“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 will be dug up and scream the truth at the world. So the world may know ….We would be the fathers, the teachers and educators of the future….May the treasure fall into good hands, may it last into better times, may it alarm and alert the world to what happened…in the twentieth century….May history attest for us.”
—Dawid Graber, age 19, August 2, 1942, Warsaw Ghetto
912 days of the Warsaw Ghetto (2001) was commissioned by the The Jewish Historical Institute [also known as the Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute] located in Warsaw, Poland. Narration is by Władysław Bartoszewski [1922–2015], a noted journalist, social activist and politician, and an honorary citizen of Israel, who was part of the Polish underground and who participated in the Warsaw Uprising. Stanford University writes of this documentary: “They present the daily lives and deaths of those imprisoned in the ghetto, their hopes and efforts to survive, their armed resistance and struggle, and finally their total extermination. Unique Polish and German archival materials were used in the preparation of these films. Before World War II, Warsaw was the biggest Jewish community in Europe and second largest in the world after New York; over 380,000 Jews lived there. It was the most important center of Jewish culture in Poland and one of the most important in the world.”
An important point that should be noted is that there was considerable Jewish resistance, and there were heroic actions by many Jews against Nazi German oppression—a point that I will flesh out in greater detail in future posts. Survival under such brutal conditions is itself a daily defiance of evil—it ought never be viewed as insignificant or made redundant in recounting the “greater narrative” of The Second World War.
Contributing substantially to our understanding and appreciation of such efforts is the documentary record of the Ringelblum Archive and the heroic actions of the Oyneg Shabes group to preserve the historical record, and whose contributions are undeniably important to the record of the Holocaust in general and to the memory of the Jews of Warsaw in particular. Ir zent ale heldn. At a time when, in some quarters, facts are viewed with suspicion and not only questioned but subverted, it is imperative to have the facts before us to keep us sane.