Aftermath is a foreign language film (recently released on DVD) that tells the story of two brothers from a small town in Poland, outside Warsaw. Franek, who has been living in the United States for the past thirty years and Jozek, who still lives on the family farm in Poland and whose wife and children have recently inexplicably left him, make a discovery that breaks open all they know about their family and the town around them. The film is based on the events of the Jedwabne massacre of July 1941 in which nearly all of the town’s Jewish population were beaten to death or burned alive.
The Anti-Defamation League partnered with Menemsha Films, distributor of Aftermath, to prepare a Teaching Guide to accompany the film. The guide provides instructional materials to help educators explore background information about the Holocaust, understand manifestations of historical and current day anti-Semitism around the world, delve into the moral themes of courage, justice and truth presented in the film and expand possibilities for young people to deepen their understanding of the film with reading, writing and other extension activities.
About the Teaching Guide
The teaching guide provides an opportunity for students to learn more about the Holocaust and Jedwabne, understand anti-Semitism and its current day manifestations around the world and watch, discuss and extend the learning of the Aftermath film. The film can be shown and discussed in specific classes such as World History, Ethics, Psychology or part of a unit on World War II or Holocaust Studies. It can also be shown in an assembly to the whole school or a grade, with teachers following up in their classrooms with activities from the guide.
The guide consists of three sections:
Part I: Setting the Stage
- About the Holocaust: Overview, Timeline and Jedwabne Massacre
- What Is Anti-Semitism? (Instructional Activity)
- Modern Day Anti-Semitism Around the World: Global 100 (Instructional Activity)
Part II: Watch and Discuss Aftermath (Polish language with English subtitles, 104 minutes)
- Discussion Questions while watching the film
- Discussion Questions for after the film
Part III: Going Further
- Reading Activities
- Writing Activities
- Other Extension Activities
More About the Film
Aftermath tells the story of two brothers, Franek and Jozek Kalina, who are the sons of a poor farmer from a small village in central Poland. Franek immigrated to the United States in the 1980s and cut all ties with his family. Only when Jozek’s wife arrives in the United States without explanation does Franek finally return to his homeland.
Upon his arrival, Franek discovers that Jozek has been ostracized from the community and is constantly receiving threats. As Franek and Jozek struggle to rebuild their relationship, they are drawn into a gothic tale of intrigue. The two brothers eventually uncover a dark secret—related to the Holocaust―that forces them to confront the history of their family and hometown. The film’s cinematography is impressive, its main characters complex and compelling and the story is told as a mystery that unfolds in a captivating way. The film not only explores the aftermath of the Holocaust in one small town; universal and philosophical themes such as morality, justice, truth, honoring death and standing up for what’s right are central to the film.
Aftermath is based on the events of the infamous Jedwabne massacre of July 1941 in which nearly all of the town’s Jewish population were beaten to death or burned alive. Long blamed on the occupying Nazis, the slaughter was later revealed to be the work of ordinary Polish citizens in the town, their “neighbors.” On July 10, 2001, during the 60th anniversary of the pogrom, Aleksander Kwasnieski, Poland’s president at the time publicly apologized for the actions of his people.