6: Images, Rachel Auerbach and Hirsch Wasser unearthing part of the Ringelblum Archives, 1946, and opening milk cans containing the second part of the Archives, 1950.
Before escaping from the ghetto, Auerbach was part of a secret group led by historian Emanuel Ringelblum known as the Oyneg Shabes. Because the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto did not know if they would survive the war, and they wanted to be sure that future historians knew what the ghetto conditions were like, Auerbach and her fellow members collected stories and everyday artifacts (like candy wrappers and theater tickets), which they buried in three parts. However, at the end of the war, Warsaw was in ruins and it seemed to be an impossible task to find the buried boxes and milk cans which contained the archive material. Auerbach understood that, in addition to writing “Yizkor, 1943,” another important way to honor the memory of those who were killed was to find the hidden archive.
At the third anniversary commemoration of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, Auerbach said, “Remember! A national treasure is buried in the ruins. The Ringelblum Archive is there. Even if the ruins reach five stories high, we must find the Archive.” After much digging, they were able to uncover parts of the archive.
Suggested Activity: Look closely at each of these two photographs. How would you describe the postures and the expressions on the faces of the people in the images? What kinds of objects do you think they are holding and looking at? What do you see in the background?
Using a small box, create an archive, either as a class or individually, that will tell your story to future historians. Collect examples of everyday materials from your life, and write journal entries that describe your days. In what ways is this project similar to what the members of the Oyneg Shabes did? How is it different?
Sources: Photograph, Rachel Auerbach and Hirsch Wasser unearthing part of the "Ringelblum ("Oneg Shabbat") Archives," September 1946, Image 43447, Yad Vashem Archive, accessed January 27, 2020, https://photos.yadvashem.org/photo-details.html?language=en&item_id=43447&ind=15.
Photograph, Opening of milk cans with the second part of the Ringelblum Archive, 1950. This photo appears courtesy of the Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, Poland.