On Aryan Papers
Bronisław Szatyn(1911-1987) – lawyer, writer, memoirist, diplomat and real estate agent. Bronisław Szatyn was born in Przemyśl to an assimilated Jewish family. Growing up, he had Jewish, Polish and Ukrainian friends. Having finished the Ukrainian gymnasium in Przemyśl with honours, he moved to Krakow to study law at the Jagiellonian University. Upon finishing his studies Szatyn established a successful practice in Krakow. Blessed with impeccable Polish (most Polish Jews then primarily spoke Yiddish and their Polish was broken), non-Semitic features and light hair, Szatyn decided to spend the Nazi occupation of Krakow on “Aryan papers,” adopting the identity of a Polish Christian. He spent the bulk of the war working as a farm manager of the aristocratic Potocki family’s estate in Skawina outside Krakow. The Potockis saved many Jews by employing them on their farm. Szatyn also procured “Aryan papers” for his wife, parents and parents-in-law. Miraculously, his entire family survived the war (except for Szatyn’s mother, who died of natural causes), and his two daughters were born during the German occupation! After World War II, Szatyn joined the Polish diplomatic corps and served in Germany, Denmark and Venezuela. Ultimately, he settled in California and became a remarkably successful real estate agent. In 1983, Szatyn’s wartime memoir Na aryjskich papierach (“On Aryan Papers”) was published by Krakow’s Wydawnictwo Literackie. The book was enormously popular had two Polish printings. The book was also published in the United States as A Private War under Szatyn’s Anglicised named Bruno Shatyn and in Yugoslavia as Propusnica za Židova. The English edition featured a foreword by Oxford University’s Norman Davies, widely regarded as the greatest authority on Polish history, and received enthusiastic reviews in the New York Review of Books and Slavic Review. Stanley Kubrick had long wanted to direct a Holocaust film, and legend has it he wanted to adapt Szatyn’s book. Meanwhile, several Polish directors approached Szatyn with the proposal of a film adaptation, but the latter was dissatisfied with the actors who would play him. Due to Szatyn’s excellent prose and frequent brushes with death, the memoir reads like a thriller.
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