This film by Aleksander Ścibor-Rylski is a response to the German propaganda about Bloody Sunday in Bydgoszcz. The film is a reconstruction of the events which took place in Bydgoszcz in September 1939. The film combines a portrayal of the heroic defence of the Polish army against the German sabotage with a tragic love affair between a young Pole and a 16-year-old German girl.
The film by Ścibor-Rylski is an epic narrative with an unprecedented flourish, which takes us right into the heart of the tragic events which happened on the 3rd and 4th of September 1939, in Bydgoszcz. At the time, German saboteurs, a so-called “Fifth Column”, opened fire from concealed spots at the retreating units of the Pomorze Army. The attack was repelled by the Polish soldiers, backed up by citizens of Bydgoszcz. The saboteurs (or those whom the Polish people recognised as such) caught red-handed, i.e. with weapons in their hands, were arrested. Later on, the majority of them were released. With the Polish army and Government in retreat, it was not possible to put them on trial.
The Germans used the events in Bydgoszcz as a weapon of propaganda against the Poles.
From the Nazi perspective, the dramatic events of 3rd September 1939 started to be called “Bloody Sunday”. The propaganda of Joseph Goebbels claimed that the Polish people orchestrated a bloodbath for the Germans, which justified the mass executions by the Nazi occupants that ensued, both in the city and its vicinity. It was part of the so-called “atrocities in Pomerania”, which claimed the lives of nearly 50,000 Poles.
Aleksander Ścibor-Rylski cast a number of excellent actors for his film. They included Janusz Kłosiński, Krzysztof Litwin, Jan Machulski, Leon Niemczyk, Józef Nowak, Marian Opania, and Tomasz Zaliwski. All the roles of Germans were played by actors from the German Democratic Republic.
The film was shot in downtown Bydgoszcz:
Sąsiedzi / Neighbours
Poland 1969, 135′
Directed by: Aleksander Ścibor-Rylski
Screenplay: Aleksander Ścibor-Rylski
Cinematography: Kurt Weber
Music: Wojciech Kilar
Produced by: PRF Zespoły Filmowe”
Cast: Jerzy Matałowski, Józef Nowak, Marian Opania, Tadeusz Kalinowski, Henryk Bąk, Jan Machulski, and others.