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January 21, 2017 / 23 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Ringelblum Archives’

Newly Translated Book On The Warsaw Ghetto

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

Many books have been written about the Warsaw Ghetto in the 66 years since its destruction. There have been reports, memoirs, studies, albums and movies of all kinds that have tried to tell the story of what happened. But to date for the English speaker the story was never complete.


We had bits and pieces of the story, we were able to see parts of the ghetto wall that still exist but the exact location of the complete wall always seemed a mystery. We had excerpts of the Ringelblum Archives but what life was like in the ghetto was still difficult to comprehend for the average reader who did not have a complete library at his or her disposal.


The Warsaw Ghetto: A Guide to the Perished City, by Barbara Engelking and Jacek Leociak, published by Yale University Press is a monumental work that brings all the material together in one volume. First published in Polish, the book is now available in English.


It took years of research in Poland and Israel, in the archives of the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, Yad Vashem and Kibbutz Lochamei HaGeta’ot in Israel to painstakingly bring together the full story of the horrific period of the Warsaw Ghetto. Other sources, such as the Polish State Archives and the Warsaw City Archives, were also invaluable in the source material.


The authors explore the history of the ghetto’s evolution, the actual daily experience of its thousands of inhabitants from its creation in 1940 to its liquidation following the uprising of 1943. Encyclopedic in scope, the book encompasses a range of topics from food supplies to education, religious activities to the Jundenrat’s administration. Separate chapters deal with the mass deportations to Treblinka and the famous uprising.


Even the technical material is brought to life with a number of rarely seen photographs and charts. A series of original maps shows the boundaries of the ghetto with streets shown as they were before the city was nearly destroyed at the end of the war. Present-day streets are superimposed onto the map, and even to one familiar with the area, I was very surprised at the changes shown on the map.


We learn the biographies, names of the people, who were activists, archivists, cantors, policemen, actors, musicians, teachers and politicians. These were the heroic residents of the ghetto; people who would not have been remembered in most English language books on the subject.


A glossary of terms and concepts is a valuable addition that helps the reader, not only of this volume, but any book on the Holocaust. Terms in Hebrew, Yiddish, Polish and German are included. From Agudah to ZZW (Zydyowski Zwiazek Wojskowy: Jewish Military Union) the words and terminology are covered with a clear explanation, many of which cannot be found in most other glossaries.


A bibliography of sources is also included. Some will think that this section is the most valuable of all the indexes. These 40 pages are full of sources that scholars can look for to further their research on particular interests. The index cites not just published works but records found in various archives around the world with exact referencing. The list of published works is almost a complete list of all the material ever published on the Warsaw Ghetto.



      The Warsaw Ghetto: A Guide to the Perished City, by Barbara Engelking and Jacek Leociak, is an important work that belongs in any library where there is interest in the Holocaust

Shmuel Ben Eliezer

Who Will Write Our History?: Emanuel Ringelblum, The Warsaw Ghetto, And The Oyneg Shabes Archive

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

         Over the past 12 years that I have been writing this column I discussed the Ringelblum Archives numerous times. The first article was when I saw the archives and the efforts to preserve them. I also wrote about them when a portion went on exhibit in New York, as well as when there was a renewed search for the remaining missing parts on the grounds of the Chinese Embassy in Warsaw.


         I have been fascinated by the very idea, contents and testimony to bravery of the archives, and the group that collected the material in the Warsaw Ghetto. However, I have to admit that I know only a small part of the story.  


         There are numerous books on the Ringelblum Archives. While they all have sections on Dr. Ringelblum, and the other collectors, most of the work focuses on the collection itself.                 


           Last week the Polish Consulate in N.Y. hosted a book signing and lecture for Who Will Write Our History?: Emanuel Ringelblum, the Warsaw Ghetto, and the Oyneg Shabes Archive, authored by Samuel D. Kassow. He is considered the foremost expert on Emanuel Ringelblum and the Oyneg Shabes underground historical group of the Warsaw Ghetto.



(Seated): Samuel D. Kassow with Mr. Sigmund Rolat, Supporter of many projects promoting the Jewish history of Poland. (Standing): Maxine L. Rockoff of the American Society for Jewish Heritage in Poland.



         Mr. Kossow’s book is the first to concentrate on the story of how the collectors and collection came about.


         While Ringelblum is best known for the archives he was also its innovator and involved in many other projects. There were the schools, the soup kitchens and neighborhood-organizing committees. Oyneg Shabes also sponsored essay writing by students, whose entries made their way into the archive.


         During the lecture at the Polish Consulate, which was co-sponsored by the American Society for Jewish Heritage in Poland, Kossow quoted the founder of the Yivo Institute, Shimon Dubnow, who as he was being taken away, cried out, “Schrieb (Write).”


         He knew it was important that the world know the truth of what happened to the Jews of Poland. Dr. Ringelblum and his fellow zammlers (collectors) took his plea a step further. Writing the history is not enough if it is not preserved for people to read. Dr. Ringelblum believed that the world must hear the truth from the side of Jews, not only the Germans.


         During the Shoah the Jews of Warsaw were forced into silence but as David Graber, one of those whose responsibility was to bury the archive, said, “What we were unable to cry and shriek out to the world, we buried in the ground…. I would love to see the moment in which the great treasure is dug up and screams the truth to the world.”


         These words were written as Mr. Garber was preparing to bury the last of the archive, watching the Germans advance, knowing what his ultimate fate would be. That he would not be around to scream the truth to the world. That job he bequeathed to the future generations.


         Who Will Write Our History?: Emanuel Ringelblum, the Warsaw Ghetto, and the Oyneg Shabbos Archive, is an important book for all libraries. People of all races and faiths should read this book. The lessons of altruism found within show that good will prevail over evil, and knowledge and memory have to be passed on to the next generation.


         Samuel D. Kassow’s book, Who Will Write Our History? has been selected by the Jewish Book Council as runner-up for the 2007 National Jewish Book Award. This award is given to books that enlarge the whole enterprise of Jewish scholarship and contribute to informed living, understanding, and entertainment for the entire English-reading world.


         Samuel D. Kassow is the Charles Northam Professor of History at Trinity College. He is author of Students, Professors, and the State in Tsarist Russia, 1884-1917 and editor (with Edith W. Clowes) of Between Tsar and People: The Search for a Public Identity in Tsarist Russia. He lives in Hartford, Connecticut.


         Who Will Write Our History?: Emanuel Ringelblum, the Warsaw Ghetto, and the Oyneg Shabes Archive

By Samuel D. Kassow

Indiana University Press

ISBN-13: 978-0-253-34908-8


Shmuel Ben Eliezer

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/who-will-write-our-history-emanuel-ringelblum-the-warsaw-ghetto-and-the-oyneg-shabes-archive/2008/01/30/

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