Rediscovering a Prewar Jewish Community in Poland Through Three Minutes of Film

April 6 2022

In 2009, Glenn Kurtz discovered long-forgotten footage, taken by his grandfather, in a closet in his parent’s home. Stored in an aluminum can for 70 years, the film had deteriorated to the point of being almost unrecoverable. Kurtz managed to preserve three minutes of his grandfather’s silent home movie, which captures a 1938 summer trip to his hometown of Nasielsk in Poland. In 2014, Kurtz published a book about what he had learned through careful study of the film; for five years, he had assiduously examined details of the synagogue, the street, and the faces of the children playing. Kurtz also tells the stories of other survivors who helped him piece together the history of Nasielk’s Jewish community. Kurtz’s research is now the subject of a new documentary titled Three Minutes—A Lengthening, directed by the historian Bianca Stigter. As Kurtz writes, the film “asks one question over and over: ‘What do we see?’”

At the time [of my grandfather’s visit]—one year before the out­break of World War II—Nasiel­sk was home to a Jew­ish com­mu­ni­ty of about 3,000 peo­ple, rough­ly half the town’s pop­u­la­tion; few­er than 100 of Nasielsk’s Jews would sur­vive the Shoah. My grandfather’s three min­utes of film are the only known mov­ing images of this co­mmuni­ty pri­or to its destruction.

When I dis­cov­ered the film, how­ev­er, I knew noth­ing about it. I nev­er met my grand­fa­ther, who died before I was born, and my grand­moth­er, although she lived well into her nineties, nev­er spoke of their 1938 trip to Europe. I didn’t know why they went to Poland or what they did dur­ing their vis­it. I didn’t know what small Pol­ish town appeared in the film or the iden­ti­ties of any of the people.

My grandfather’s film is thus silent in more ways than one. There is no audio, and so we do not hear the con­ver­sa­tions or the com­mo­tion sur­round­ing him as he panned his cam­era across the crowd­ed mar­ket square. The film is also silent in a larg­er sense: it does not tell us what it is. The images are innocu­ous. Their poignance and pow­er are evi­dent only when we know the his­tor­i­cal fact that these peo­ple would soon be vic­tims of geno­cide. But just because we see these peo­ple does not mean we know them. And just because we know what hap­pened to them does not mean we know any­thing about their lives.

Read more at Jewish Book Council

More about: Film, Jewish history, Polish Jewry

American Aid to Lebanon Is a Gift to Iran

For many years, Lebanon has been a de-facto satellite of Tehran, which exerts control via its local proxy militia, Hizballah. The problem with the U.S. policy toward the country, according to Tony Badran, is that it pretends this is not the case, and continues to support the government in Beirut as if it were a bulwark against, rather than a pawn of, the Islamic Republic:

So obsessed is the Biden administration with the dubious art of using taxpayer dollars to underwrite the Lebanese pseudo-state run by the terrorist group Hizballah that it has spent its two years in office coming up with legally questionable schemes to pay the salaries of the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF), setting new precedents in the abuse of U.S. foreign security-assistance programs. In January, the administration rolled out its program to provide direct salary payments, in cash, to both the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) and the Internal Security Forces (ISF).

The scale of U.S. financing of Lebanon’s Hizballah-dominated military apparatus cannot be understated: around 100,000 Lebanese are now getting cash stipends courtesy of the American taxpayer to spend in Hizballah-land. . . . This is hardly an accident. For U.S. policymakers, synergy between the LAF/ISF and Hizballah is baked into their policy, which is predicated on fostering and building up a common anti-Israel posture that joins Lebanon’s so-called “state institutions” with the country’s dominant terror group.

The implicit meaning of the U.S. bureaucratic mantra that U.S. assistance aims to “undermine Hizballah’s narrative that its weapons are necessary to defend Lebanon” is precisely that the LAF/ISF and the Lebanese terror group are jointly competing to achieve the same goals—namely, defending Lebanon from Israel.

Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Iran, Israeli Security, Lebanon, U.S. Foreign policy