main street

The Shop on Main Street

The Shop on Main Street (Czech/Slovak: Obchod na korze) is a 1965 Slovak, Czech, and Czechoslovak film about the Aryanization programme during World War II in the Slovak State.

The film was written by Ladislav Grosman and directed by Ján Kadár and Elmar Klos. It was funded by Czechoslovakia's central authorities (as were all films under communism), produced at the Barrandov Film Studio in Prague, the Czech Republic, and filmed with a Slovak cast on location at the town of Sabinov in north-eastern Slovakia and on the Barrandov sound stage. It stars Jozef Kroner as carpenter Tono Brtko and Polish actress Ida Kamińska as the Jewish widow Rozália Lautmannová.

The film won the 1965 Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film, and Kamińska was nominated in 1966 for Best Actress in a Leading Role.


During World War II, a mild-mannered Slovak carpenter Tono Brtko (Jozef Kroner) is offered the chance to take over the sewing notions store of an old, near-deaf Jewish woman Rozália Lautmannová (Ida Kamińska) as a part of the enactment of an Aryanization regulation in the town. As Tono attempts to explain to Mrs. Lautmannová, who is oblivious of the world outside and generally confused, that he has come to be her supervisor and owner of the store, Imrich Kuchár (Martin Hollý, Sr.), a Slovak opponent of Aryanization, steps in and reveals to Brtko that the business itself is less than profitable, as Lautmannová herself relies on donations. The Jewish community then offers the amiable Brtko a weekly payment if he does not give up the store, which would otherwise be given to a new, possibly ruthless Aryanizer. Tono accepts and lets Mrs. Lautmannová believe he is her nephew who has come to help in the store. Their relationship grows, until the authorities round up the town's entire Jewish population for transport, and Tono finds himself conflicted as to whether he should turn in the senile Mrs. Lautmannová, or hide her. When the woman finally becomes aware of the "pogrom" all around her, she panics, and in attempting to silence her, Tono accidentally kills her. The realization devastates him, and he hangs himself.


The screenplay had a bilingual CzechSlovak history. The screenwriter Ladislav Grosman (1921-1981) was born and grew up in Slovakia. He became proficient in Czech after he moved to Czechoslovakia's Czech-speaking part in his late twenties, where he worked as a correspondent and editor in the Prague Bureau of the Slovak newspaper Pravda published in Bratislava, and later in the Slovak Book bookstore in Prague. Grosman published his precursor to the screenplay, the short story "The Trap" (Past), in Czech in 1962. Only three of its themes made it into the film. He subsequently reworked and expanded it, still in Czech, as a literary-narrative screenplay published in 1964 under the title "The Shop on Main Street" (Obchod na korze), which already contained the film's storyline, although not in the usual (American) screenplay format. He then reworked it into a shooting script with Slovak dialogues in cooperation with the film's designated directors Ján Kadár and Elmar Klos. The only other language in the film is Yiddish (sometimes misidentified as German) limited to several lines that Mrs. Lautmannová mutters to herself. Her Hebrew reading from the siddur is indistinct.


Actor Role
Jozef Kroner (1924-1998) Anton "Tono" Brtko, carpenter
Ida Kamińska (1899-1980) Rozália Lautmannová, button-store owner
Hana Slivková (1923-1984) Evelína Brtková, Tono's wife
Martin Hollý Sr. (1904-1965) Imrich Kuchár, accountant and resistance member
František Zvarík (1921-2008) Markuš Kolkotský, town commander
Elena Pappová-Zvaríková (1935-1974) Ružena "Róžika" Kolkotská, his wife and Evelína's sister
Adam Matejka (1905-1988) Piti-báči (Uncle Piti), town crier
Martin Gregor (1906-1982) Mr. Katz, barber
František Papp (1930-1983) Mr. Andorič, railroad employee and Rozália's neighbor
Gita Mišurová (b. 1929) Mrs. Andoričová, his wife
Eugen Senaj (1901-1981) Mr. Blau, publisher and Jewish community treasurer
Lujza Grossová (1917-1981) Mrs. Eliášová, Rozália's neighbor
J. Mittelmann Daniel "Danko" Eliáš, her son
Mikuláš Ladžinský (1923-1987) Marian Peter, paramilitary guard officer
Alojz Kramár (1916-1985) Balko-báči (Uncle Balko), brass-band conductor
Tibor Vadaš (1908-1987) Tobacconist

The Shop on Main Street was filmed on location at the town of Sabinov in north-eastern Slovakia with numerous local extras whose voices bring in hints of the eastern regional variety of Slovak. Ida Kamińska's Polish accent is employed to the same effect.


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