Kulczycki Book Prize in Polish Studies


Honorable Mention

Three Minutes in Poland: Discovering a Lost World in a 1938 Family Film

Honorable Mention: Glenn Kurtz
Title: Three Minutes in Poland: Discovering a Lost World in a 1938 Family Film (Farrar, Strauss and Giroux)

This highly original book begins with something seemingly prosaic—a damaged, old spool of film—and, thanks to the author’s obsessiveness, elegant prose, and patient humanity, spins that spool into a portrait of a place on the brink of destruction. Shot by his grandfather during a European tour in 1938, the film contained some three minutes of both color and black-and-white footage of the Polish town from which he and his family emigrated before the First World War. As Kurtz follows leads, consulting experts, secondary sources, and even survivors depicted in that footage, he finds Morry Chandler, born Moszek Tuchendler in Nasielsk, Poland, whose memory is revitalized by the images he sees in the film, including several shots of himself as a schoolboy. Morry’s story of village life before the war and of survival during it leads Kurtz to other people in the US, Great Britain, Poland, and Israel, enabling him to uncover strands of the town’s “web of interrelations.” While he knows that the town’s legacy will never be more than fragmentary, he sees that his “grandfather’s film became the medium that brought the pieces together, unexpectedly, creating a new kind of community” (277). Thanks to the author, the film is now available, after painstaking restoration by staff of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, on their website and in an Auschwitz exhibit of Jewish life before the war. That outcome is valuable enough. The book, meanwhile, warrants an honorable mention because of its splendid research, compelling presentation, and powerful depiction of life in interwar and wartime Poland.

Co-Winner: Per Andres Rudling

Co-Winner: Michael Fleming