Henryk Grynberg, a Polish writer and poet of Jewish descent, arrives from the USA to the village where he, his parents and his brother hid from the German Nazis during World War II. Only he and his mother survived the war. He talks to the neighbours who remember his parents and starts to reconstruct the history of his family: his childhood, his parents’ wedding, early German occupation, his family hiding in barns and a forest dugout, his younger brother’s execution by the Nazis, his father’s death. Going from door to door, piecing together scraps of evidence, he learns his father was murdered by Polish neighbours.
In 1991, Paweł Łoziński made a film etude, Journey, based on Henryk Grynberg’s novel The Jewish War, inspired by the author’s experiences. One year later, Łoziński and Grynberg travelled to Radoszyce, where the latter survived the Shoah, where the cowardice and wickedness of Polish neighbours led to the killing of his young brother and where neighbours brutally killed his father for gain. Birthplace is one of the milestone documentaries in the history of Polish film. Its shocking theme – the gradually unfolding tragic story of the Grynberg family, is enhanced by Artur Reinhart’s ingenious camerawork (16mm). The camera follows Grynberg as he calmly but firmly seeks explanation of the deaths of his loved ones, and reminisces in a voiceover about his childhood. After making the film, Henryk Grynberg described the story of his family in the book Dziedzictwo (The Legacy).
Paweł Łoziński’s film was created almost a decade before Agnieszka Arnold’s films and Jan Tomasz Gross’s book sparked a heated discussion in Poland about Poles’ contribution to the Holocaust. Tellingly, the Polish neighbours who helped the Jews during the war seem to be more terrified by the thought of the perpetrators being uncovered than those who committed the crimes.
This screening will be presented together with The Dybbuk by Michał Waszyński.
- Director — Paweł Łoziński
- Writer — Paweł Łoziński
- Cinematography — Artur Reinhart
- Editing — Katarzyna Maciejko-Kowalczyk
- Genre — documentary
- Production — Poland
- Year of production — 1992