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TIME CAPSULES: Writings from the Warsaw Ghetto
Time Capsules: Writings from the Warsaw Ghetto is a moving, informative and even timely book about resistance to tyranny. David G. Roskies has curated eighteen selections from the Ringelblum Archive, a contemporaneous record of the catastrophe that was the Warsaw Ghetto. The voices, translated from Yiddish, Hebrew and Polish, are from a cross-section of Polish Jewry that includes chroniclers, poets and prose writers, a playwright, a visual artist, a Chassidic rabbi. This collection, which is for a general readership, carries the material of history and the power of art. Each of the individual entries has a distinct quality and tone, but this assemblage is much more than the sum of its parts. The writings are bracketed by David Roskies’ introduction and Samuel D. Kassow’s afterword, both of which are superb and invaluable.
The Ringelblum Archive was generated and preserved by a clandestine group organized by Emanuel Ringelblum, a hero of the Warsaw Ghetto. It operated from September 1939 to January 1943, under the code name Oyneg Shabbos (Pleasure of Shabbat). The group was committed to describing life in the ghetto during the Nazi occupation, so that there would be a record outside of that created by the Germans. The original intention of Oyneg Shabes was to collect material and write a book after the war. But when the pace of deportations to Treblinka increased and it became clear that there would be few if any survivors left, the archives were stored in three milk cans and ten metal boxes and buried in three places in the ghetto. In 1946, two milk cans containing thousands of documents were unearthed, and ten boxes were found in 1950. The third cache is believed to be buried under what is now the Chinese Embassy, but a 2005 search was unsuccessful.
The publication of Time Capsules will be timely, because a feature-length, major documentary about the Archive, based on Kassow’s book Who Will Write Our History, is due to be released at the end of this year; the film is directed by Roberta Grossman and produced by Susan Spielberg. http://whowillwriteourhistory.com