The Anniversary Of The Bbc Radio Report On The Fate Of Polish Jews

Exactly 73 years ago BBC radio broadcast a report on the extermination of Polish Jews. The report was based on documents provided by Oneg Shabbat.

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Friday the 26th of June 1942 jest an important day for “Oneg Shabbat” [a secret organization created by Emmanuel Ringelblum with the purpose of documenting the fate of Jews in occupied Poland].- wrote the creator of the Warsaw Ghetto’s Underground Archives in his journal- This morning the English radio broadcast a program for Polish Jews. They reported on everything we already know: Słonim and Vilnius, Lvov and Chełmno etc. For many months we deplored the fact that the world was death and dumb to our tragedy, a tragedy incomparable to any other in the history of mankind. We blamed the Polish public opinion, those who remained in contact with the Polish government, for not reporting on the slaughter of Polish Jews, for the world not knowing about it. We accused the Polish of purposely keeping our tragedy quiet so that it would not overshadow theirs. […]

From the program, broadcast in Polish, the world learned about the “inhuman cruelty of the Nazi occupiers towards the Jews”. Information was passed on concerning exterminations like the one in Stanisławowo where the Germans executed over 16 thousand Jews, reducing the population of the town from 18 thousand to a mere 1700 people. The BBC also reported on the massacre in Ponary near Vilinus where 60 thousand Jews were executed, and the use of the “special gas chamber cars” in the village of Chełmno. Based on the information provided by Oneg Shabbat the overall number of murdered Polish Jews was estimated to be around 700 thousand. 

Here we present scans of the transcript of the BBC radio program, created by Oneg Shabbat who listened in on the broadcast. They come from the Ringelblum Archive and are currently part of the Jewish Historical Institute’s collection. 

Szmul Zygielbojm (“Zygielbaum” in the transcript), member of the National Council of the Polish government in London, spoke next. He assured his brothers in Poland that those abroad stood in solidarity with them and that plans were being made to retaliate against the Germans. He emphasized the shared fate of Poles and Polish Jews as the victims of Hitler’s reign of terror.

- We are aware that destroying the Jews is part of a larger plan to destroy Poland. That the Germans want to not only exterminate the Jewish population but all of the Polish population.- said Zygielbojm. 

“Oneg Shabbat” has thus fulfilled a historic mission, making the world aware of our fate and possibly saving hundreds of thousands of Polish Jews from extermination.- Emmanuel Ringelblum noted with satisfaction in his journal.- Only the near future will show whether the latter is true, of course. I do not know who from our group might survive, who will have the good fortune to edit the documents we have collected. However, one thing is clear to us all: our labors and efforts, our sacrifices and the life we have lived in constant fear, have not been in vain.

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