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Barbara Milewski, PhD
Swarthmore College (Swarthmore, PA 19081-1390)
Hidden in Plain View: The Music of Holocaust Survival in Poland's First Postwar Feature Film

Preparation of the first authoritative English translation and article-length study of Forbidden Songs (screenplay by Holocaust survivor Ludwik Starski), the first feature film released in Poland after World War II.

My scholarship illuminates a hidden story of Jewish survival during the Holocaust embedded in the first feature film released in Poland after WWII. Forbidden Songs, a light musical comedy based on satirical street songs that were banned by the Nazis, is replayed annually in Poland as a commemorative symbol of national resilience. Yet within the larger context of this work that celebrates the abiding pluck and wit of Poles lies a subtler message, told through the music, about the experience of the screenwriter, Ludwik Starski, a Polish Jew who survived in hiding during the War. Relying on archival sources and interviews with those who knew the film’s creator, I will produce the first comprehensive analysis of the film's music. In addition to publishing my research, I will create the first authoritative English translation of the film and its songs, ensuring that both researchers and the general public outside of Poland have access to a significant treasure of heritage cinema.

[Media coverage]

Project fields:
European History; Film History and Criticism; Music History and Criticism

Fellowships for University Teachers

Research Programs

$33,600 (approved)
$33,600 (awarded)

Grant period:
1/1/2016 – 8/31/2016