A Cinematic Depiction of the Jews Who Created an Archive of the Holocaust as It Happened https://mosaicmagazine.com/picks/arts-culture/2020/02/a-cinematic-depiction-of-the-jews-who-created-an-archive-of-the-holocaust-as-it-happened/

February 5, 2020 | Simi Horwitz
About the author:

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 on Moment: https://momentmag.com/documentary-who-will-write-our-history-tells-stunning-little-known-holocaust-story/

Welcome to Mosaic

Create a free account to continue reading and you'll get two months of unlimited access to the best in Jewish thought, culture, and politics

Register Already a subscriber? Sign in now