Anna, a young woman training to be a nun in 1960s Poland is on the verge of taking her vows when she meets her only living relative for the first time and learns that she is Jewish and that her real name is Ida Lebenstein. Together they discover what happened to Anna/Ida’s family.
This jewel is only 82 minutes long and every moment makes good use of the viewer’s time. The story is one example of the decimation of Poland’s Jews during World War II. But in the end, this is not a film about Poland or the Holocaust – but about life.
The film, which came out in 2013, is in black and white. The places photographed are ordinary yet the cinematography is stunning. Each scene looks like a black and white photograph made by a Magnum photographer using a Leica camera. Łukasz Żal is a superb, young cinemaphotographer born in Koszalin, Poland.
Pawel Pawlikowski directed the film. He was born in Warsaw in 1957. At the age of 14, Pawlikowski left Poland to live in Germany and Italy, before settling in Britain. In 2004, he directed My Summer of Love with Emily Blunt and Natalie Press.
This film touched me deeply and left me thinking for a long time about what’s important and what’s not. It is among the best films I have seen.
I am reading the recently published second and final volume of the biography of Adolf Hitler by German historian Volker Ullrich. It is entitled Hitler: Downfall: 1939-1945. Roger Abrams, writing in the New York Journal of Books, calls Ullrich’s work “a remarkable treatise on the malevolence of power in modern times.”
Early in the volume, Ullrich commends the diaries of Friedrich Kellner. Kellner was a court official in the western German town of Laubach who had no special access to wartime information. Kellner was repulsed by the Nazi regime and kept detailed diaries based on what he read in the German press and by talking to people. He hoped his diaries would be a warning to future generations about blind faith.
Ullrich explains that Kellner’s diaries “show that it was entirely possible for normal people in small-town Germany to see through the lies of Nazi propaganda and learn of things like the ‘euthanasia’ murders of patients in psychiatric institutions and the mass executions carried out in occupied parts of eastern Europe.”
The Kellner diaries were published in 2011 in German and now are available in English. The diaries are also the subject of a touching 2007 TV documentary on YouTube created by Kellner’s American grandson.
Ullrich, Volker. Hitler: Downfall (p. 6). Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.
The cinema-photography is excellent and the slow uncovering of unflattering facts reveals what war brings out in human nature even among those not in power.
The Memorial is across the street from the National Air and Space Museum and is surrounded by the U.S. Department of Education, the Federal Aviation Administration, Voice of America, and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in Southwest Washington.
Architect Frank Gehry designed the Memorial. Gehry was born in Toronto in 1929 as Frank Owen Goldberg. His father was born in Brooklyn to Russian Jewish parents, and his mother was a Polish Jewish immigrant.
Gehry’s design features three bronze statues of Eisenhower by the Russian-born sculptor Sergey Eylanbekov , one featuring General Eisenhower with troops from the 101st Airborne the day before the invasion of Normandy, another sculpture depicting President Eisenhower in the White House surrounded by civilian and military advisors, and a third portraying “Little Ike” in his boyhood.
The Memorial highlights passages from notable Eisenhower addresses. Framing the entire memorial is a stainless steel woven tapestry by artist Tomas Osinski , who was born in Poland. The tapestry depicts the cliffs at Pointe du Hoc on the Normandy coastline. Pointe du Hoc was the highest point between the American sector landings at Utah Beach to the west and Omaha Beach to the east. On D-Day, the United States Army Ranger Assault Group attacked and captured Pointe du Hoc after scaling the cliffs.
The Memorial was dedicated on September 17, 2020.