Who Will Write Our History will be told from the point of view of Oyneg Shabes members through their writings. In addition to Ringelblum, the “main characters” of the film will be Rachel Auerbach, Rabbi Shimon Huberman and Abraham Lewin. The story of the Archive and of the Warsaw Ghetto will be woven together from their writings. Their powerful, in-the-moment, eyewitness reporting from Hell will be voiced in the film by well-known actors. These actors will be heard, not seen in the film.
Emanuel Ringelblum (1900-1944) 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. While writing scholarly books and articles in Polish and Yiddish on Polish Jewish history, running YIVO’s historical section and teaching classes for Poalei Zion youth, Ringelblum supported his family by teaching history at a Jewish girls’ school.
A member of the Polish-Jewish literary elite, Rachel Auerbach (1903-1976) ran a soup kitchen in the Warsaw Ghetto while simultaneously, in her writing, recording the voices of its inhabitants. She ultimately survived the war by passing as a non-Jew on the Arayan side of Warsaw. After helping to find and preserve the Archive after the war, Auerbach moved to Israel in 1950. She worked at Yad Vashem where she devoted the remainder of her life to gathering testimony from survivors as founder and director of the Department for the Collection of Witness Testimony. Auerbach was a key figure in the Eichmann Trial, helping to ground the prosecution’s case in survivor testimony. Auerbach continued to write about Ringelblum, the Archive and her wartime experiences in two memoirs and many articles published in Yiddish and Hebrew.
Rabbi Shimon Huberband
Rabbi Shimon Huberband (1909-1942) was an historian and rabbi. At the start of the war, his wife and son were killed in a German bombing raid. In early 1940, he came to Warsaw and encountered Ringelblum, whom he knew from before the war through his work in YIVO´s Warsaw office. Rabbi Huberband was appointed head of the religious department of the Jewish self-help network, and was also a central figure on the Oyneg Shabes staff. In addition to documenting religious life during the war, Rabbi Huberband also researched many other topics including the fate of various shtetls and towns, their inhabitants, synagogues and religious treasures. Rabbi Huberband and his second wife were murdered in Treblinka in August 1942.
Abraham Lewin (1893-1943) was a school teacher who kept a record of the terrible events and conditions in the Warsaw Ghetto during the war. Part of Abraham Lewin’s diary, covering the period from April 1942 to January 1943, was found hidden in one of the Archive milk cans after the war. The diary was published in English in 1990 and is considered one of the most important documents in the Archive for its keen observations, literary skill and invaluable contribution to our understanding of the experiences of Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto.