It’s been 80 years since a group of journalists, educators and community leaders imprisoned in Poland’s Warsaw Ghetto began to document their experiences, the Nazi occupation and its propaganda campaigns.
Unable to publish or communicate openly, these prisoners hid their writings in metal boxes and milk cans, and buried them. In 1946, the first group of buried reportage and artifacts were unearthed; another in 1950. Those first two tranches included 10 metal boxes and three milk cans, contained more than 6,000 documents. A third tranche has never been found.
The story of those collaborators, known collectively as Oyneg Shabes, and the heart-wrenching stories they tell, comes to life in the film “Who Will Write Our History.” The film, released this year, was written and directed by Roberta Grossman, and produced by Nancy Spielberg. Both Grossman and Spielberg will be at a Furman University screening and panel discussion of the film on Nov. 17.
The event is presented by the Greenville Jewish Federation and Furman University.
Based on the 2008 book by Samuel Kassow, the film meshes historical images with readings from the archives. Adrian Brody voices Emanuel Ringelblum, the initiator of the documentation and protection of the materials; Joan Allen voices Rachel Auerbach, one of only three of the Oyneg Shabas chroniclers to survive the war.
The lessons of the Holocaust continue to resonate in today’s headlines, says Amy Hammer, executive director of the GJF. “At a time when we are locking up children, and seeing a dramatic increase in hate crime, these stories need to be told.”
Many of the archived stories tell of the horror visited on children. Ringelblum wrote of the plight of starving children throughout the ghetto.
“It often happens that begging children die at night on the sidewalk. I just heard about a terrible scene… where a 6-year-old beggar lay dying all night, unable even to crawl to eat a piece of bread that someone had thrown to him from the balcony,” he wrote.
To Hammer, the film is a “cautionary tale,” a “vivid reminder of what can happen when hate overtakes a society.”
Education is a strong focus for the GJF and the program will be free to students of all ages. The program is eligible for CLP credits but college students should check with their institutions to confirm.
Following the film, Grossman and Spielberg, sister of Steven, will participate in a panel discussion on the film, the archives, the history, and its importance in current affairs. The discussion will be moderated by Furman professor Melinda Menzer.
If you go
What: “Who Will Write Our History” screening and panel discussion.
When: 2-5:30 p.m. Nov. 17
Where: McAlister Auditorium, Furman University, 3300 Poinsett Highway, Greenville
Cost: Free to students; $10 for non-student adults
Reservations: Reservations required for all. https://www.eventbrite.com/e/who-will-write-our-history-presented-by-gjf-tickets-74613357561