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Inside the Ringelblum Archive

A guided tour of Polish Jewry’s greatest treasure, once buried in the rubble of Warsaw

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Agnieszka Reszka, the head of the Ringelbum Archives, shows a poster from 1941. (Julie Subrin)

To read more Tablet in Warsaw coverage, click here.

This week, Tablet is reporting from Warsaw, which is commemorating the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. The new Museum of the History of Polish Jews, opening today after formal ceremonies, is a spectacular glass-and-concrete structure—still empty, for the most part—that has been 20 years in the making, at a cost of more than 100 million dollars.

Proponents of the museum believe it represents a huge step forward in healing Polish-Jewish relations. Critics say it’s too Jewish, or not Jewish enough. The one thing that everyone seems to agree on is that, like it or not, this museum—which will rely on multimedia exhibits to tell its story—is not, and will never be, a home to artifacts. Yet about a mile away, on a slightly run-down side street, sits an archive that has been collecting Polish Jewish artifacts continually from before the war to the present.

Reopened in 1947, Warsaw’s Jewish Historical Institute is essentially a continuation of an institute started in 1928. Today it holds what is arguably one of the most precious collections of Jewish life: the contents of 10 metal boxes and two milk canisters dug up shortly after the war and then several years later, in near-miraculous survivals of documents, letters, and other records of daily life from the annihilated Warsaw Ghetto.

Vox Tablet’s Julie Subrin went to visit this archive earlier in the week. With her was Agnieszka Reszka, the head of the archive, and Samuel Kassow, an American historian who wrote a book on the archive and its creator, Emanuel Ringelblum. For Reszka and Kassow, the archive offers us the opportunity to breathe new life into a lost world. [Running time: 14:26.] 

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akvir says:

Please also post your interview with Samuel Kassow.

WHAT A SPECIAL ARTICLE. MY HUSBAND’S FAMILY ORIGINATED IN POLAND ON HIS MOTHER’S SIDE AND THEY LOST RELATIVES IN THE HOLOCAUST SOME WERE KILLED, SOME NEVER WERE FOUND, HOW SAD THAT THESE ATROCITIES DESTROYED FAMILIES AND SO MANY SCIENTISTS, MUSICIANS, WRITERS, RESEARCHERS IN MEDICINE, ASTRONOMY, ETC. IT WOULD BE A SHAME THAT THE PERSONS WHO WERE TO DISCOVER THE CURE FOR CANCER OR DIABETES, HEART DISEASE, OR HOW TO FEED THE WORLD THROUGH NEW FORMS OF NATURAL FOODS PRODUCED FROM OCEAN PLANTS THAT WOULD FEED THE HUNGRY ALL OVER THE WORLD OR IF THE GENETIC STUDY THAT WOULD ISOLATE THE GENE THAT STOPS ENDOCRINE OR THYROID PROBLEMS OR THAT WOULD STOP OBESITY, ETC.,WERE GASSED OR SHOT AND DUMPED IN MASS GRAVES TO HIDE THE EVIDENCE OF THEIR DEMONIC CONTROLLED HATE. HOW SAD. WE NEED TO STAND FIRM WITH ISRAEL AND NEVER FORGET THE THING THAT CAUSED IT ALL TO HAPPEN….N E V E R A G A I N !!!! SHALOM.

A massive blow for humanity and for Poland’s intellectual, artistic and scientific elite. Let us never forget the past and rebuild what we can. Shalom from Warsaw.

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Inside the Ringelblum Archive

A guided tour of Polish Jewry’s greatest treasure, once buried in the rubble of Warsaw

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