Greatest Film Scenes
and Moments

Passenger (1963)


Written by Tim Dirks

Title Screen
Movie Title/Year and Scene Descriptions

Passenger (1963, Poland) (aka Pasażerka)

In director Andrzej Munk's unfinished and incomplete documentary and Holocaust war drama, only about an hour long, using only still photographic images in the unshot scenes - assembled by the director's assistant Witold Lesiewicz:

  • the opening explanatory montage of still shots of director Munk (he died in a car accident in 1961 before the film was completed), with voice-over commentary providing an overview of the film's making and production as a renovated salvage job: ("...We have no intention of adding what he had no time to say himself. We are not searching for solutions which might not have been his, nor seeking to conclude the plots which his death left unresolved. We merely wish to present what was filmed with all the gaps and reticence, in an attempt to grasp whatever is alive and significant. Andrzej Munk was our contemporary. We shared his hopes and fears, and while not anticipating the answers, we may perhaps manage to present questions that he wished to pose")
  • the main fragmented plot: on a trans-Atlantic journey home to Germany after many years, Liza (Aleksandra Slaska) - a former Auschwitz SS officer-guard, spotted a person she thought resembled someone she used to know -- Marta (Anna Ciepielewska) - a Polish woman and former Jewish POW inmate; Marta was seen by Liza from the ship's deck, boarding the luxury passenger ship's gangplank (all of the scenes on the ship's deck were still images); the sight of Marta triggered her long-forgotten memories ("What has Liza seen? Her husband does not understand why this encounter has upset her"), structured in a series of three flashbacks (moving images) - each one revealing a deeper and more complex view of Liza's past
  • after spotting Marta, Liza closed her eyes and the image flared to bright white - and the beginning of the first of the film's three flashbacks; there was a brief tour (with short recreated or re-enacted scenes) of the death camp of Auschwitz, including naked females at daytime enclosed in a circle and forced to run through a gauntlet of dogs and guards, scenes of death and hard labor, and the sight of the tattooing of a prisoner's arm
Liza's Closed Eyes
Females in Circle
Tattooing of Prisoner's Arm
  • distressed by the memory, Liza spoke to her husband Walter (Jan Kreczmar): ("Don't call me 'poor little thing.' You know nothing about it. My time in the camp was not what you think, my dear Walter. I wasn't a prisoner, I was an overseer. Don't look at me like that. I didn't hurt anyone. And if Marta is alive, it's only because of me. I haven't told you much about my past. You were an emigrant. You'll never understand how we had to live and obey our leaders. Perhaps it's best for us both if you hear it at last...")
  • Liza offered a confessional voice-over to her husband during a second longer flashback - a self-justifying, redemptive, mostly sanitized and distorted version of her Auschwitz experience; there were more images of the camp - confiscated or left-behind possessions and trunks next to the train tracks, a lengthy tracking shot of the camp's barbed wire perimeter, the outside of the camp's brick buildings (with a view up to a crematory chimney with black smoke pouring out), the interior of a storehouse of inmates' discarded clothes, rows of grim-looking female inmates in muddy striped uniforms, and some examples of the brutalities suffered by the prisoners (often seen at the perimeter of the images)
  • Liza's second version of events at Auschwitz was also told - an interior monologue that marked the film's third and longest flashback - with the real subjective and emotionally-honest 'truth' of what had happened, when she supervised workers in the warehouse of confiscated goods; the vindictive and brutal Liza struggled to gain mastery and control over Marta and her attempted love affair with fellow prisoner Tadeusz (Marek Walczewski)
  • included in her lengthy remembrances were more arrivals (of families and children being led to their deaths in an underground bunker), the many executions (hangings), gassings, crematory burnings, the immense piles of prisoner's possessions - including many baby carriages, vicious dog attacks in the mud, and a night-time 'game' when naked female Holocaust prisoners were forced to run between a gauntlet of dogs and guards
Gas Masks Worn During Gassings
Vicious Dog Attacks
  • the indeterminate and unfinished ending - was the passenger actually Marta? - however, it was made explicit that Liza's Nazi guilt, crimes and complicit self-justifications had followed her into the present day: ("The brush with the past did not last long. Marta, or someone resembling her, disembarked at the next port of call. The ship sails on. It's doubtful if the women will ever meet again. Liza won't be challenged by truths buried in the mud of Auschwitz. Nothing can disturb Liza's life among people indifferent to yesterday's crimes, who even today...")
Marta in Death Camp
Marta (?) Disembarking From Ship

Film Director Andrzej Munk

Liza - Spotting Marta From Ship's Deck

Sight of Marta Boarding Ship

Liza's Memories of Death Camp

Liza's Confessional to Her Husband

Crematory Chimney

Female Inmates in Muddy Uniforms

Naked Women Running Through Gauntlet

Liza As SS Officer/Prison Supervisor in Death Camp


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