New film tells dramatic Holocaust survival story of Polanski ally Gene Gutowski

By Vanessa Gera ,AP

WARSAW, Poland — They were both Holocaust survivors from Poland who suffered through unspeakable tragedies. But when director Roman Polanski and producer Gene Gutowski teamed up in the 1960s they never spoke of the war, preferring to focus on life by making movies and partying hard.

Even when the two reunited decades later for the 2002 Holocaust film ��The Pianist,�� they didn’t talk about the horrors they had seen.

On Thursday, a new documentary about Gutowski’s improbable wartime survival premiered at the Warsaw Film Festival, directed and produced by his son, Adam Bardach.

Gutowski didn’t even speak about his past for years with his three sons, telling them the truth only when they were adults: that he was Jewish, that most of his family died, and that the name Gene Gutowski was an assumed identity that helped him survive World War II.

��For many years, I was living in absolute denial as far as being Jewish was concerned,�� Gutowski, 89, said at his home in Warsaw this week. ��I just didn’t wish to pass the burden of the Holocaust on to the next generation. It’s very painful.��

Slowly, he opened up. Finally he wrote a memoir.

��Dancing Before The Enemy: How a teenage boy fooled the Nazis and lived�� commemorates his lost family of cultured Jews from the eastern Polish city of Lwow, today the Ukrainian city of Lviv.

��It wasn’t a secret that the family members were all lost,�� said Bardach, a 44-year-old based in Los Angeles. ��It was just a question of how and why, and who they were as people.��

Gutowski was born Witold Bardach in 1925 into a family of lawyers, doctors, concert pianists and army officers. They lived a charmed life of privilege until 1939, when World War II broke out, bringing first Soviet occupation to eastern Poland, followed by a German occupation that spelled genocide for the Jews.

After his mother was sent to the death camp at Belzec, young Witold knew he couldn’t survive if he stayed in Lwow. So he went to Warsaw, all alone at 16, struggling to pass as an Aryan.