Shtetl's Romaniuk Visits Greenpoint

Sheds Additional Light on Marzynski's Fictional Account
Published: 1996-09-10

In Greenpoint, N.Y., on June 7, 1996, Zbigniew Romaniuk was the main speaker in a forum addressing issues raised by the PBS production of Shtetl. Very interesting facts were brought to light about the production. Within the discussion there was also presented an historical overview of Jewish anti-Polonism, but that topic is beyond the scope of this report.

Those of us in the Polish American community who bear the brunt of Jewish anti-Polonism on a daily basis can understandably wonder how Zbigniew Romaniuk could have allowed himself to be made party to such a production as Shtetl. Judging from the comments made by the audience members, most of whom were born in Poland, and their astonishment at being branded as anti-Semites and Nazi collaborators, it is totally possible that Mr. Romaniuk was unaware of the intense anti-Polish hatred actively fostered by the Jewish establishment in the United States.

Actually, the production proposal made by Marian Marzynski had to do with documenting the rich and vibrant Jewish culture which flourished in Poland prior to the Nazi invasion. Romaniuk quoted Marzynski who in his proposal wished to avoid all references to World War II, as saying that he wanted to make a film about life rather than death.

Considering the way the Bransk village priest was mercilessly lampooned by Marzynski, the most obscene aspect of the production is the fact that the actual priest in Bransk at the time of the Nazi Occupation was himself killed for sheltering Jews. Related to this fact, the matter was brought up that every year the names of 2,000 Polish priests and nuns, who were killed for sheltering Jews, are presented to the administration of Yad Vashem for appropriate commemoration; and every year the list is summarily rejected despite irrefutable evidence that these individuals died because they protected Jews.

Even the visual presentation of the town of Bransk is an absolute fiction ! Very little of pre-World War II Bransk remains, so Maszynski deliberately shot footage in three different towns in order to give the feeling that Bransk is merely the dead shell of the wondrous world of "Fiddler on the Roof" with streets lined with picturesque cottages formerly occupied by Jews.

The actual fate of the Jews of Bransk is more fascinating than any fiction that Marzynski et al, could concoct. During the war, Romaniuk noted, Bransk and its environs were under Nazi Occupation for a relatively brief period. Bransk was one of the earliest Soviet conquests when they advanced westward. As soon as the Soviets arrived, the Jews joined forces with them and imediately began to persecute Poles. After the war, the 73 Jews who returned to Bransk literally decimated the local population by denouncing Poles to the KGB and the NKVD. Those hapless Poles who were not slaughtered on the spot were sent to Siberia. Too late did the Jews of Bransk realize that they had killed off the only available clientele for the goods and services they were accustomed to providing. Many Bransk Jews turned to criminal activity for their livelihoods. A number of Polish law enforcement officers lost their lives trying to bring the Jewish bandits of Bransk to justice. Criminal gang activity was described as the underpinning of the violent incidents so extravagantly embellished by Yaffa Eliach.

Considering that Marzynski's production costs for Shtetl were $100,000, a proposal was made that Polonians should raise $100,000 and produce an accurate version of Bransk's World War II history. According to Romaniuk, Marzynski received a $300,000 grant from PBS to produce Shtetl ... and paid himself $200,000. The next time a Polonian receives a fund raising request from PBS, they should urge PBS to approach Marzynski for a donation and demand that PBS provide Polish/Polonian teams of scholars and videographers with appropriate financing to produce a truthful presentation of wartime events in Bransk and give it equal public exposure."

Comments by Dana I. Alvi

The article reproduced here appears in the August 1996 issue of the Polish American Journal, page 6.

Assuming that the information re. monetary transaction is correct, questions come to mind. PBS had a vested interest in the production of Shtetl. PBS pushed for broadcast of a "documentary" having been informed by numerous persons of serious questions respecting its veracity.

Webster's Dictionary defines "documentary" as: "adj. 1. consistent of, supported by, contained in, or serving as a document or documents. 2. designating or of a motion picture that records news events or shows social conditions without fictionalization. n. ... a documentary motion picture."

Black's Law Dictionary defines "document" in part as: " An instrument on which is recorded, by means of letters, figures, or marks, the original, official, or legal form of something, which may be evidentially used. In this sense the term applies to writings; to words printed, lithographed, or photographed; ... As used as a verb, to support with documentary evidence or authorities."

In the light of the above definitions, Shtetl falls flat. Is PBS bound by ANY legal definition of "a documentary"? Can the photographed words of senile, old people, led by a professional with a vested interest (Marian Marzynski) to present events of half a century ago, be sufficient to support ANY definition of "a documentary"?

Zbyszek Romaniuk also stated that the old Poles had no idea that they were being filmed and were not paid, – but Marzynski was paid. Isn't there a violation of Labor Laws here? Polish laws? Or American laws since Marzynski, had some kind of a contract with PBS? Was the money for Shtetl collected from the public, – from "The Viewers Like You" as is PBS's logo? Or has some large corporation or law firm financed Shtetl? Was it intended at the onset to make a defamatory movie rather than a documentary? Would PBS or the financiers be liable for Labor Law violations, – if any? Has anyone written to the Federal Communications Commission for some light on this subject?

Did not Marzynski have to present his project to Polish authorities and receive clearance? If yes, who are they? If not, isn't it high time that such be established? Are not Polish authorities obligated to protect their citizens, – in this case senile old people, from abuse? Are not Polish authorities obligated to protect the name and image of Poland from abuse, – from POLISH nation libel?

© of comments: 10 Sept. 1996; Dana I. Alvi, Chairwoman, P. O. Box 3206, Santa Monica, CA. 90408

Additional information about this document
Property Value
Author(s): Edmund Rucinski
Title: Shtetl's Romaniuk Visits Greenpoint, Sheds Additional Light on Marzynski's Fictional Account
Sources: "Shtetl's Romaniuk Visits Greenpoint, Sheds Additional Light on Marzynski's Fictional Account," Polish American Journal, August 1996, p. 6
  • Dana I. Alvi: comments
Published: 1996-09-10
First posted on CODOH: Sept. 8, 1996, 7 p.m.
Last revision:
Appears In: