HOLOCAUST: Marek Edelman... And There Was Love in the Ghetto is not a historical account, not a teaching of facts. It is a beautiful, joyous and painful bubble of the memories of one man who lived during the Holocaust.
Tristen Bakker
Tristen Bakker is a documentarian and editor.
Published date: May 2, 2019


Marek Edelman worked as an errand boy at a children’s hospital during the summer of 1942, the time of the ‘Grossaktion Warsaw’ – the roundup of the Jewish populace of Warsaw for extermination. At the same time, he was also a founding member and a commander of the Jewish Combat Organization (ZOB), one of the Jewish resistance factions. After the war, Edelman became a cardiologist and remained in Poland. Marek Edelman…And There Was Love in the Ghetto is an essay film based on his memoir of the same name. It is a personal and intimate work.

Intimate portraits

The stories are given a personal and intimate visual feel through close-ups of faces. Marek’s face, which throughout the film is shown in the same framing, the faces of the Jewish people from archive footage of the time, and newly shot footage of re-enactments of Marek’s stories. All this footage is intercut, a technique that might not have worked at all as re-enactments can give a film an overly dramatic feel.

However, the new footage and the archive footage seem to act as one as the film progresses – working together to give a more complete picture of the authentic people and events described.

[ntsu_youtube url=”https://www.youtube.com/watch?time_continue=7&v=CyYSf9NeZb8

The new footage includes clothes and other elements of the past but is shot in the present day, bringing the characters into our current view and making them easier to identify with. The floating slow-motion camera movements add a dreamlike element.

«What I say is not true. This is the mysticism that I saw in it all», Marek says. The camera work is indeed a physical representation of this statement.

Thousands of Jews were taken through the Umschlagplatz every day

What Marek describes are stories he previously told in his memoir: Love amongst people he knew first hand, friends and co-workers, colleagues. For example, a story about an aborted sexual encounter with Dola, whom he found intensely beautiful, is followed by her own story of love and death. In another story, Mrs. Tenenbaum – a nurse from his hospital – commits suicide in order to leave her daughter her coveted «life number» that is meant to make her untouchable to the Nazis. In a third, a spontaneous encounter between a liaison girl and a lonely man sparks a love that radiates from them so brightly it buoys them up above the constant terror.

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