Wind from the East

Río Wang had already a poem on compatibility, focusing on how to make an enemy from a former friend and vice versa. A propaganda poster is easy to change, just by replacing the colors, texts and symbols, and then we hate our friends of yesterday just as effectively as we love our enemies of yesterday. However, it is much more impressive and frightening when the logic of hatred makes two artistic products compatible – especially when their subject is the same.

The film history of 1941 remembers two movies whose purpose was to justify the invasion of Poland in September 1939 and to keep alive the hatred against the Poles. Only one of the two, the German one is widely known, but once you see the Soviet version, you will recognize that it has surprisingly many common symbols and elements with the Nazi movie.

Chronologically the Soviet version, Ветер с востока (Wind from the East) was created first, in the Kiew movie studio already known to the readers of Río Wang. The director was Abram Room. The screenplay was written by Dubrovsky and Kucher with the help of Vanda Vasilevskaya.

Abram Room 1894-1976Wind from the East

The main roles were played by Bukhra, Kondrakova and Bzheskaya. The movie was shot in the summer of 1940 in the recently occupied territories: on the basis of the landscape, next to the Hungarian border. It was released in February 1941. We have no information on any foreign release, and we do not know about any modern restriction to display or release it.

This movie was already being delivered to the cinemas of the enlarged Soviet Union, when the studio shootings of the German film Heimkehr (Homecoming) started. It was directed by Gustav Ucicky, son of the star director Gustav Klimt. The screenplay was written by Gerhard Menzel.

Gustav Ucicky 1898-1961Homecoming

The movie displays the glamor crew of German super stars of the period, most of whom are still known today, such as Paula Wessely, Attila Hörbiger, and lots of other favorites, as well as some actors from the occupied Poland, including the former glamor star Bogusław Samborski (who will be mentioned again below). The crew also includes Józef Horwáth, about whom we do not know anything besides his picture and his typically Hungarian name.

The studio shots were completed by July 1941. The outer scenes were done in Eastern Prussia and along the old Polish border. The film was presented and also awarded in the Venice Biennale in August 1941. The German release was in October.

To Hungary it arrived only in January 1942 with the title The ancient soil. The Hungarian cinema journal Mozi Ujság of 19 February bears witness to its being on program, although only in Budapest, and only in two cinemas, in Alkotás and Pongrác, and after 11 March it was never shown in any Hungarian cinema.

Délibáb, 27 December 1941: The film will be released in the Uránia cinema…

Today this movie cannot be publicly displayed in Austria and Germany. According to the Polish Wikipedia, in Poland it can be shown as educational material, in the presence of a professional historian, and it must be preceded or followed by a discussion. This is what we are doing now.

The screenplays of both movies are the same: the Polish landlords/the Poles oppress the Ukranian/German minority which suffers continuous aggression and terror, but at the end all will be good, because the liberators arrive from the East/West.
Let us see then the visual and other symbols of both films. By clicking on the signs you can also see the respective videos in YouTube. Before you click, we must warn you that the films, of course, include shocking and disturbing scenes as well.

Both movies are screenplayed in the former Eastern Poland. The German version starts in Łuck on 27 March 1939. The Soviet version starts in June 1938, and although it does not name the geographic location, however when the main characters visit “the city”, it can be immediately recognized – partly from another product of the same  Kiew studio, and partly from the older articles of Río Wang.

Lwów, statue of Adam Mickiewicz. To the right, the advertisement of the Hungarian company TungsramŁuck woiewod

In both films the main enemy are the Poles, but one enemy is no enemy. Watch carefully: there are several ones.

The Polish power is inherently aggressive. Its chief representant is The Polish Policeman who appears several times in both movies.

Another symbol is the school. In the Nazi version, the school of the German ethnic minority is closed down by the Poles, while in the Soviet version the tools of education are confiscated by The Polish Policeman.

