and
forth between the small and large ghetto
it was necessary to stop
the flow of traffic at intervals.
Since this was inconvenient
for the Germans.
Jews were given permission to cross
over as infrequently as possible.
(minimal music)
As I walked along Zelazna,
I would see from a distance
the crowd milling
at the corner of Chlodna.
People would be shifting restlessly
on the spot waiting for the German police
to decide when the traffic on Chlodna
was light enough,
and the crowd on Zelazna thick enough to
warrant letting the Jews across the street.
(minimal music)
When the moment finally came,
the police cordon would part
and the impatient crowd would surge
forward in both directions,
pushing each other over in the panic to distance
themselves from the dangerous German presence,
and melt once more into the depths
of the two ghettos.
(minimal music)
(the sound of moving cars)
A line in the pavement
shows where the Ghetto border ran.
How the Ghetto fit into Warsaw.
Not as an isolated island,
surrounded by the unknown,
but in the context of the city.
On each plaque
there is a nail showing where we are.
A part of downtown Warsaw
was torn away,
so this part is raised.
Our intention -
Tomasz Lec's and mine -
was to show the Ghetto in real space,
how it was,
and where the boundary ran.
(the sound of a bicycle riding)
I think very important was when the City
of Warsaw put down kind of the boundaries,
in the sidewalk, you see Im in the Ghetto,
Im out of the Ghetto, with a little plaque.
Very important. Its there,
its not a tall monument,
but its there when you want
to see it, youre reminded.
The streets of the ghetto -
and they alone - ended in walls.
Sometimes, I would be heading
unsuspectingly in a particular direction,
when suddenly, without warning, I
would come up against one of these walls.
My way would be blocked, yet
everything in me wanted to keep on going,
and there was no logical reason
why I should not be able to do so.
In that instant, the street
on the other side of the wall
would become irresistible, necessary
the most precious place on earth.
There was nothing
I wouldn't have given
to be part of what was
going on there.
But it was no use.
Time and again, I would give up
in defeat and retrace my steps
with the same feeling of despair.
(street noises)
(minimal music)
A Jew who didn't have a lot of money,
or didn't have a Pole
who was his friend
didn't stand a chance.
There was nothing he could do.
He cared only
about what he would eat the next day,
and what he would give his children.
I was one of those
who didn't have anything.
Smuggling started immediately.
Otherwise you couldn't stay alive.
80 percent of food in the ghetto
came from smuggling,
not from the official suppliers
authorized by the Germans.
If someone had money,
they'd get things in somehow.
I once witnessed a tram
passing through Muranowski Square,
and as it turned,
items were thrown out.
It couldn't stop in the Ghetto.
Trade carried on this way.
(dramatic music)
Smuggling was an important instance
of cooperation
between people in the Ghetto,
and people outside.
(dramatic music)
The Mirowski Halls
were central to trade.
In occupied Warsaw
there were products there, and food.
The Jewish population
was always looking
for a chance to obtain food.
And Hala Mirowska
was one of the parts of the city
immediately adjacent to the Ghetto.
I remember the Ghetto wall ran there,
diagonally across from the Halls.
(minimal music)
In some places the ghetto walls did
not come right down to the pavement.
At regular intervals there were
openings at ground level,
through which water flowed into
drains running alongside the sidewalks.
These openings were also used by
children, for smuggling.
Tiny dark creatures
with legs like match-sticks would
converge on these openings from all sides.
Terrified eyes darted
from left to right,
and frail paws
dragged through bundles
that were often bigger than the tiny
smugglers themselves.
(dramatic music)
Any Jew unlawfully leaving
the designated housing district
is to be punished by death.
The same punishment
will apply to persons
who consciously protect such Jews
or in any way assist them.
Warsaw, 10th of November 1941,
Dr Fischer, Governor
(minimal music)
Sienna is a very important street
for me.
This is a street I was scared of
and I still am to this day.
I've never walked this street
without feeling afraid.
Behind this wall,
I spent more than two years
in the Ghetto with my family.
When I first found myself back here,
I began looking obsessively
for the hole
through which my mum and I
had escaped.
I just stood here
going back in time,
trying to figure out
where that hole could be.
But the hole was probably
somewhere else, further on.
My mum did something
that no normal person would do.
After we escaped from the Ghetto,
she went with me to the Main Station.
She got into the compartment
with German officers.
Because she spoke good German,
she asked if she could sit there
with her daughter.
They let us in.
I wonder if I could've done
what my mum did. That was heroic.
I see two years
of humiliation, imprisonment, hunger
and fear behind me.
As I said,
I'm scared of Sienna Street.
I still expect to either see
or remember something terrible there.
(minimal music)
All around I could see hand carts,
and on them bodies of men,
women and children,
piled carelessly
one on top of the other.
I became aware of a strange,
vaguely sweet and sickening odour
I'd never smelled before.
A Jewish Policeman explained:
"Next to the Jewish cemetery
there was once a large field.
Today it's one
of the biggest mass graves ever,
filled with the bodies of Jews
from all corners of Europe".
