What happens when a documentarian turns the camera on himself? “For almost 50 years I’ve been filming other people’s lives,” says Holocaust survivor and filmmaker Marian Marzynski at the start of his new documentary Never Forget to Lie, “but my childhood seems to be my psyche’s unfinished business.”
Marzynski and others he interviews survived the Holocaust in Poland by posing as Christian children, often without their parents. Marzynski even became a devoted altar boy. Never Forget, which airs on PBS’s Frontline on Tuesday, May 14, returns Marzynski and his subjects to the physical sites of their most difficult memories: the courtyard of a building in the Warsaw ghetto, a forest near Treblinka, the mountain pass between Poland and Slovakia where one man saw his mother for the last time.
Sixty-eight years after the war, the recollections these encounters jog are often cloudy or fragmented, consisting of a single conversation or emotion. It’s sometimes hard to watch. But Marzynski’s camera is patient, lingering on tiny details of rooms and landscapes as though trying to help rekindle the survivors’ memories. In the process, we, the viewers, become repositories for images and stories that might otherwise have vanished.