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FRONTLINE: Never Forget To Lie

Airs Tuesday, May 14, 2013 at 10 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: Marian Marzynski returns to Poland and the Jewish ghettos of his childhood and chronicles the poignant, painful recollections of other child survivors.

Over the course of his 50-year career, filmmaker Marian Marzynski has occasionally turned his cameras on himself and his story of surviving the Holocaust, which claimed the life of his father and millions of other European Jews.

In his latest film, Marzynski returns to Poland and the Jewish ghettos of his childhood. But this time, he is not alone. In "Never Forget To Lie," Marzynski chronicles the poignant, painful recollections of other child survivors. The film rescues haunting pieces of the past while exploring the conflicting feelings about national, cultural, and religious identity that mark many survivors.

Shtetl: A FRONTLINE Digital Premiere

Before the Holocaust, Bransk was a quiet little town in Poland. Its 2,500 Jewish residents called it their shtetl, the Yiddish word for village. By the end of the war, every Jewish person in Bransk was gone. Most had been killed, forced onto trains that took them to the gas chambers at Treblinka. Some were betrayed by their Polish neighbors. Only a few survived. Today, revisit the story of the Jews of Bransk in "Shtetl," a 1996 FRONTLINE film by director Marian Marzynski, which we’re presenting online for the first time. (video embedded below too)

Training A Camera On The Children Of The Holocaust

Emmy-award-winning filmmaker and director Marian Marzynski was on WBUR Radio’s “Here & Now” program to discuss why he decided to make this film now, the vivid memories of other child survivors and the unfinished business of his own Holocaust story. Listen now

“The Holocaust story has been told by others; this is our turn,” Marzynski says. “In our old bodies, we are still children.”

In "Never Forget To Lie," Marzynski attends an annual Warsaw gathering of Holocaust survivors. He accompanies some of them to the Warsaw ghetto from which he and others escaped through the aid of sympathetic Christian friends.

Their childhood memories bear the stain of Nazi oppression: Marzynski recalls playing a wartime version of hide and seek, whereby one Jewish child would shout “Germans!,” and the others would hide until told to come out.

“I remember boots—clean, beautiful, awesome, shiny boots,” a woman recalls of the Nazi soldiers who marched into Poland. “I was afraid of those boots.”

Lilian Boraks-Nemetz, a writer from Vancouver, relives the day her family was marched to the transportation for the death camps. “I am digging my nails into my mother’s flesh. We start marching, and we walk and we walk. I keep crying and asking my mother, ‘Where are we going?’”

At the last moment, Boraks-Nemetz and her mother were saved when they were shoved out of line and behind a gate by her father, who was working as a “Jewish policeman” charged with assisting in the deportations.

“He hated what he was doing, but he did it,” she says, “because to survive in that insane jungle, he told me, you have to become an animal yourself.”

"Never Forget To Lie" tells of parents who did anything possible to save their children, entrusting them to Christian friends, priests and orphanages. Many of the children were baptized as Catholics in order to provide them with the documents that could mean the difference between life and death. Some survivors recall the challenges of assuming their Jewish identities after the war.

Halina Kramarz fled her hometown with her mother to hide with Christian friends in Krakow during the war; her father died on an overcrowded train bound for a death camp. Yet she recalls being shocked after the war when her mother confessed that they were Jewish.

“I said, ‘I can’t be Jewish! I have nothing personally against the Jews, but I don’t want to be one!’”

Marzynski—who relished his role as an altar boy while hiding with a Catholic priest—also admits that his religious faith dissolved because of his wartime experiences.

“My mother used to say that during the Holocaust, God was taking a long nap—and I agreed,” he says. “So I call my religion ‘survival.’”

Video

Frontline: Never Forget To Lie Trailer

Above: Filmmaker and Holocaust survivor Marian Marzynski returns to Poland and the Jewish ghettos of his childhood to chronicle the poignant, painful recollections of other child survivors. The film rescues haunting pieces of the past while exploring the conflicting feelings about national, cultural and religious identity that mark many survivors.

Living in the Warsaw Ghetto

Though Germans systematically destroyed buildings after the liquidation of the Warsaw ghetto, a few survived. Marzynski walks through attics and basements in a tiny enclave of buildings still in place today, imagining how the Jews hiding inside them struggled to live.

Escaping the Warsaw Ghetto

Not long after Marian Marzynski escaped the Warsaw ghetto for the Christian quarter, his mother tried to join him, but was stopped by blackmailers.

Haunted Ground

After German authorities liquidated the Warsaw ghetto in 1943, they systematically burned building after building. Today, the area sits four to five feet on top of the remnants and debris of the ghetto buried underneath. Walking through its haunted ground with his guide, Kora, FRONTLINE filmmaker Marian Marzynski recalls life growing up in the ghetto.

Shtetl

FRONTLINE producer Marian Marzynski travels to Poland to search for remnants of the lives and memories of an entire Jewish village, a shtetl lost in the Holocaust.

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