Jewish refugees wait in a soup line as the ghetto walls close around them. Warsaw Ghetto, c. 1940. Photographer: Foto Forbert Courtesy of the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee
A short time after Warsaw was occupied by the Germans, the Jewish community organized a social welfare committee known as the Żydowska Samopomoc Społeczna (Jewish Social Self-Help), or the ZSS, in order to provide social assistance to the Jewish residents. Dr. Emanuel Ringelblum became a major leader of the ZSS, the key relief organization in the Warsaw ghetto. Funding for the activities came primarily from the JDC (American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee) office located in Warsaw. Until December of 1941, the JDC’s aid activities focused on opening public soup kitchens and distributing food to the needy, on taking care of thousands of Jewish refugees who were pouring into Warsaw, and establishing institutions for child care. In addition to funds, the JDC sent food packages and clothing from the USA to Jews in Warsaw, and these were distributed to the ZSS and other organizations, such as TOZ (Society for the Protection of the Health of the Jewish Population).
"Perhaps the single most important collection of Holocaust documents are those preserved in the Oyneg Shabes Archive. Most documentaries about the Holocaust depend on German propaganda photographs and films and on video interviews with survivors today. What the Oyneg Shabes Archive offers is of a completely different order—and no documentary has ever shown this story."
"This may well be the most important story about history that you will ever hear. It is the story of an extraordinary man and his research project in the Warsaw Ghetto between 1940 and 1943. It is a tale about why history matters and why it is worth dying for. It’s the story of Emanuel Ringelblum and [the Oyneg Shabes Archive], the astonishing secret archives of the Warsaw Ghetto that was his creation.”
—Peter N. Miller review of Samuel Kassow’s Who Will Write Our History in The New Republic, April 9th, 2008
For three years, under the direction of historian Emanuel Ringelblum, 60 writers, poets, economists, sociologists, rabbis, and activists, collaborated on an extensive program of scholarly self-study in the very depths of hell. They called their secret collective, the Oyneg Shabes. On the eve of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, Ringelblum signaled for the last part of the Oyneg Shabes Archive to be buried in metal boxes and milk cans. Two of the three caches of the Archive were discovered after the war in 1946 and 1950. The Archive is on the UNESCO list of the world’s most valuable documents.
The Archives contain an astonishing 30,000+ pages of material: scholarly essays on hunger, women and children in the Ghetto, photographs, poems, underground newspapers, arm bands, invitations to a play at a Ghetto orphanage, food ration cards showing the starvation rations of the Ghetto—a real time, unfiltered record of Warsaw Jewry’s struggle to survive in Hell.
Born on November 21st, 1900, in Buczacz, Poland (now Ukraine), Emanuel Ringelblum was among a group of young Jewish historians between the wars who sought to tell the untold 1,000-year story of the Jews of Poland. A lifelong and devoted member of Poalei Zion, a left-wing Jewish party, Ringelblum saw history as a collective enterprise based in part on the gathering of primary documents from the Jewish “folk.” A staunch Yiddishist, Ringelblum was one of the founding members of the YIVO, an organization established in 1925 to preserve the Yiddish language and study the cultural history of Jewish life throughout Eastern Europe.
Interviews will be conducted with scholars in Israel, Poland, and the United States. B-roll and recreations will be shot in Poland and Israel.
We anticipate doing major production work in Warsaw in May 2016, followed by a year of editing. The film's release date should be sometime in 2018.
Who Will Write Our History is intended for festivals, limited theatrical release, U.S. and international broadcast, DVD and on-line distribution. Educational distribution will be facilitated with the production of a study-guide and a classroom length version of the film.
Donation Related Questions
Pre-production fundraising was provided by private donors. We are seeking additional donors for the next phase of fundraising for production as well as applying for government and educational grant funding.
Every donor will receive credit on the website. Donations of $180 or more will be acknowledged in the film's credits.
Yes! We welcome all donations in any amount.
Katahdin Productions is a nonprofit, 501(C)(3) film production company. All donations to Katahdin for Who Will Write Our History are tax deductible to the extent allowed by law.
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