Trailer is here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9DrgSHIJXAQ
A Reaction Paper to
A Movie by Andrzej Wajda.
UNDER HITLER’S SHADOW: EUROPE 1929-45
Dr. Anthony J. Steinhoff
By Matthew Lipscomb
In regards to why the Soviets were so hostile to the poles, I believe that this question resolves back to the relationship between the two governments. More importantly, it is integral to understand the Marxist mindset in relation to all other governments – and by fundamental concomitancy – individuals which functionally constitute them: not just officers and soldiers, but also lawyers, and academic professionals and other “intelligentsia.” In Marxist theory, violence is referred to as being a “handmaiden” to change and/or revolution. It is therefore perfectly acceptable that violence will potentially be (even more so, perhaps, expectedly so) a crucial part of any significant paradigm shift in relation to the economic and governmental ideology of a nation or people going from a prior system to that of Communism. This ideology results in a sublimated expectation of violence within the conscience of the revolutionary agent; providing not just a fertile ground for its perpetration on their part – but also ample means for its subsequent exaggeration and continued propagation. I believe that a strong argument can be made that this ideology of an intrinsic, contextually-expectational violence serves as a lubricant for such ongoing, eventually archetypical behavior. If the presence of violence is the sign of progress – then it may well be instigated in the desire for a generation or even accentuation of hopes for it. Whether this be sending your own men into fields to clear mines – or shooting railroad cars worth of officers, citizens, and intelligentsia of a given country, as took place in the Katyn forest. The mentality potentially becomes that of ‘we now have violence – the progress that we seek is sure to follow.’ The end result is that such a government will almost assuredly perpetrate as much violence as need be conducted in their own minds to achieve whatever means they so desire. In the case of wartime Poland, the Soviets wanted to re-create it into a Communist buffer zone; one with a government and a people replete with their own Marxist ideology. As an acceptable part of this process – they wiped out the populations of any class of people who would theoretically pose a potential threat to the new system of government and it’s attendant social and economic theories.
Based on the information that is presented in the film, it is relayed to the viewer that there was only a slight difference between that of the Germans and the Russians in regards to their treatment of Polish citizens. In the movie, the animosity of the Germans is seen as directed towards the academics (or intelligentsia), as demonstrated in the scene where the entire university is emptied out by an S.S. officer, and all of the professors and politicians sent off to a concentration camp. On the polish side, we see the violence of the soviets enacted against the polish officers by their eventual executions in the forest. Though we are not explicitly shown any Intelligentsia being executed in the forest, it is my understanding that a part of their number is known to have been included, according to historical records. I think that the Wajda may have been insinuating that the Russians were worse then the Germans, in that while the Germans did empty out the universities, they put them into concentration camps – and we are not shown any executions related to that action. The death that is highlighted (that of the older professor, whose ashes are received back by his wife) seems to be related as if it were because of poor healthcare for a bad heart – and not the violence of a gun.
Each of the respective sides seems to make efforts to utilize the occurrence to their own favor. In each case of the Germans, we are shown an example of their propaganda machine at work, when they attempt to coerce a woman into reading a prepared statement. Her reticence illustrates her conviction that it is either a blatant lie, or that her words will merely be used propagate other lies. At the point of her steadfast refusal, she is whisked away and forced to watch a film detailing the atrocities the the eyes of German documentarians. Subsequently, the Soviets also used the story for their own means – which may have factored into their reasoning for its perpetration all along. In their case, we see a truck, with a built-in projector, showing the footage to civilians of soviet army technicians investigating the unearthed remains and arguing that it was the work of the Germans. In the movie, a woman starts banging on the side of the truck and yelling that it is a lie, interrupting its presentation. In the film, both Soviet and Russian film reels are at respective points shown, and it is almost as if both run off of the same exact script. It is, however, through Andrzej’s diary, his rosary, and other incidental items such his sweater, which he was wearing, that the truth comes back to those who were otherwise potentially unacquainted with the actual truth of the matter
I think that you can argue that what Wajda is trying to show is the futility of Totalitarianism, as it is revealed to have when it is confronted by the power of the free spirit; but also the intense and immeasurable cost that has historically been injuriously required by it of not just those who love freedom, but more specifically, of the Polish people. We are provided a sense that while others have both hidden and tried to capitalize on what happened in the Katyn Forrest, in the end, the truth comes out – even if the voices of those who have endured the travesty of its horror have been silenced. His point is that true power is within the human spirit and not in the forced orchestrations of any governmental state. Any injustice, however horrible and however well hidden, will be immediately known to some – but eventually realized by all.