Recent trend to make all gentile Poles guilty of WWII war crimes, to demonized image of all Poles, using horrific murder of Polish Jews in Jedwabne - as collectively responsible for German war crimes, is an alteration of history. This is offensive to contemporary Poles who are protesting generalization and simplification of history. Similarly naming "collectively" Poles as Polish right-wing nationalists - is equally offensive. and simplistic. All Poles, or majority of contemporary Poles, in Poland are not right-wing nor antisemitic. Still, they may have a problem with how this film may and is interpreted and generalized abroad. Reading the reviews about the "Aftermath", even before it has been widely in US, it only gives a glimpse of what will be written later.
Let me deconstruct one sentence in the article:"And, more problematically, Aftermath is unlikely to shock anyone outside rightwing circles in Poland - who refuse to do any finger-pointing at themselves - with the revelations that stretches of Poland still harbor a breed of violent anti-Semitism" - WHERE in Poland now can be found any evidence of violent anti-Semitism? Has been in Poland , after 1989, a recorded any "violent anti-Semitic incident"? What is the point of demonizing Poland and Poles now - using a movie, a thriller, that describes, at the very end, a violent anti-Semitic scene, that is taking place in Poland, in 2001, that is not based on any recorded historical contemporary fact. This scene is supposed to shake the audience at the very end of the movie - and to suggest that in the contemporary Poland incidents like that are possible. Whatever Pasikowski intended to convey, it is a pure imagination. It belongs to a thriller, not reality.
I worry about the reviews of the "Aftermath", that are published in the New York Times, in the Huffington Post, or here in the Village Voice, and other places - that try to portray evil Poles and Poland now. Somehow the war crimes committed by Nazi Germany are not even mentioned in the reviews, it is all in the past for Germany, the real culprit of the Hell in the Bloodlands; and for Poland, this is just a beginning of trying to turn the country, that ceased to exist on Sept 1st 1939, and was an apparent victim of Nazi Germany and Soviet Union, into an accomplice - and an accomplice with carefully pointing fingers to ethnic Poles only, as a group, as active participants in the Nazi German crimes. How this generalization became possible? With a history of various ethnic groups living together in Poland, over the centuries, often ethnically intermixed, how the world managed to extract from the history, an evil, pure ethnic Pole, capable of the worst behavior. . Who are the evil ethnic pure Poles whom the World managed to extract with some, unknown to Poles, anthropological experiment? What kind of myth is being sold to American viewers of this film, viewers who have limited knowledge of history.
As one of the film reviewer wrote, Catherine Baum, writes:http://www.menemshafilms.com/reviews/aftermath-review-filmmaking-review: "The back story is crafted brilliantly – Poland becomes a whole character in itself, with a personality, mood and motivation – and not always in a good way. Poland has its dark underbelly." Poland as a whole character? Poland now? The guilty contemporary, demonized, Poland? Anybody who is resisting such an interpretation becomes and evil "Polish nationalist" who represents a group that was behind"banning the movie in some Polish cinemas" - as the distributor, Menemsha Films states ( that is actually a false statement, the movie was not banned in any place in Poland).
Poland is doing well - since 1989 - when, after 44 years of Soviet occupation, finally was given a chance to rebuild, has started truly rebuilding after the horrific war. Poland had to wait 44 years to be given an opportunity to restore the infrastructure that was destroyed by Germans and Soviets during, and after the War. Poland did not have the luxury of Germany that was rebuilt fast, right after the War, with the help of Marshall Plan. Germany not only became a leading economic power in Europe, but also redid its image by stressing that Nazi Germany and postwar German were two different countries - they were different countries, yet with the same people who were actively hiding their war past, and blended seamlessly into the society. The world bought the story about new Germany and new Germans. Poland, the victim of Nazi Germany, that did not collaborate with Nazi Germany, does not have the same luxury now. The World in the collective interpreted memory sees Poland and Poles as the guilty nation. Where is a balance, I am asking?
There are many in Poland who are ready to discuss history with all the facts, with all the wounds that have to be again reopen, that most probably will never heal. Yet, the thriller like the "Aftermath", followed by black and white accusatory reviews, with loose interpretation, built-in preconceived hatred aimed at the contemporary Poland, is not helpful in the dialogue - will not help to sort out the historical truth.
Poland is a fine country now, economically prospering. Poland is ready to face history without lies and distortions, without historical alterations that were imposed by the communist regime for many years. Collective memories of Polish citizens about Soviet and German occupation, were preserved in (some) families, and after 70 years, what is left are personal histories that are retained in younger generations. Poland's past deserves to be studied and discussed using historical facts only, without preconceived hateful generalizations; Polish history must studied by honest historians who are not driven by emotions. Poland, Poles, citizens of contemporary Poland, whatever is their ethnic background, have right to find their own way, to allow everybody individually to grieve the horrors that took place in the Bloodlands.
Calling Poles right-wing nationalists and anti-Semites is not a right way to start and to maintain a dialogue. Polish-Jewish relations are important to all Poles, and are being rebuilt in many ways. Why all interested, focus instead on continuing to rebuild such relationships, on preserving what is left, focus on honoring individual memories - without generalizations, memories of all families that survived in the Bloodlands.