Emanuel Ringelblum (1900 – 1944)

“..Day in ..day out ..in hundreds of cities throughout Poland ..Russia 1,000’s upon 1,000’s of Jews are ..systematically murdered according to a preconceived plan ..no one .takes our part.” Emanuel Ringelblum.

Emanuel Ringelblum was born on November 21st. 1900 in Buczacz, Poland and his life story is more worthy than the mereest words that I can deliver in this short essay, can ever contain. Emanuel met and Married his Wife, Yehudis Herman in Warsaw and in 1930, they had a Son Uri, whose presence gave them both comfort and hope. But let us try to begin at a point in History where an Historian is present when on October 28th. 1938 Germany expells 17,000 Polish Jews. Escorted over the Polish border, and while 8,000 of these Jews are stranded at Zbaszyn, Poland, these Jews were not to be admitted by Poland.

Saturday October 29th. 1938 ” ..shall ..take ..Jewish Question toward its total solution. ..total elimination.” das Schwarze Korps.

Nor where these destitute Jews ever to be allowed back into Germany and this sparked a response in all of history that had major ramifications for all of Jewish existence. If we think back to the period, we also recognise that the rhetoric of hatred, all vented toward the Jews, had been scaling newer and more vociferous and intended heights. On October 30th. 1938, with Emanuel at the head of the delegation of the Joint Distribution Committee, a Jewish relief team, they were sent to Zbaszyn where Emanuel sought to deal with the burgeoning crisis for those Jews.

“..future historian will have to dedicate an appropriate page to ..Jewish woman. ..She will take up an important page in Jewish history for her courage and steadfastness. By her merit ..1,000’s of families have managed to surmount ..terror of ..times.” Emanuel Ringelblum.

Here, already forced to leave their German homes, and much of what were their possessions, these Polish Jews were literally discarded there. For Emanuel and his team, so as to somehow relieve much of the pressure on a small overcrowded provincial Town, on the Polish side of the German border, leadership was brough to the fore. The sheer effort eventually proved a resource that Emanuel would find of use to him when History demanded it of him. Here, and we have to remember, there where some 8,000 Polish Jews who had been summarily and arbitrarily expelled from Germany.

“..Comprehensiveness ..chief principle guiding our work ..objectivity was ..second principle.” Emanuel Ringelblum. #Here they were though, these stranded Jews, in their own lands that did not want them and did not care what happened to them. It is important too to recognise, that in Emanuel Ringelblum, we have a Polish Jew who was bringing them some relief whilst a nation refused to do so. Emanuel, too was a formative Historian as well as being a Social Worker and a Politician and he is amply known for his established works. On his Notes from the Warsaw Ghetto, there is a clear insight into the bulging presence of increasing numbers of Jews now entering the Ghetto.

“..We are afraid to walk in ..Street. ..that saying ..next World War ..would see an end to Jewish People is frequently quoted.” Emanuel Ringelblum.

While it is often overlooked, and that when the time came, Emanuel was to be one of the Leaders in this coming confrontation with Hitler’s resolve for the Jews, in The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising. Along with his Notes on these Refugees in Zbaszyn and of course the Onyeg Shabbes, the Archive of the Warsaw Ghetto, Emanuel has become a major reference indicator in sourcing the Jewish existence of Jews during The Holocaust. What we can always draw from his intervention into the politics of the Jewish struggle in Zbaszyn, is to consider his effort a remarkable achievement.

“..Remember ..there is a national treasure buried under ..rubble. It’s ..Ringelblum Archive. We must not rest until we find ..Archive. ..even if there are 5 layers of ruins over it ..we have to find ..Archive.” Rachel Auerbach.

For a well intentioned Man, Emanuel will exemplify the surety of that long established Jewish hope and will become an endeavour that has been beneficial to our study to this day. Clearly, the ability to rise to the occasioning of a disaster, which was beginning for the Jews of all of Europe, and with what was available to him, marked Emanuel for what he delivered for us. There are many dissenting voices in the midst of Emanuel’s achievement, not least from some of those of his Archivists who protested the lack of a physical response.

