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Blatant Polish Anti-Semitism Greets Cast of Spielberg Film

May 28, 1993
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The cast and crew of "Schindler’s List," the Steven Spielberg film about the German businessman who saved more than a thousand Jews in Poland during the Holocaust, have been shocked by the overt anti-Semitism they have encountered while on location in Krakow.

In an article in the Los Angeles Times, David Gritten reports that one of the cast’s Israeli actors was approached at a hotel bar by an elderly Polish man and asked if he was Jewish.

When answered yes, the old man insultingly drew his finger across his throat, then pulled his fist up behind his neck to indicate a noose.

British actor Ben Kingsley, who stood nearby, leaped at the man, and a scuffle ensued.

"We’ve seen anti-Semitism at first hand, and it fills me with despair," said Kingsley afterward.

In another incident, actor Ralph Fiennes, dressed for his role in an SS uniform, was approached by a woman.

"She told me in Polish that the Germans were wonderful people and that they didn’t kill anyone who didn’t deserve it," he said.

The crew was also shaken by a woman who started walking across the set during shooting and was gently stopped by crew members.

"Who cares about the (expletive) Jews?" she shouted.

Some Poles connected with the film have been deeply disturbed by the incidents. Cinematographer Janusz Kaminski, who immigrated to the United States in 1980, said flatly that he now dislikes his native country, which he thinks "has an inferiority complex."

"The fact is, some Poles were traitors and sent Jews to their deaths," he said, adding that "Poland is still an anti-Semitic place."

Franciszek Palowski, a Polish broadcaster who serves as film consultant, noted that the book "Schindler’s List" has never been published in Poland. "The book destroys the cliche that existed in Poland that there were no good Germans," he said.

"There is also jealousy here, I think. Poles take the view that no one ever wrote a book about Poles who saved Jews," he said.

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