In November 1940, days after the Nazis sealed 450,000 Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto, a secret band of journalists, scholars and community leaders decided to fight back. Led by historian Emanuel Ringelblum and known by the code name Oyneg Shabes, this clandestine group vowed to defeat Nazi lies and propaganda not with guns or fists but with pen and paper.
Now, for the first time, their story is told as a feature documentary. Written, produced and directed by our Temple Israel of Hollywood member, Roberta Grossman, and executive produced by Nancy Spielberg, Who Will Write Our History mixes the writings of the Oyneg Shabes archive with new interviews, rarely seen footage and stunning dramatizations to transport us inside the Ghetto and the lives of these courageous resistance fighters. They defied their murderous enemy with the ultimate weapon – the truth – and risked everything so that their archive would survive the war, even if they did not.
I learned of Ringelblum’s project in the late 1960s, but few people know the extraordinary story – until now. The Oyneg Shabes documents are the produce of more than a dozen Jewish writers, journalists and historians who were captives in the Warsaw Ghetto. They wanted to tell the story of the ghetto and not leave it to the Nazis to tell the story. When the uprising began and the writers knew that they likely would not survive, they buried in three metal milk containers all their documents. One of them, however, did survive, and after the war when the Warsaw Ghetto had been completely destroyed by the Nazis, she was able to lead rescuers to two of the three milk cans.
That provides the basis for Roberta Grossman’s film. Roberta is an award winning documentary film maker who became completely engrossed in this project, as she does with every film she conceives, writes, directs, and produces.
A disclaimer – Roberta is a friend, but the film should be seen by everyone who seeks uplift even from the ashes of the Holocaust. This is a film not to miss.
If you live in Los Angeles, we will be hosting a showing of the film for the Los Angeles Jewish Film Festival in our own synagogue theater on Tuesday, May 7 at 7 PM.
If you live elsewhere, be sure to watch the film. It will be one you will not forget.