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Mieczysław Bil-Bilażewski

Not much is known about the life of Mieczysław Bil-Bilażewski. Surviving portraits show a young, handsome man with elaborate haircut. He was a film cameraman, actor, film director, but first of all a photographer. Born in Poznań, he first worked as a press photo reporter. Around 1930 he moved to Warsaw where he opened a photographic studio M. Bill, taking pictures of celebrity actors and theatre spectacles. About the same time his film adventure started. As early as 1930 he took part in aerial footage for The Stellar Squadron. Later he shot pictures and acted in episodes in popular movies, incl. Everybody May Love, General Pankratow’s Daughter and Love Manoeuvres. In 1938-39, as a cameraman and director, he produced a series of short propaganda documentaries on Gdańsk, Gdynia and Lwów, including Lwów Yesterday And Today, The Seagull Trail, Our Harbour Gdynia and Poland in  Gdańsk. Mieczysław Bil-Bilażewski also possessed sound-imitating skills: he produced voices of animals and sounds of nature for radio broadcasts. He appeared in Podwieczorki przy mikrofonie (The Microphone Tea Party) – a popular programme of the Warsaw Broadcasting Station. During German occupation he continued with his photographic studio, taking pictures during spectacles of the German Theatre of the City of Warsaw and of Polish theatres controlled by German authorities, as well as propaganda pictures and coverage of German celebrations. For a while he stayed with his family in Vienna. After the war he returned to Warsaw. He died on April 2, 1965 in a hospital in Cibórz near Poznań. 

 
  • Pictures of Mieczysław Bil-Bilażewski show German celebrations and Warsaw Ghetto scenes. A set of pictures of Warsaw under German occupation was found among Stanisław Bagiński’s souvenirs, a photographer and filmmaker from the time of the Warsaw Uprising. Large prints were carefully backed with grey paper which, when removed, revealed author’s stamp: Mieczysław Bil-Bilażewski, and, on some, a signature “Bil” in soft blue pencil. Mieczysław Bil-Bilażewski was most probably with the permission of German authorities to take pictures of Warsaw Ghetto. Similar documentaries were made by German photographers, Ludwig Knobloch and Albert Cusian, whose works may be found in  Federal Archives in Koblenz. The subject of all these pictures was not accidental. Crowded streets of the ghetto, people lying on pavements next to café advertising boards, flea market and finally heaps of dead bodies in mass graves… All these pictures were not meant to arouse compassion – quite contrary, showing poverty in the ghetto had to stimulate aversion towards the Jews. The juxtaposition of contrasts, favoured by propaganda – e.g. in a picture showing smartly dressed young people passing by a beggar lying on the ground – is intended to illustrate an alleged lack of solidarity. Today these pictures are a shocking document of past events and a proof of planned homicide.
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