Film

How did the Warsaw Ghetto resist Nazi propaganda?

New film to be screened in Taos shows how they created an archive of truth

By Ariana Kramer
tempo@taosnews.com
Posted 5/8/19

In the face of systemic, legalized, governmental oppression that targets you, your family, your community -- what can you do? The film "Who Will Write Our History?" shows us.

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Film

How did the Warsaw Ghetto resist Nazi propaganda?

New film to be screened in Taos shows how they created an archive of truth

Posted

In the face of systemic, legalized, governmental oppression that targets you, your family, your community -- what can you do? The film "Who Will Write Our History?" shows us.

The award-winning film tells the little-known story of a secret group of journalists, scholars and community leaders who resisted the German Nazis during the World War II era. Confined with 450,000 other Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto in November 1940, this group led by historian Emanuel Ringelbaum vowed to defeat Nazi lies and propaganda by recording the truth as it unfolded. Risking their lives, they called themselves "Oyneg Shabes" (Joy of the Sabbath) and sealed their records in a buried archive for future generations to find.

"Who Will Write Our History?" will be screened Saturday (May 11), 7 p.m., at the Taos Community Auditorium, 145 Paseo del Pueblo Norte. Admission is free. The event, presented by the Taos Jewish Center, is a tribute to Yom HaShoah (Holocaust Remembrance Day) and Yom Ha'atzmaut (Israel Independence Day).

"This is really a unique opportunity for Taos. This is the first run in major U.S. cities," noted Dr. Neal Friedman, president of the Taos Jewish Center board of directors. "This is our opportunity in Taos to not only pay our respects to the people who died in the Holocaust and the Resistance but our chance to internalize the story and really think about how we apply these lessons to our lives."

Friedman was the college roommate of Sam Kassow's cousin. Sam Kassow authored the book "Who Will Write Our History? Rediscovering a Hidden Archive from the Warsaw Ghetto" (2009 paperback ed.), which focuses on the Oyneg Shabes archive. Kassow's book became the basis for the film written, directed and produced by Roberta Grossman and executive produced by Nancy Spielberg.

Born in a camp for displaced persons in Germany after World War II, Kassow was the son of parents who were active members of the Jewish-Polish underground. He grew up hearing stories of Jewish resistance efforts against the Nazis. These stories were little-known by the rest of the world. Kassow became an American historian of the Holocaust. He earned his doctorate from Princeton University and taught as a professor at Trinity College for many years.

The Oyneg Shabes archives documented the testimonies of Warsaw residents and refugees from other locations. They were collected between 1939 and 1943 and buried in secret in metal boxes and milk cans. The testimonies were meant to survive, even if those who wrote them were killed. The archives were unearthed in 1946 and 1950 and some still remain buried.

The film "Who Will Write Our History?" features writings from the Oyneg Shabes archive, new interviews, rare footage and dramatizations to tell the story of these Warsaw Ghetto resistance fighters who used pen and paper to fight oppression with truth.

"The concept of many people is that the Jews were herded and basically didn't resist being slaughtered, whereas the truth is there were multiple resistance groups and uprisings, and this is the most well-documented," Friedman said.

"This is a landmark film that has a lot of layers of history that people can learn from," Friedman said. "I think it's an important film to watch for anyone who is interested in World War II, in Jewish history and the Holocaust. It is particularly important for people who don't know much about the Holocaust because it really is a lesson in what the Holocaust was, the effect it had on the people going through it and the fact there was this incredible resistance which held out long after people thought it would be destroyed. It's a lesson about not letting dictators and tyranny go unanswered."

The Oyneg Shabes archive is now preserved in the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw. It includes materials from the underground press, photographs, memoirs, essays and more. It is also available in digital format through the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's archives.

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum's website (ushmm.org) has more information about the archives, as well as this quote recorded from David Graber, who was age 19 on August 2, 1942 and lived in the Warsaw Ghetto.

"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 20th century … May history attest for us."

For more information, call (575) 770-6948 or visit whowillwriteourhistory.com.

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