Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Last Yiddish Film Made in Poland: "Unzere Kinder (Our Children)"

1948’s “Unzere Kinder (Our Children)” tells the story of Jewish orphans living in the Polish countryside near Lodz after World War II. It was the last Yiddish-language film ever to be made in Poland. But, as J. Hoberman, Senior Film Critic of The Village Voice and author of Bridge of Light: Yiddish Film Between Two Worlds, explained, it was certainly not intended to be. Rather, it was to be part of the reinstitution of the old Yiddish talkies.

Two Jewish men--played by virtuoso comedy duo Shimon Dzigan and Israel Shumacher--return from the USSR after the war and perform Yiddish vaudeville for the orphans. The men talk with the children, and moved by their stories, decide to visit their orphanage. Dzigan and Schumacher, as J. Hoberman explained at the screening, were essentially playing themselves, as were the children. Like so many, they were coming to grips with what happened in the Holocaust, and as we see in the film, finding out how to represent the Holocaust is its largest concern: the children have brutal flashbacks, the mothers weep and tell of dead children, Dzigan and Shumacher ape the Nazis, but no one is satisfied that they’ve told a coherent story.

There would be no more Yiddish talkies in
Poland. Indeed, the film was never shown in that country but had to smuggled via the Turkish diplomatic pouch into France. Ultimately, the post-Holocaust life in Poland that “Unzere Kinder” tried to envision was as chimerical as a Dzigan and Shumacher set piece.

1 comment:

Maurice Preter MD said...

I appreciate your comment. Much could be said about this unique (and personal: my father and my father's companions in the Helenowek orphanage all figure in it) little film that I have shown to, and discussed with professional audiences world-wide for a number of years. Interested readers may go to the Undzere Kinder link on my web page.
Best regards,

Maurice Preter, MD
1160 Fifth Avenue, Suite 112 NY, NY 10029
+1-212-713-5336 www.psychiatryneurology.com