A Cinematic Depiction of the Jews Who Created an Archive of the Holocaust as It Happened

Based on Samuel Kassow’s book of the same name, the documentary Who Will Write Our History tells about a heroic Jewish undertaking during the Holocaust that is almost unknown to non-historians. Simi Horwitz writes in her review:

Set in the Warsaw Ghetto (1940-1944), teeming with Jews [who are] flanked by encroaching Nazis on all sides, the movie zeroes in on a group of intellectuals, journalists, artists, and writers—led by the Jewish historian Emanuel Ringelblum—who, while living in the depths of hell and struggling to survive, made it their top priority to collect, record, and preserve eyewitness accounts (essays, diaries, surveys, letters, paintings, photographs, and children’s writings, among other forms of documentation) that would serve as testimonials to the truth even if its writers did not survive. The ghetto’s underground intelligentsia gave themselves the code name Oyneg Shabes, meaning “enjoyment of the Sabbath.”

In the end, only three survived, but most of the documentation buried in the ground beneath the rubble was ultimately uncovered after the war, revealing a treasure trove of more than 60,000 pages written by ordinary, and sometimes not so ordinary, civilians evoking what life at its most quotidian, grotesque, and heroic was like on a day-to-day basis. What emerges so forcefully is that despite the mindbogglingly inhumane setting, education, religious ritual, civic life, and culture flourished.

Arguably, the most controversial element of the film is not the content, but rather the reenactments that some may view as tacky. [The producer], Nancy Spielberg, admits that she generally didn’t care for them, at least not initially, but finally came to the conclusion that there’s nothing objectionable in a reenactment if it’s well done.

Read more at Moment

More about: Film, Holocaust, Jewish history, Warsaw Ghetto


Syria’s Druze Uprising, and What It Means for the Region

When the Arab Spring came to Syria in 2011, the Druze for the most part remained loyal to the regime—which has generally depended on the support of religious minorities such as the Druze and thus afforded them a modicum of protection. But in the past several weeks that has changed, with sustained anti-government protests in the Druze-dominated southwestern province of Suwayda. Ehud Yaari evaluates the implications of this shift:

The disillusionment of the Druze with Bashar al-Assad, their suspicion of militias backed by Iran and Hizballah on the outskirts of their region, and growing economic hardships are fanning the flames of revolt. In Syrian Druze circles, there is now open discussion of “self-rule,” for example replacing government offices and services with local Druze alternative bodies.

Is there a politically acceptable way to assist the Druze and prevent the regime from the violent reoccupation of Jebel al-Druze, [as they call the area in which they live]? The answer is yes. It would require Jordan to open a short humanitarian corridor through the village of al-Anat, the southernmost point of the Druze community, less than three kilometers from the Syrian-Jordanian border.

Setting up a corridor to the Druze would require a broad consensus among Western and Gulf Arab states, which have currently suspended the process of normalization with Assad. . . . The cost of such an operation would not be high compared to the humanitarian corridors currently operating in northern Syria. It could be developed in stages, and perhaps ultimately include, if necessary, providing the Druze with weapons to defend their territory. A quick reminder: during the Islamic State attack on Suwayda province in 2018, the Druze demonstrated an ability to assemble close to 50,000 militia men almost overnight.

Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: Druze, Iran, Israeli Security, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy