David Graber (1924 – 1942)

“..My own work was rudimentary ..pack ..hide ..material. ..so much one could learn. ..we would sit with ..Lichtenstein ..and talk. ..First were ..photographs of Jews being beaten ..many photographs. Then ..reports of ..lives of Jews in ..provinces ..in Lodz. ..horrible ..report ..gassings in Chelmno ..told by Grojanowski. We were so shaken ..we could not work ..whole next day.” David Graber.

On June 7th. 1935 anti-Jewish riots occur in Grodno, Poland after a night time incident in which a fight that broke out in a dance hall resulted in a young Jewish boy stabbing a non-Jewish Polish sailor. The former sailor, who subsequently died from his wounds had instigated the fracas.

After his funeral, about 1,000 attendees, Endeks and underworld characters called for vengeance and armed with iron bars, knives and clubs of every description, they raged from the cemetery to the center of the Town. In 30 minutes of lawlessness, these gangs attacked every and any Jew they came across. As it was the festival of Shavuot festival, many of Grodno’s Jews were outside in the air, relaxing, walking, talking amongst Friends and Relatives.

The encounter with this thuggish gang of racists, while shop windows were being smashed, looting from any Jewish concern. This preceded Kristallnacht and some of the Streets was littered with debris, broken glass and the bruised faces of many of the Jews who were attacked. With the arrival of the Germans into Poland, these scenarios were only to be an enhancement of Hitler’s own decree for The Final Solution of The Jewish Question.

Throughout Poland, and for many years prior to September 1st. 1939, the Jewish People were a constant source of for a hatred waged against them. It is with this in mind that we are to learn from Jewish resistance to The Holocaust that not all resistance involved fighting and that Jews were coming to terms with not what should or could be done but what they would do in defending both themselves and their long 5,000 year established legacy.

“..Sunday August 2nd. 1942 ..What we were unable to cry and shriek to ..World we buried in ..ground. ..I would love to live to see ..moment in which ..great treasure will be dug up and shriek to ..world proclaiming ..truth. So ..world may know all. So ..ones who did not live through it may be glad ..and we may feel like veterans with medals on our chest.” David Graber.

With Emmanuel Ringelblum that desire to ensure posterity would not be allowed to forget what had been meted out to the Jewish People, Onyeg Shabbes was born. This was a project organised by Emmanuel, an historian, this effort can literally be seen as a Jewish resistance to very terms of The Holocaust. Here, Emmanuel’s effort attempted to record all of Jewish life, and not just in occupied Warsaw but in many of the City’s and Towns of Poland. The entire collection, and uncertainty prevails as to how much was actually saved, and therefore how much more of it was lost, details Diaries, Essays of Jewish Life, Journals, Letters, Newspapers, Photographs, Poems and the ordinary day to day trivia of a Life once lived.

“..Sunday August 2nd. 1942 We would be ..Fathers ..Teachers and Educators of the future. ..But no ..we shall certainly never live to see it ..and therefore do I write my last will. May ..treasure fall into good hands ..may it last into better times ..may it alarm and alert ..world to what happened and was played out in ..20th. Century. ..We may now die in peace. We fulfilled our mission. May history attest for us.” David Graber.

Many of these boxes, buried at the Borichow School, Nowolipki 68, Warsaw, were to form part of what Emmanuel Ringelblum’s intention. As we know, this was to inform the World of Jewish Poland as it had been been, a vibrant community which had persisted to envelop 3,650,000 Polish Jews in a Community distinguisehed by its very existence throughout History. Sections of the entire catalogue of the Onyeg Shabbes archive were to be buried in various parts of the Warsaw Ghetto, and sealed them into Metal boxes, Milk Churns and other boxes thought suitable for keeping them air and even water tight.

“..Monday 3rd. August 1942 Neighbouring street besieged. We are all feverish. Mood tense ..we prepare for worst. ..soon we will do ur last burying. Lichtenstein nervous. ..Graywacz somewhat afraid. Myself indifferent. In my subconscious ..a feeling I shall get out of all trouble. ..must remember ..bury only ..boxes. ..work ..till last moment.” David Graber.

As the transportation of Warsaw Jews to Treblinka, where the destruction of the Jewish People began on July 22nd. 1942, and Warsaw’s Jews began arriving here the following day, July 23rd. 1942, the urgency to which they tackled their task, fell to some 60 individuals. The process of ensuring their safety, of all that had been collated and collected, spread into the period during The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising April 17th. 1943 when 2 later stashes of the archive were to be buried. We come to recognise in this purposeful effort, that 1 of the 3 Members of The Onyeg Shabbes, who buried a major part of these archives was David Graber.

We know too that the recruiter of both David Graber and Nahum Grzywacz, who were both from the pool of Onyeg Shabbes members, and were called upon to assist him in this herculean effort was Israel Lichtenstein. David was 19 years of age and Nahum was just 18 years of age and David added his own letter to the paraphenalia of Jewish existence. Not all of the Onyeg Shabbes archive was discovered after the war and we cannot be certain if it composes a small fraction of what was stored away or we have uncovered most of what these organisers had sought to preserve.

Here, and by recording Nazi crimes and Jewish experiences, and preserving Jewish culture, Onyeg Shabbes stands foremost as an accusation of the unrivalled bitterness and hatred that some who purport their humanity have failed in every concept of that Humanity in attacking Jewish existence. What we do know of David is that he did not ‘..live to see the moment in which the great treasure will be dug up’ as he never emerged from The Holocaust. It is uncertain as to whether he was Murdered in the Ghetto, on the other side of the Wall or within the confines of the Death Camp Treblinka, a victim to Aktion Reinhard and Hitler’s will to destroy all of European Jewry.