“The Oyneg Shabes Archive is perhaps the most important collection of original material compiled by Jews during the Holocaust. . . . Conscious of the momentous times in which they lived and of the deadly peril facing the Jews of Europe, [participants in the project] were determined to chronicle all aspects of life in the ghetto to serve as a record for the future.”
— Antony Polonsky, editor of Polin
Recipient, American Society of Archivists’ Waldo Gifford Leland certificate of commendation.
Retrieved after World War II from metal boxes and milk cans buried beneath the ruins of the Warsaw Ghetto, the Oyneg Shabes–Ringelblum Archive was clandestinely compiled between 1940 and 1943 under the leadership of historian Emanuel Ringelblum. Members of the secret Oyneg Shabes organization gathered thousands of testimonies from natives of Warsaw and refugees from hundreds of other localities, creating a documentary record of the wartime fate of Polish Jewry. Now housed in the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, the archive comprises some 35,000 pages, including documents, materials from the underground press, photographs, memoirs, belles lettres, and much more. This first comprehensive description of its contents is meticulously indexed to facilitate location of documents and information. By aiding access to this unique archival treasure, the catalog and guide advance study of the daily lives, struggles, and sufferings of Polish Jews at a crucial time and place in the history of the Holocaust.
“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 al….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
The entire Ringelblum Archive, included in UNESCO’s “Memory of the World” Register, is available to researchers in digital format in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Archives and at the Jewish Historical Institute, Warsaw.
“….Ringelblum also wanted to cast a ‘stone under history’s wheel.’ He was absolutely convinced that the story of Jewish suffering, no matter how terrible, was a universal, not just a Jewish story. And evil, no matter how great, could not be placed outside history. The archive could … become a weapon in the struggle for a better future. Even though he … knew that most Polish Jews would not survive, he … continued the Oyneg Shabes…. One of his most important goals was to explain for future historians the behavior of the “Jewish masses” during the war….”
— from the introduction by Samuel D. Kassow
“Invaluable….An important work that should be of great value to scholars.”
— Carl J. Rheins, Jewish Book World
Robert Moses Shapiro is Associate Professor of Judaic Studies, Brooklyn College, City University of New York. He is the translator and editor of Łódź Ghetto: A History by Isaiah Trunk.
Tadeusz Epsztein, a Polish historian, is an associate of the Polish Academy of Sciences and the Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw.
Samuel D. Kassow, Charles Northam Professor of History at Trinity College, is author of Who Will Write Our History? Emanuel Ringelblum, the Warsaw Ghetto, and the Oyneg Shabes Archive.