Could this be real?
How was it possible that a human being
of flesh and blood could be allowed to die
in such a pitiful fashion?
(dramatic music)
The German occupation murdered
90% of the Jews here.
Its heartbreaking.
And then if you could imagine,
that not only does the wall go through
the heart of the city,
right in the middle of a
street it stops,
but on the other side of that wall,
starvation, disease,
and very soon after
deportation to death.
(minimal music)
Treblinka Station
On the Tluszcz-Warszawa line,
from the station "Warschau-Ost",
the tracks stretch out before you,
and the train it never swerves.
Sometimes the journey lasts
five and three-quarter hours,
but it can also take a lifetime
and last until you die...
And the station is a small one
with three fir-trees in a row,
and the sign is not at all unusual:
it says "Treblinka Station",
nothing more.
It doesn't have a ticket counter,
and there's no porter to be found,
and not even for a million Zlotys
could you purchase a return.
No one is waiting on the platform
and no one waves a scarf.
There's only
the heavy sound of silence
and mute desolation to welcome you.
And the signal post is silent,
and the row of fir-trees too,
and black lettering
informs in silence that
Treblinka Station is where you are.
Resettlement is taking time.
At any moment it could pick up speed.
The process is not yet complete.
These notes are being written
out of an instinctive desire
to leave behind a trace.
Out of a despair that
reaches screaming pitch.
And to justify still being alive
despite the deadly uncertainty.
There's a noose around our necks.
When the knot slackens,
screams escape our throats.
Cries like ours have rung out
in vain all through history,
with only a distant echo heard.
(sad music)
(the sounds of a moving tram)
For security reasons,
I order that the ghetto of Warsaw
be demolished.
All utilizable building parts
and other materials of any value,
are to first be salvaged.
An overal plan for the razing of the ghetto
is to be submitted to me.
We must in any event ensure
that the living-space
occupied up until now
by 500,000 sub-humans
and in no way fit for habitation
by Germans,
disappears completely.
And that Warsaw,
this city of one million,
always a center
of corruption and revolt,
is reduced in size.
Heinrich Himmler, Reichsfhrer-SS
(minimal music)
In the Ghetto,
at the same time
as an organized resistance group
was preparing to fight,
Jews were going into hiding.
I descended into that bunker
in January '43,
and in April the Uprising broke out.
My brothers left
to take part in the Uprising.
This bunker was built
around a basement
that had been dug deeper,
with boarded up sides.
The dug out earth
was piled up all around,
and it provided
some kind of insulation.
When the fires started, everything
in the neighbouring basements
collapsed and burned.
But this bunker survived.
I took part in the Uprising,
and I was wounded.
I remember 1943,
at the end of Nowogrodzka St.
I remember seeing
uncanny clouds of smoke
rising from the north.
Fighting in the Ghetto,
something happening there.
I remember that picture.
(dramatic music)
The Jewish Quarter of Warsaw
is no more.
Jrgen Stroop, SS-Gruppenfhrer
It still pains me
that after all these years
I never got to mourn my family.
I never even had time for that.
I left everyone. I had six brothers
and one sister, parents.
I'm the only one
who came out of all that.
I was left as a witness.
If I'd...
There would be nobody left.
The value of life is that you can
bear witness to something.
The Goose Street Camp
was set up to hold people
needed to dismantle the Ghetto.
The Ghetto wasn't blown up
with dynamite, but disassembled.
It was total plunder.
And this camp was hell.
People died there.
On the ruins of the Ghetto,
the Germans planned to create
a park for Germans.
Hence the demolition.
The terrain was to be covered over
with earth for a paradise garden.
The intention was to destroy the capital
of what was formerly Poland.
That was the main intention to destroy
the idea alone of a capital,
because there was no more Poland.
I was almost a year
on the Aryan side.
There was a whole network of help.
If things got dangerous,
someone would come by to lead you on.
My sister-in-law and I were
taken away to another place.
They split us up.
The son of the caretaker
of the building where my brother was,
led the Gestapo to him. They took
my brother, and a young boy -
little Zygmunt -
who had been helping him.
And they took away the caretaker,
who was looking after my brother.
He was the father of the young
hooligan who betrayed them all.
And at Gestapo HQ my brother,
little Zygmunt, and the father -
Mr. Grochowski - were all killed.
(dramatic music)
On the 1st of August 1944,
the Uprising broke out.
I twice lived
through the burning of Warsaw.
In 1944,
a German architect documented the
blowing up of buildings
one after the other.
Its very difficult to believe
that a person who calls himself
an architect,
and he writes his designation and
his name on these cards,
his job is to document that the
bombing squads did their job.
It has to be proved,
that this road and that road,
and the next road,
one building after the other,
All around,
the walls were almost red hot,
and people were being herded along.
From both sides
of the burning streets
burning debris was coming down.
Warsaw was on fire,
and you could feel it.
(dramatic music)
Very early Spring, 1945.
On this side of the wall,
burnt out buildings,
sometimes only half standing.
