PBS Airdate: Tuesday, May 31, at 9 p.m., 60 minutes
As a young Jewish boy trying to survive the Holocaust in Poland, Marian Marzynski felt nothing but terror at the sound of the German language. Once, riding on a trolley outside the Warsaw Ghetto, a Nazi officer sat five-year-old Marian on his lap and called him a “nice boy.” “I was choked with fear,” Marzynski later recalled. For years, he lived with this fear of the people who had invaded his country and killed much of his family.
When the German government announced that it was planning to build a “Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe” to mark the sixtieth anniversary of the end of World War II in May 2005, Marzynski decided it was finally time to go to Berlin himself. “I wanted to achieve what my perished relatives could not,” Marzynski says. “To feel safe among the Germans.”
In “A Jew Among the Germans” FRONTLINE presents Marzynski’s moving and provocative search for a Germany that he—and his children—can live with. Over several years of filming, Marzynski encounters artists, architects, and everyday Germans, who wrestle with the big questions of guilt, responsibility, and memory. He also meets a young, “third generation” of Germans who have broken with their parents and grandparents over the war. Rejecting collective guilt, these young Germans are looking for a way to keep the Holocaust in living memory. “The offspring of the perpetrators complain that they grew up without any of the victims in their sight,” Marzynski says. “Now I am here and am ready to extend my hand.”
This May, the German Holocaust memorial will be unveiled in Berlin, and Marzynski feels ambivalent about it. “I wish there would be no celebration of the end of World War II, no finishing touches. I don’t want a memorial that forces young Germans to live with their grandparents’ guilt forever, but without it, I’m afraid that the tragic past will be forgotten altogether. My unreasonable request to the German people would be to live in the permanent state of guilt. A good guilt, if such a thing exists.”
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More about the Film:
“A Jew Among the Germans” is a Marz Associates film for WGBH/FRONTLINE. The producer, writer, and director is Marian Marzynski, who also serves as the film’s correspondent.
FRONTLINE is produced by WGBH Boston and is broadcast nationwide on PBS.
Funding for FRONTLINE is provided by The Park Foundation and through the support of PBS viewers.
FRONTLINE is closed-captioned for deaf and hard-of-hearing viewers.
FRONTLINE is a registered trademark of WGBH Educational Foundation.
The executive producer for FRONTLINE is David Fanning.