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

Why Egypt Fears an Israeli Victory in Gaza

While the current Egyptian president, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, has never been friendly to Hamas, his government has objected strenuously to the Israeli campaign in the southernmost part of the Gaza Strip. Haisam Hassanein explains why:

Cairo has long been playing a double game, holding Hamas terrorists near while simultaneously trying to appear helpful to the United States and Israel. Israel taking control of Rafah threatens Egypt’s ability to exploit the chaos in Gaza, both to generate profits for regime insiders and so Cairo can pose as an indispensable mediator and preserve access to U.S. money and arms.

Egyptian security officials have looked the other way while Hamas and other Palestinian militants dug tunnels on the Egyptian-Gaza border. That gave Cairo the ability to use the situation in Gaza as a tool for regional influence and to ensure Egypt’s role in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict would not be eclipsed by regional competitors such as Qatar and Turkey.

Some elements close to the Sisi regime have benefited from Hamas control over Gaza and the Rafah crossing. Media reports indicate an Egyptian company run by one of Sisi’s close allies is making hundreds of millions of dollars by taxing Gazans fleeing the current conflict.

Moreover, writes Judith Miller, the Gaza war has been a godsend to the entire Egyptian economy, which was in dire straits last fall. Since October 7, the International Monetary Fund has given the country a much-needed injection of cash, since the U.S. and other Western countries believe it is a necessary intermediary and stabilizing force. Cairo therefore sees the continuation of the war, rather than an Israeli victory, as most desirable. Hassanein concludes:

Adding to its financial incentive, the Sisi regime views the Rafah crossing as a crucial card in preserving Cairo’s regional standing. Holding it increases Egypt’s relevance to countries that want to send aid to the Palestinians and ensures Washington stays quiet about Egypt’s gross human-rights violations so it can maintain a stable flow of U.S. assistance and weaponry. . . . No serious effort to turn the page on Hamas will yield the desired results without cutting this umbilical cord between the Sisi regime and Hamas.

Read more at Washington Examiner

More about: Egypt, Gaza War 2023, U.S. Foreign policy