Remarkable journey of priceless documents

Written by: Jewish Historical Institute

On the 19th of April 2013, during the celebrations of the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, an unprecedented event will take place. For the first time in the framework of cooperation between the Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute and the emerging Museum of the History of the Polish Jews, 30 original items from the Underground Warsaw Ghetto Archive, so called the Ringelblum Archive, will be for a few hours lended by the JHI to the MHPJ and displayed in the seat of honor.

18.04.2013, 10:30 a.m. – Unpacking the exhibit

Covered with metal sheet, closed with double-lock door,vehicle carrying documents without problems reached Anielewicza street, where theMHPJ is located.At the museum, a group of people in white gloves immediately took care of the exhibit.

The MHPJ staff with help of Lena Bergman and Viola Bachur from ŻIH took the documents out of boxes and put them on worksheets.In order to ensure the objects a safe exposure expensive, air-conditioned cabinets have been borrowed from the National Library.They are used exactly for the purpose of exhibition, for very valuable old books and manuscripts. Documents from the Ringelblum Archiveare perhaps not quite as old, but there is no doubt as to their value and uniqueness.

Precisely for the anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising break out (April 19th), a group of personalities from the world of politics and culture, will have a chance to see fragment of the collection. Almost all the artists of exposed collections were killed in the Holocaust. Thanks to their courage, determination and knowledge we can reconstruct the last, tragic chapter of life of the Jews of Warsaw.

18.04.2013, 10:00 a.m. – On their way

And it happened! This morning, on the 18th of April, 30 selected archival pieces of the Ringelblum Archive were packed in acid free, waterproof boxes, which for even greater security, closed with screws. Everything was loaded on a vehicle of a specialized in transporting valuable documents company–documents were provided with safe transportation to the building of theMHPJ.

Documents went on a not very long route from Bankowy Squareto Anielewicza street. However, in case of such a valuable transport here can never be enough caution. It is difficult to imagine a set of monuments of literature from the collection registered inthe UNESCO”Memory of the World” list to be traveling by taxi! Such fragile documents and art work need not only to be protect against theft,but also, and perhaps above all, professional protection against bad environmental conditions: moisture, air pollution or excessive light.

Among the objects is the famous Application of Korczak, Rozenfeld’s drawing (Furmanowa’s Funeral) and watercolor of Gela Seksztajn (”Beggar girl”), postcards reporting about the Holocaust in the province, essay-report on the situation of women in the ghetto, official notices, diaries written in ghetto, Jewish underground press, leaflet calling for armed struggle and many others.

The selection was made by Eleonora Bergman and Agnieszka Reszka together with the team of the ŻIH Archives.

17.04.2013, 9:00 a.m. – Preparations to the journey of priceless documents

Ongoing are last conservative arrangements for journey of documents from the Ringelblum Archive that on the 18th of April, 2013 will set off from the Jewish Historical Institute to the Museum of the History of Polish Jews fora special exhibition at the 70th anniversary of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.

Viola Bachur, art conservator at the ŻIH is placing the ends of cleared documents on acid free card board, on which they will be safely exposed.

The Ringelblum Archive

The Underground Archive of the Warsaw Ghetto, so called Ringelblum Archive, registered in the UNESCO ”Memory of the World” list as monument of world heritage is a unique collection of documents that serve as one of the most important testimonies of the extermination of Polish Jews. The collection is the most valuable and most significant source of information on the life and death of Jews under the German occupation.It proves the incredible power of the spirit and scientific knowledge of people trapped in the Warsaw ghetto.

The entire priceless collection rests safely in the Jewish Historical Institute,which does not only has been taking care of it since its discovery, but also subjected them to conservation and conducts thorough research on the content of the documents. Collections can be viewed at ŻIH in digitized form or studied in printed version. So far, nine volumes of documents have been published, and the following are in preparation.

In 1999, the Ringelblum Archive has been registered as world heritage monument in the UNESCO „Memory of the World” list, together with two other Polish collections: manuscripts of Fryderyk Chopin and Mikołaj Kopernik. The Archiveis an extremely important contribution to the history and culture of Jews, and also is an integral part of Polish history.


Historical background

In Warsaw before the Second World War there was the largest in Europe, and the second biggest in the world Jewish community. Here, the Germans created the biggest ghetto in the occupied Europe. Around half a million people went through it, and only about 2% managed to survive.

In no other city, in no other ghetto, such big group of people have conducted, in full conspiration, research on such scale using most modern at that time methods. Nowhere else for so long and so systematically materials have been gathered.It is no wonderthat they have broughtthe most complete possible picture of the community cut off from theworld,whichtruefate the German authorities did not wantin any wayto reveal,offeringin returna completely deceitful propaganda view.

The Ringelblum Archive collections, hid in August 1942 and in February 1943 andextracted from under the ruines of the Warsaw Ghetto in September 1946 (first part) and in December 1950 (second part), consists of 2,045 folders with documents, total volume around 35,400 pages. Among them are about 70 photographs, over 300 drawings and watercolors and a few dozen of posters and announcements. In addition toofficialprintstherewerepersonal papers;notes and memoirs, reports,children’s essays;projectsand survey results, among others on the subject of the situation of different professional groups and generations,letters andreportsabout the fateof Jews inother provincesandghettos, goodbye letters written the day before the transport to death camps. Collected were materials ofunderground organizationswhich, inthe summer of 1942, created the JewishCombar Organization (Żydowska Organizacja Bojowa – ŻOB)and texts ofreportsalarmingthe Alliesabout the exterminationof Jewsin occupied Poland,since March1942sentvia the Government Delegation to the Polish Governmentin London.

The originator,initiator andmain organizer ofthe Underground Archives was Emanuel Ringelblum, historian, teacher, andsocial activist.With him workeda group ofpeople of different professionsandpolitical persuasions, historians, journalists, teachers andrabbis.Manypeople from the outsideofthe close circle ofthe Archive creatorshave contributed tothe creation ofthe collection byworkingwithout realizingthe scaleof the studyandthe existence ofthe Oneg Shabbatgroup.

Emmanuel Ringelblum and the vast majority of creators and co-workers of the Archive did not survive the Holocaust.

We wish to remind you that for the first time in the framework of the cooperation between the Emmanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute and the emerging Museum of the History of Polish Jews, 30 original items from the Underground Archive of the Warsaw Ghetto will be loaned for a few hours to the MHPJ. Documents will be transported to the MHPJ and displayed for distinguished guests.

Jewish Historical Institute