It was a landscape of ruins.
But when you entered the area
where the Ghetto had been,
you'd discover
it was more like a desert.
I remember running
over those hills of rubble.
Through those ruins was a pathway
and a post with a sign:
Nowolipie Street.
I counted my steps,
hoping to find the remains
of my building.
And I found it.
It had had a gate decorated
with yellow tiles.
Suddenly, amongst the rubble,
I saw yellow tiles.
I took one tile for myself.
But much later, my wife was packing,
and she saw this little piece of wall
and threw it out.
I don't have it anymore.
When Hubert Gross returned
to his home town
in April 45.
He came across the hills,
saw his home city burning.
He took off his uniform,
buried it in the woods,
and said, I feel no guilt.
There was in his mind no
admission of any guilt.
Among those architects whom I met,
nobody ever mentioned anything
or answered the question
why were they there?
Whose intention did they fulfill?
No answer.
(minimal music)
I didn't feel any personal connection
to the Ghetto before my mum died.
She had shown me this picture,
saying that
someone from her family was in it.
Soon after, a book
about the same picture came out.
What my mum had told me
made me feel I should look into it.
From that book I learned
that the woman who is visible here,
behind this boy with raised hands,
is my mum's older sister.
I said to myself - this is my aunt.
That's when my personal connection
to this began.
I hope I won't get lost.
I only found
my grandfather's grave recently.
Young people had been here,
cleaning and refurbishing.
Some tombstones were propped up,
and that's how I found it.
It made me very happy,
as this is the only proper place
I can come to and light a candle.
It was standing all by itself.
All around it the stones
were knocked down.
There it is.
This is my grandmother's grave,
my father's mother.
She died the year I was born.
So my mother
was three months pregnant with me
when the funeral happened here.
(sad music)
It's here.
I didn't bring a candle.
This is my grandfather's grave.
From this tombstone I learned
that he was
of the Levite lineage.
That's what this image means.
Abraham Jehuda, son of Asher.
So my great-grandfather's name
was Asher.
It was an amazing,
almost mystical feeling.
As if my roots were here.
Even now as I'm standing,
there's the feeling of continuity
and oneness with my grandmother.
(minimal music)
Why was the cemetery not destroyed?
I think the simple answer is that
the Germans ran out of time.
Their first focus was killing the living,
not murdering again the dead.
But simply they ran out of time.
Of the dozens of major
synagogue buildings
only one still stands today
and that is the Nozyk synagogue.
Why this one synagogue survived
then were already almost
getting into mystical answers.
The practical answer is that it
was already outside of the Ghetto
by the time the Uprising
began in April of 43,
and was being used by Germans as
a warehouse and a stable for horses.
(minimal music)
But not all the Jews were killed,
and today we have a small,
but trying to be creative,
trying to be vibrant
real Jewish community in Warsaw.
After liberation in 1945
you couldnt live in Warsaw really.
And slowly trying to rebuild
and then getting again undermined
by Soviet occupation and oppression.
(sad music)
It's difficult to imagine
what was here before the War.
This area has changed so much.
Certain streets and squares
ceased to exist,
names were changed,
directions were altered.
No more than a dozen or so
original buildings survived.
(the sound of a working excavator)
This space has many dimensions
and many layers.
What we see underneath
is the second layer,
which makes itself felt,
when workers dig down to place pipes,
revealing the remains of old life.
This is probably
the most unusual place in Warsaw.
It was the location of the Ghetto.
In 1949, the architect Bohdan Lachert
created a housing estate,
which was to be a memorial space.
New life was supposed to blossom
within its walls.
What was unique was that buildings
were made of rubble-concrete bricks,
along with everything else
that was in the rubble too,
including human remains.
Buildings stand
on a rubble-concrete base
and rise
from these strange little hills.
In Warsaw, a flat city,
this immediately attracts attention.
(sad music)
People calling me and saying
there are spirits in my apartment.
Im in the old Ghetto.
Can you do something?
Well I have to say
that is beyond my competence,
but I did go and I said psalms.
Because if a person feels
I can make them,
if I can make someone feel more
at peace, Im happy to do so.
(sad music)
This line shows where
Muranowska St. would have run.
Here, on the corner, is the building
where you would have lived.
Number 10. And then 12, 14, 16.
Yes, and here was the gate
you would walk through
and here were shops.
Here was Mr. Gujski's restaurant.
He was a Pole,
and he had a son Jas,
whom we'd play with in the courtyard.
On this map of the city,
I've marked the location
of your home, superimposing it
on the current image.
- Out in the street, apparently.
- At the intersection.
That's the place where your home
once stood.
I was born here.
(the sound of moving cars)
(minimal music)
The memory of the Ghetto,
its beginning to really return
into the memory,
into the soul, of Warsaw.
(minimal music)
Give people a chance to remember
and chances are they will remember.
April 19th, the anniversary of
the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
While were moving farther away
from the event
actually the number of people
coming is growing.
Thats a sign of hope.
(sad music)
(the sound of a moving streetcar)