The “Aftermath” of Evil
By Skip Sheffield
“Aftermath” is set in 2000, but the story, inspired by Jan Gross’ “Neighbors,” is firmly rooted in the Holocaust of World War II.
More than any other country, Poland was affected by the Nazi persecution of Jews. There once were 3 million Jews in Poland. A large number of those were part of the 6 million or more souls lost to the Holocaust.
Co-written and directed by Wladyslaw Pasikowski in 2012, “Aftermath” tells the back story of 120 of those martyred souls in a small Polish town.
Pasikowski fashions the story as a mystery-thriller centered on brothers Franciszek (Ireneusz Czop) and Jozef (Maciej Stuhr) Kalina. Franciszek had left the town and fled to America 20 years ago, after the death of his father. Jozef remained in Poland, tending the family farm.
The film begins with the return of Franciszek to his home town to investigate strange circumstances involving his brother, whose wife has recently left him. Shortly after disembarking the bus, Franciszek’s luggage is stolen. It is a sign of more trouble to come.
Josef is in trouble with local authorities for destroying a road. The reason Josef ripped off the asphalt was that he discovered the road’s foundation was made with tombstones from a now-vanished Jewish cemetery. Though Josef is a devout Catholic, his moral outrage is such that he has taken it upon himself to save and restore the tombstones and recreate the cemetery.
This does not set well with the villagers. “Accidents” begin to happen to the Kalina brothers. When it comes time to harvest the wheat the community’s harvester is mysteriously “broken.” When the brothers decide to harvest the wheat the old-fashioned way, by hand, the field catches fire.
As the hostility of the villagers rises, so does the animosity between the two brothers. If it weren’t for the town’s kindly, tolerant older priest (Jerzy Radziwilowiez) the Kalina brothers would have no friends at all.
The truth is the town holds a terrible secret, and Jozef’s mission to make reparations to murdered Jews threatens to expose that secret.
“Aftermath” is quite controversial in Poland and banned outright in some places because it is perceived as anti-Polish. The truth of the matter is the Nazis were not the only villains in the Holocaust. They were aided and abetted by sympathizers and people fearful for their own self-preservation. An evil as monstrous as the Holocaust was, it tainted all around it. Rather than being anti-Polish, this film screams “Never again!”