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The Legacy of Emanuel Ringelblum

March 7, 2018

Dr. Emanuel Ringelblum, who helped create a secret archive of documents about life and death in the Warsaw Ghetto, was executed with his family by the Nazis, amid the Ghetto’s ruins, on this date in 1944. Ringelblum had kept a descriptive diary, Notes from the Warsaw Ghetto, which survived his death. He had also organized a group, called Oyneg Shabes (or Oneg Shabbat), meaning “Joy of the Sabbath,” which collected materials, at great risk, about the daily details of ghetto existence. The materials, including official records, underground newspapers, posters, personal journals, photographs, and drawings, were then sealed into metal containers and milk cans, which the group buried in 1942 and 1943 in various locations throughout the Ghetto. Nineteen-year-old David Graber included a note explaining their motivation: “The men who buried the archives know that they may not survive to see the moment when the treasure is dug up and the whole truth proclaimed . . . What we were unable to scream out to the world, we have concealed under the ground.” Two of three sections of the archive — some 6,000 documents — were recovered (in 1946 and 1950) to serve as unsurpassed testimony about Nazi atrocities, the struggle to survive, and the final uprising of 1943. The third section, which was to be hidden just prior to the uprising, is still missing. In November 2017, the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, Poland, opened a permanent exhibition dedicated to the “Ringelblum Archive.”

“Let us hope that the bricks and cement of our experience and our understanding will be able to provide a foundation.” —Emanuel Ringelblum

From the Jewish Currents Archive: Excerpt from Emanuel Ringelblum’s Warsaw Ghetto Diary