Is history written by the winners? Not always. The history of life in the Jewish ghetto in Warsaw was written by those who lost - at least in the struggle for life. Out of the 60 people who collected the so-called “secret archive of Ringelblum”, only three survived, but they left invaluable testimonies of thousands of people doomed to death. Recently, the UN presented the film "Who will write our history," based on the book with the same name by the American historian with the Polish origin Samuel Kassov. Helen Vapnichnaya talked to him.
“It was the only person who knew where they had buried all these documents: under the Jewish school on Novolipka street 68.
They searched, searched, searched, but it was a very complicated matter, because Warsaw was destroyed. It was not easy even to know where the street was, because the whole ghetto territory was completely destroyed. ”
A historian, a professor at Triniti Samuil Kassov, author of the book Who Will Write Our Story, talks about the process of looking for the Ringelblum Archive, an amazing, unique collection of several thousand testimonies of everyday - and monstrous - life in the ghetto, which the Nazi group of Polish intellectuals gathered led by historian Emmanuel Ringelblum. On his initiative, several dozens of people step by step recreated the world of the Warsaw ghetto, realizing that with their inevitable death this page of the war would be lost. Everything was important: diaries, poems, posters, orders of the Wehrmacht and Nazi propaganda, children's drawings, receipts and even tram tickets. The members of the group known as the “Oineg Shabas” kept the strictest secrecy, many did not even know each other. When Jews from the ghetto began to be sent to Treblinka, Ringelblum and his comrades secretly packed their documents in iron boxes and huge milk cans and buried in three places. But about where they are, literally 5-6 people knew. Ringelblum was very worried that the archive might be gone.
“On March 1, 1944, in one of his last letters he wrote to another friend:“ What will happen if none of us remain alive, if we fail to survive the war, what will happen to our archive?
Professor Kassov himself is from Polish Jews, and the history of his family is also evidence of the Holocaust. True, as he says, his father was lucky - in 1940, the Soviet military, during the occupation of Poland for some unknown reason, arrested him and exiled him to Siberia. Lucky - because otherwise he would surely end up in the Nazi death camp. Mom, too, we can say, was lucky: she managed to escape twice - to run literally in the last minutes before the execution - only because the German had a pistol stuck. The second time she was hid by a Pole - a former classmate.
The parents met in a camp for displaced persons, where Samuel was born, and in 1949 the family moved to America. And although they all deeply felt their Jewishness, being a student, Samuel did not seek to push him out and did not want to dive at all into the past of his parents and into the history of the Holocaust.
“When I decided that I would be a historian, I decided that I would not study Jewish history, I didn’t want to study Holocaust history, because it was very painful, I felt it very closely and I didn’t want to think about it. This very often reminded me of the sufferings of my mother and the rest of the family. So I wanted to study Russian history and decided that I would write a book about Russian universities in Tsarist Russia. ”
So he spent six months in Russia at Moscow State University and worked in very different archives. And yet the Holocaust theme did not leave him.
“First, I noticed that historians in America and in Europe when they wrote about the Holocaust ... And, of course, I tried not to be interested in this topic, but still it attracted me, but I noticed that they do not own Jewish languages. Since they could not read the sources in Yiddish and even in Polish, they could not write about Jews as people, they wrote about them as victims and these victims did not have an identity, they did not have names, they were only objects of German barbarous politician. "
But it is known that even in inhuman conditions, even in concentration camps, the Jews steadfastly resisted - as they could: they put on performances, organized orchestras, wrote, painted ...
“There were literary works, there was poetry, there was a spiritual struggle against German attempts to insult and humiliate them. And they fought — not with guns and pistols, but they fought in other ways. ”
When the parents died, after much hesitation, Samuel Kassov decided it was time to take up this topic. Why precisely Emmanuel Ringelblum?
"Because he was a historian and he showed and proved how historical documents can turn into a powerful weapon of struggle."
Yes, when they are not buried in an unknown place. If you look at the post-war photographs of the Warsaw ghetto, then it is actually not there, it's just ruins. It is impossible to believe that once there were streets, houses, shops, schools. Of the 60 people who worked together on the archive, only three survived the war. Ringelblum was shot with his wife and children. And the exact address of the cache of the survivors knew only one of them - Gersh Wasser. With the support of the Jewish Labor Committee, a group of engineers was able to calculate the right place.
“They began to dig and on September 18, 1946, they found the first part of the archive, which they hid in August, in the beginning of August of the 42nd year - at the height of the mass deportation to Treblinka. This part of the archive described the entire history of the ghetto, starting in November of the 40th year until August of the 42nd year. ”
But it was known that another part of the leaders of "Oneig Shabas" hid in February 43rd year. But it could not be found - until in December 50, the builders did not stumble upon milk cans buried in the ground.
“But they thought that - well, everyone knows that all Jews are rich people, that there should be gold, dollars and diamonds. And when they saw that there were only documents, they wanted to throw it all away. But the forman - the head of the brigade - said: "No, these must be important documents and they must be handed over to the Jewish Historical Society."
However, there was still a third part, which was hidden in April 43, a week before the uprising in the Warsaw ghetto. Gersh Wasser remembered the address, but could not find the documents. Today, the Chinese Embassy is in this place and 10-15 years ago, researchers from Israel received permission to search for the lost archive, but again it was a failure.
That which was saved was kept in the Emmanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute. These are 36 volumes - 35 thousand pages that store the living voices of the dead.
“It was an incredible feeling - when I saw these documents, when I knew in what circumstances they were written, how they hoped that some day they would find this archive and they were hoping that this archive would affect humanity, that when people read these documents will then realize that it is embarrassing that such horrible crimes can occur in the world and that you need to be sure that this will never happen again. ”
David Graber, one of those who hid the archive, wrote in his will: “What we could not shout to the whole world, we hid under the ground. Let this treasure be in good hands, let it wait for better times. And let it be a warning to the world. ”
In 1999, the Ringelblum Archive was entered into the Memory of the World Register by UNESCO - a list of the most important historical documents. He also posted on the Internet.