The Passenger

Andrzej Munk

Poland, 1963


The film tells a story of two women, one of which was a prisoner in the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp, and the other one – an SS woman who served there.
The action takes place in two different timeframes: the present day, aboard a transatlantic passenger ship, and during the war, through long retrospective fragments from the concentration camp.
Among the numerous passengers of the ship, there is a German couple, Walter and Liza. Walter does not know much about his wife’s past, but their marriage is still a happy one. At of the ports the ship calls in, a young woman gets on board. She reminds Liza of someone whom she knew long time ago, when she has been serving in Auschwitz. The encounter brings back the memories from her life in the camp, in particular those concerning one of female prisoners with whom she used to have a complex and ambiguous relationship. The protagonist, against her own will, thinks back to those eventful days.


Andrzej Munk

Andrzej Munk (born October 16, 1921, died September 20, 1961) – a Polish film and theatre director, a representative of the so-called “Polish school of cinematography,” a documentary film-maker.

In 1947 he started his studies at the National Higher School of Film, Television and Theatre in Łódź. In 1951 he graduated as a director, although originally he wanted to become a cameraman. He was connected with the Łódź Film School also later. In the period 1957-61 he was a lecturer there.

For five years following his graduation he was employed at the Documentary Film Studio, first as a cameraman of the Polish Newsreel, and then as a director of documentaries.

Andrzej Munk’s feature films are characterized by his unique, innovative approach to the issue of Polish heroism and the national mythology. In contrast to Andrzej Wajda, Munk presented the most important problems of the post-war reality with a detached eye of a documentary film-maker. His method of developing characters or the narrative often resulted in his films’ bordering on satire or grotesque and Bad Luck (Polish: Zezowate szczęście) was even made in a comedy style.

Andrzej Munk died on the 20th of September 1961 in a car crash near Łomża. He was buried at the Powązki Military Cemetery in Warsaw.

Since 1965 the Film School in Łódź has been awarding the best debutants of the year the Andrzej Munk Prize.


Documentary films:
  • Sztuka młodych (The Art of the Youth – 1950)
  • Nauka bliżej życia (Science Closer to Life – 1951)
  • Kierunek – Nowa Huta! (Direction – Nowa Huta! – 1951)
  • Pamiętniki chłopów (Peasants’ Diaries – 1952)
  • Bajka (Fable – 1952)
  • Kolejarskie słowo (Railman’s Word – 1953)
  • Gwiazdy muszą płonąć (Stars Must Burn – 1954)
  • Niedzielny poranek (Sunday Morning – 1955)
  • Spacerek staromiejski (A Stroll around the Old Town – 1958)
Feature films:
  •  “Błękitny krzyż” (“Blue Cross” – 1955)
  • “Man on the Tracks” (Polish: “Człowiek na torze” – 1956)
  • “Eroica” (1957)
  •  “Bad Luck” (Polish: „Zezowate szczęście” – 1959)
  • “The Passenger” (Polish: “Pasażerka” – 1963)


Director: Andrzej Munk

Writing Credits: Andrzej Munk, Zofia Posmysz

Art Direction: Krzysztof Winiewicz

Music: Tadeusz Baird

Colour: Black and White

Duration: 58’, 62 Full Version

Aleksandra Śląska,
Anna Ciepielewska,
Jan Kreczmar,
Marek Walczewski

• 1964 – Cannes (International Film Festival) – FIPRESCI award
• 1964 – Cannes (International Film Festival) – Jury’s Special Honorary Award
• 1964 – Los Alamos (International Film Festival of the Fighters for Peace) – best actress award for Anna Ciepielewska
• 1964 – Venice (International Film Festival) – Association of Italian Journalists’ Award
• 1965 – Helsinki – Association of Film Critics’ Award
• The 15th Czechoslovakia Festival of People of Labour in Prague, Grand Prize
• Czechoslovakian Association of Anti-Nazi Fighters’ Award
• 1963 – Polish Film Critics’ “Warsaw Mermaid” award for the best Polish feature film


Konrad Eberhardt, Przeciw niepamięci, Film, 1963, issue 40

Krzysztof Winiewicz, Wspomnienia o Andrzeju Munku [in:] Andrzej Munk, collective work edited by A. Jackiewicz, Warsaw 1964

Zofia Magdziak, Mija 50 lat od premiery filmu “Pasażerka”–Pasazerka-.html#ap-1

Wiktor Woroszylski, Nad “Pasażerką”, Film, 1963, issue 38.  Paulina Kwiatkowska, Od słowa do obrazy, czyli o powstaniu filmu Pasażerka Andrzeja Munka, Mu z y k a l i a III, Conference papers 3.


Andrzej Munk is recollected by Anna Ciepielewska, who played the role of Marta in The Passenger:
“Sometimes he made me cry and even starved me so I could feel what hunger is, but he could be also caring on the set.”


The origins of the script of The Passenger
As in the case of most of works of literature concerning the camp reality, the inspiration for The Passenger was the personal experience of the author, who had been imprisoned in Auschwitz for three years, up to the camp’s liberation.
Zofia Posmysz recollects that in the fifties of the previous century she carefully kept trace of the fate of former members of the SS, especially those from the Auschwitz camp. Even then she wondered what she would have done if she ever had met a former overseer or, for example, had been called as a witness in a trial of one of them.
She was also curious what people whom she remembered from the camp thought about their own past and about themselves in that situation so many years after the war.
However, the direct stimulus to write the first version of the radio play was a brief encounter with a group of Germans, one of whom was a woman whose voice was almost identical as the voice of Posmysz’s overseer in Auschwitz. Even though it was not the same person, the shock was extreme.
However, it also gave rise to the idea of creating a work that would show emotions and inner dilemmas of a former SS woman who is forced to re-evaluate her own past almost fifteen years after the war.
Zofia Posmysz was from the very beginning interested first of all in the present-day conflict, in showing how then, after years of peace, an SS woman could perceive herself and her own part in the structures of the death camp.

Paulina Kwiatkowska, Od słowa do obrazy, czyli
o powstaniu filmu Pasażerka Andrzeja Munka,
Muzykalia III, Conference papers 3



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