Hartford Historian's Research Of Secret WWII Jewish Archive Is Now A Documentary

Nov 7, 2018

A new film about a hidden World War II-era archive, created in secret by Jews living in Warsaw, is showing in western Massachusetts. "Who Will Write Our History" is based on a book by Trinity College historian Samuel Kassow.

The film begins in 1940, two years before Germans first start to send hundreds of thousands of Jews from Warsaw to Nazi gas chambers. A small group of men and women living in the enforced Jewish ghetto secretly collected artifacts that would document their lives. The archiving effort was led by Emanuel Ringelblum.

The film "Who Will Write Our History" is based on Kassow's research. He said he identified with Ringelblum, who was also a scholar. Ringelblum understood Jews could fight the Germans with paper and pencil, Kassow said, not just guns.

"Ringelblum was determined, even if we Jews don't live to see the end of the war, we'll bury time capsules, so the people will remember us on the basis of Jewish rather than German documents," Kassow said. 

Thousands of journal entries, photos, songs of the time and newspapers went into containers. Only some of them have been recovered.

"Who Will Tell Our History" is at the Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Massachusetts, on Saturday. Kassow and filmmaker Rachel Grossman will speak after. It shows again Sunday at Temple Israel in Greenfield.