Friday, July 23, 2010

Jewish Holocaust / Genocide and Memory

Chronicling the Holocaust from Inside the Ghetto
By Jan Friedmann
Spiegel Online, July 23, 2010
Photo: "Jewish men, women and children being marched out of the Warsaw Ghetto in May 1943." (DPA)
"Roughly 50 men and women in the Warsaw Ghetto chose a special form of resistance. In a secret archive, they documented their path to doom for future generations, chronicling the Nazis' crimes as they were being perpetrated. David Graber was 19 when he hurriedly scribbled his farewell letter. 'I would be overjoyed to experience the moment when this great treasure is unearthed and the world is confronted with the truth,' he wrote. While German soldiers combed the streets outside, Graber and his friend Nahum Grzywacz buried 10 metal boxes in the basement of an elementary school on Nowolipki Street in Warsaw's Jewish ghetto. It was Aug. 2, 1942. The boxes were dug up more than four years later. By then, Graber and Grzywacz were long dead, murdered like almost all of their roughly 50 collaborators. Only three survived the Nazi terror. They provided the information that led to the recovery of the boxes. The buried treasure consisted of about 35,000 pieces of paper that a group of chroniclers had collected and used to document how, during World War II, the German occupiers had deprived Warsaw's Jews of their rights, tormented them and, finally, killed them in the death camps.
'These materials tell a collective story of steady decline and unending humiliation, interspersed with many stories of quiet heroism and self-sacrifice,' writes American historian Samuel Kassow. His book 'Who Will Write Our History?: Rediscovering a Hidden Archive from the Warsaw Ghetto,' which has now been published in German translation, throws a new light on the exceptional source material. Jews also collected documents and wrote diaries elsewhere in Europe during the Holocaust, but the Warsaw archive is the most comprehensive and descriptive collection of all. The Polish capital was home to Europe's largest Jewish community, which became a magnet for many talented scientists and writers. As one female author wrote, she hoped that her account would be 'driven under the wheel of history like a wedge.' Contributions like hers would turn the clandestine archive into probably the most nightmarish body of text ever written about the Holocaust. [...]"

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