Account of the last days of life of the legendary Polish pedagogue Janusz Korczak and his heroic dedication to protecting Jewish orphans during the war. Jewish doctor Henryk Goldszmit, ... See full summary »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
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Maryna Rogowska-Falska
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Estera
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Heniek
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Ichak Szulc
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Max Bauer
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Czerniaków's wife
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Dyrektor w Polskim Radiu
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Szloma's mother
Jerzy Zass ...
German wachman on the bridge
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Szloma
Michal Staszczak ...
Józek
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Ewka (as Agnieszka Kruk)
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Storyline

Account of the last days of life of the legendary Polish pedagogue Janusz Korczak and his heroic dedication to protecting Jewish orphans during the war. Jewish doctor Henryk Goldszmit, known also as Janusz Korczak, is a man of high principles. He is unafraid of shouting at German officers and frequently has to be persuaded to save his own life. His orphanage, set up in a cramped school in the Warsaw ghetto, provides shelter to 200 homeless kids. Putting his experimental educational methods into practice, he installs a kind of children's self-government, whose justice is in a big contrast to what is happening in the outside world. Right in front of the school, dozens of kids are dying or being killed everyday and their naked bodies lie on the street unattended. Ghetto's mayor assures Korczak that the orphanages will be saved. Korczak raises food and money for the orphanage from the rich Jews. In the final roundup he refuses to accept a Swiss passport and boards the train to Treblinka ... Written by Polish Cinema Database <http://info.fuw.edu.pl/Filmy/>

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orphanage | children | train | jew | jewish | See All (9) »

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Biography | Drama

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Release Date:

6 May 1990 (Poland)  »

Also Known As:

Korcza  »

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1.66 : 1
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Edited into Screen Two: Korczak (1993) See more »

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Another Great Wajda Film
22 January 2006 | by (New York, NY) – See all my reviews

Once again Wajda returns to the war. Here, the Nazi-era ghetto is shown as a place of greater variety of experience than typically depicted. As Nazis film the street scenes we've grown accustomed to seeing, the hero of this film is able to run an orphanage with some semblance of normality, others are poor but not starving, and some Jews even live high on the hog trading with the guards. In fact, the studio-recreated scenes of ghetto death and poverty in the streets seemed cleaner, more airbrushed, than the ordinary town streets in Wajda's 35-year earlier A GENERATION (which was on the same bill when I saw this). But this is not a major criticism. Scriptwriter Agnieszka Holland's purpose isn't merely to retell Nazi horrors; her subject is how a moral force meets and responds to the holocaust. In his ghetto orphanage the director walls his children in to shield them. While he does business with the devil outside to keep them fed, inside the children care for each other, keep discipline with their own court of justice tempered with mercy, and put on classic plays (one dealing with death so the children will understand and not fear it). Wealthy, well-meaning gentiles outside the ghetto try to save the doctor, but he won't consider it. Finally, inevitably, the children are put in a railway car to the ovens. The whole point and power of the film is that this man's will has kept his children's humanity intact. When the end comes we feel their death in a personal way that few films on the subject have. Pszoniak plays Korczak (who is based on a real person) with great strength. Korczak's insistence on not accepting the Nazi status quo sometimes works, often doesn't even achieve short term ends, but is the only moral stand to be taken. The end, a fantasy shot of the children and the doctor running from the cattle car into a field of light, is somewhat controversial. It would, in another film, seem a poetic cop-out. Here, it works because even as the image plays out on the screen, your mind sees their real end that the rest of the film has prepared you for.

One can't help but feel that Spielberg was influenced by this film when he made SCHINDLER'S LIST, a film that's perhaps visually more flashy than KORCZAK, but which doesn't have KORCZAK's clear moral purpose at its core. Wajda is given "special thanks" in the screen credits of the Spielberg film.


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