The Polish power humiliates the oppressed…

…and it is also cretin. The intelligent viewer already understands its aversion to schools…

Now let us have a short break in the flow of the parallel pictures. The picture to the right shows Bogusław Samborski in the role of the Mayor in the Nazi version. His appearance in the film triggered a great storm of indignation already during the German occupation of Poland, as he was one of the super stars of pre-war Poland. We do not know with absolute certainty why he accepted or how he was forced to this role. According to the already quoted Polish Wikipedia, he might have saved his Jewish wife by doing so. It is a fact that Samborski was not harmed for this during the occupation, although for example the other Polish super star, Igo Sym was liquidated for collaboration by the underground movement. In 1943 Samborski went to Germany where he featured in two films as Gottlieb Sambor, then he went to Argentina where he died in 1970. In his absence he was sentenced to life imprisonment in Poland. A number of other Polish actors were heavily sentenced for having featured in this film after the war. Some of them defended themselves with absurd arguments: according to the Polish Wikipedia, The Polish Policeman, that is Michal Pluciński (top right) claimed before the court that due to his poor German he did not understand what the film was about…

Bogusław Samborski in the main role of Gehenna (Way to Hell, 1938). His mask and his evil role is similar to the Mayor’s in Homecoming…The other two main characters of Gehenna, Witold Zacharewicz and Ina Benita

Bogusław Samborski in Róza (1936), without mask. His partnere is again Witold Zacharewicz
The three main characters together. The way of all the three led to Hell: Witold Zacharewicz died in Auschwitz in 1943, at the age of 29. Ina Benita perished during the Warsaw uprising of 1944 in the sewers of the city together with her child at the age of 32

Back to our topic, let us see the other characteristics of the Polish power. Its inherent cretinity is probably the source not only of its conviction that it can overcome the more developed enemy with its antediluvian means…

…but also of the fact that it aggressively communicates this conviction. Here we interrupt again the series of the parallel images, as this point is highlighted in a quite shocking way in the Soviet version, at least for those who never heard about the alliance of Nazi Germany with the progressive countries.

The topos of aggressive communication is shortly introduced in the Nazi movie, where only a Polish war poster is presented.

Poles! It was not just yesterday that we came here. Once we reached the far West.
On the map, right to left: Today / In Bolesław’s times / Once...

In the Soviet version there is a radio newsread, first in Polish, and then in German.

Tu Warszawa i wszystkie rozgłośnie Polskiego Radia. Podajemy wiadomości dziennika wieczornego.

Dzisiaj o godzinie ósmej rano, Jego Królewska Mość Jerzy VI, król Anglii, przyjął ambasadora polskiego w Londynie Raczyńskiego i jeszcze raz zapewnił go, że Anglia w każdej chwili da zbrojną pomoc Polsce.

Żądając zwrotu Gdańska.

Miasto Gdańsk nigdy nie dostanie się w ręce niemieckie. Jesteśmy gotowi w każdej chwili odeprzeć atak wroga i nawet sami, bez pomocy naszych sojuszników Anglii i Francji, zetrzeć na proch butę niemiecką.

Lecz my Gdańska nie oddamy! Żołnierz nasz mocno dzierży broń w swym ręku i kiedy zajdzie potrzeba, na rozkaz Naczelnego Wodza, Armia Polska pójdzie na Wrocław, Królewiec, aż do samego Berlina.

Hier ist der Reichsender Berlin und alle angeschlossene Sender.

Hier das Deutsche Nachrichtenbüro.

Aus Kattowitz meldet, heute Morgen wurden wieder zwei Leichen deutscher Volksgenossen auf der Strasse in Königshütte gefunden.

Beide sind ermordet.
Here Warsaw and the other Polish radio stations. We read the evening news.

This morning at eight o’clock His Majesty George VI, King of Britain received the Polish ambassador in London, Raczinski, and assured him again that Britain would give all kind of military help to Poland.

News from the golden Gdansk.

The city of Gdansk can never fall in German hands! We are ready to affront any aggression even alone, without the help of Britain and France.

But we do not render Gdansk!

Our strength is the soldier with his skilled weapon in the hand, and when the supreme commander gives signal, the Polish army will march in to Breslau, Königsberg or even to Berlin.

