“Who Will Write Our History” recounts a bold story of Nazi resistance. And inside that one story are countless others, each immensely important.
After German forces imprisoned hundreds of thousands of Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto, a band of writers and scholars code-named Oyneg Shabes (“The Joys of Shabbat”) began a mission to smuggle reports of atrocities to the outside world, and to document their lives and culture in the hope that they would be remembered.
Led by the historian Emanuel Ringelblum, the men and women recorded eyewitness accounts and collected items — drawings, posters, poems — from daily life during the Holocaust. They sealed thousands of pages in containers, which they buried beneath buildings not long before the ghetto was burned and almost everyone there murdered.
According to the film, of some 60 members of the Oyneg Shabes, only three survived until the end of World War II. Their work was nearly lost as well — portions of the archive had to be excavated from underneath tons of rubble after the war. Parts are still missing. A note at the end tells us that in 1999, Unesco added three collections from Poland into its Memory of the World Register: The scientific works of Copernicus, the masterpieces of Chopin and the Oyneg Shabes archives.
“What we were unable to cry and shriek out to the world, we buried in the ground,” wrote Dawid Graber, 19, who left his last will and testament in one of the containers. He soon died in the liquidation of the ghetto. Stories like his tell of both enormous sorrow and extraordinary determination.