Tomasz Łysak

The Posthumous Life of the Nazi Propaganda – Postwar Films on the Warsaw Ghetto

Using Terry Eagleton’s definition of ideology as a point of departure I am going to focus on the use of archival footage from the Warsaw Ghetto in Polish postwar documentary films. The following films will be analysed: Requiem for 500 000 (dir. Jerzy Bossak and Wacław Kaźmierczak, 1962), Chronicle of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising According to Marek Edelman (dir. Jolanta Dylewska, 1993) and 912 Days of the Warsaw Ghetto (2001). In order to overcome the determinism of the found ideology several methods have been employed by the filmmakers: re-editing the footage with an added voice-over narrative, the presence of an expert whose authority would undermine the truth claims of the footage, and a recent technology of digital manipulation. It is necessary to focus on the formal aspects of the usage of archival footage as well as the objectives of the film. One of the key problems a documentary filmmaker working on the Holocaust has to face is both a need to refer to the oppressive discourse of the perpetrators and keeping a critical distance.

Taking up this topic necessitates an inquiry into the posthumous life of the Nazi propaganda as the analysis of the postwar use of these material needs to take into consideration the fact that propaganda entails an uncritical adoption of its contents. What happens to propaganda when its political sponsors are no longer in power? We cannot forget that new contexts are not free from their own ideological tinging which affects the perception of Nazi ideology.