Here is the national radio of Berlin and all the radio stations.

According to the German News Service:

They report from Kattowitz that the corpses of two further German compatriots of us were found in the streets of Königshütte.

Both of them were killed.

I think not many had guessed that there existed a Soviet film, which – even if only in a short reference – was sympathetic with Nazi Germany.

However, what the Soviet movie only refers to, the German movie even illustrates. In fact, the Poles are aggressive, especially if they are many against the few. For example in the cinemas. The following series of images lead to lynching.

German, shut up!Why do you bother yourself with such a tramp!

…Get out!These German traitors should be wiped out!

Why don’t you sing with us?! (the German hymn)If they don’t sing, thrown the Germans out!!

No, no. They will stay, stand on their seats and sing the hymn!Sing!!

The Polish Policeman appears too, but does not do anything. The aggression is escalated.

The German comes!

The Soviet version cannot miss aggression either. It is perpetrated first by The Polish Policeman…

…and then by the Polish army itself.

So much of evil cannot be tolerated any more. One must come and liberate. Now the parallel pictures flow on again.

Both liberations are illustrated with precious historical documents. The Soviet version quotes the radio speech of Molotov on 17 September 1939, while the German version that of Hitler on 1 September 1939.

Ввиду всего этого правительство СССР вручило сегодня утром ноту польскому послу в Москве, в которой заявило, что советское правительство отдало распоряжение Главному командованию Красной армии дать приказ войскам перейти границу и взять под свою защиту жизнь и имущество населения Западной Украины и Западной Белоруссии…

Ich habe nun vier Monate lang dieser Entwicklung ruhig zugesehen. Allerdings nicht, ohne immer wieder zu warnen. Ich habe in letzter Zeit nun diese Warnungen verstärkt. Ich habe dem polnischen Botschafter mitteilen lassen, vor nun schon über drei Wochen, dass, wenn Polen noch weitere ultimative Noten an Danzig schicken würde, dass wenn es weitere Unterdrückungsmassnahmen gegen das dortige Deutschtum vornehmen würde oder wenn Polen versuchen sollte, auf dem Wege zollpolitischer Massnahmen Danzig wirtschaftlich zu vernichten, dass dann Deutschland nicht mehr länger untätig zusehen könnte! Und ich habe auch keinen Zweifel darüber gelassen, dass man in dieser Hinsicht das heutige Deutschland nicht verwechseln darf mit dem Deutschland, das vor uns war. Man hat versucht, das Vorgehen gegen die Deutschen damit zu entschuldigen, dass man erklärte, die Volkstumsdeutschen hätten Provokationen begangen. Ich weiss nicht, worin die Provokationen der Kinder oder Frauen bestehen sollen, die man misshandelt, die man verschleppt, oder worin die Provokationen derer bestanden haben soll, die man in der tierischsten, sadistischsten Weise teils misshandelt, teils getötet hat. Das weiss ich nicht. Aber nur eines weiss ich: dass es keine Grossmacht von Ehre gibt, die auf die Dauer solchen Zuständen zusehen würde!

The liberators come by plane. In the Soviet film, from right, in the Nazi one from left.

They are followed by the tanks. These always come from the right.

…and finally they bring relief to the oppressed and calm them down after so much terror.

…but does everyone in the film receive what he deserves…?

It is easy and not so easy to give a short summary at the end of this post. One thing is certain: that the great efforts invested in this film could have been better used to a nobler cause. And the world should have recognized what the winds from the East meant for the unluckier half of Europe.

2 comentarios:

languagehat dijo...

Amazing material; thanks for presenting it so well. (One minor note: Molotov's speech is not accurately transcribed, as you'll see if you listen while reading the transcription; it doesn't really matter, since the sense isn't changed although a little is omitted, but I thought I'd mention it.)

Studiolum dijo...

Yes, in fact. It was done so because the official printed text differs from the one broadcasted by the radio in the film. However, after your text I have checked more carefully, and found out that there were two official printed versions, :) the second one matching the radio text. I have now substituted it for the second one.