“..In 5 weeks we put up a whole Town ..with a supply department ..hospital ..workshops for carpenters ..tailors ..shoemakers ..barbers ..a legal section ..an emigration office ..our own post office and 53 clerks ..a welfare department ..a court of arbitration ..a committee for law and order ..a control service ..a sanitary commission ..a network of health services.” Emanuel Ringelblum.

I do not sit here to judge any or even some of the Jews within this period who acted as they stood before the abyss and were catapulted into it, with other than a shame that the World allowed them to be so targetted. The sheer brutality to be exacted against them, and to those next to them and to force them toward compliance is exacting enough for History to draw its conclusion as to the Jews lack of choice. The culmination of responses to this Zbaszyn aktion was to see Ernst vom Rath being shot by Hershel Grynzspan on Novemeber 7th. 1938.

Wednesday November 9th. 1938 “..I remember sort of being yanked out of our flat and being ordered to march to ..space in ..open in ..town and there we were separated ..Men ..Women ..Children ..stood there in ..bitter cold November night ..me wearing short trousers.” Bernd Koschland.

Here we are to see the emerging atrocity of The Holocaust and with the consequences of Hershel’s action, a Hitler whose response takes a more critical turn. The dedication with which Kristallnacht descended upon the Jewish People should have been the clarion call to the World to act. But, and here on November 9th. 1938 when vom Rath dies, Hitler authorizes his chief lieutenant, Hermann Goering, to deal without measure or restraint, all aspects of Jewish living and political issues.

“..majority of our ..collaborators ..mostly recruited from ..folk intelligentsia ..mainly from ..proletarian parties. ..purposely avoided inviting professional journalists ..we didn’t want our work ..cheapened and distorted. We wanted ..simplest ..unadorned account possible of what happened in each shtetl ..what happened to each Jew ..each Jew ..a World in itself. Any superfluous word ..any literary exagergeration grated and repelled. Jewish life ..is so packed with events ..it is unnecessary to add an extra sentence.” Emanuel Ringelblum.

Immediately, this Night of Broken Glass, Kristallnacht, is orchestrated throughout Germany, Austria and the Sudetenland. With some 267 Jewish Synagogues ransacked and destroyed, 7,500 Jewish Shops looted and over 50,000 Jews are removed to German Concentration Camps. Here at Dachau, Buchenwald and Sachsenhausen, the Nazi expertise in abusing, and killing the Jewish People is clearly honed for future reference. Jewish life has now been ritually targetted for destruction and there are over 240 Jews who are killed to add to the emergence of what die Endlosung der Judenfrage will mean.

“..Polish Police ..has played a most lamentable role in ..Extermination of ..Jews of Poland. ..uniformed police has been an enthusiastic executor of all ..German directives regarding ..Jews.“ Emanuel Ringelblum.

On December 14th. 1938 Goering is given overall charge of this, die Endlosung der Judenfrage, and The Final Solution of The Jewish Question becomes more certain. Any euphemism therefore which becomes employed, given the full nature of the Destruction of all Jews in Europe to come, will never hide from truth the fully murderous intention of Hitler’s resolve. Though we clearly cannot rely upon this continuing formation of words to establish the exact date at which Hitler arrived at the overall kill policy, we know it arrived.

“..It must all be recorded with not a single fact omitted. And when ..time comes ..as it surely will ..let ..world read and know what ..murderers have done.” Emanuel Ringelblum.

As we move on to December 6th. 1939, Emanuel notes in a letter, reporting and describing the situation for the Jews of this no mans land, that was Zbaszyn, Poland. Meanwhile, the Jewish suffering is being added to. Working out what was and could be achieved, and given the will to do so, a handful of Jews did more for humanity than entire states or nations were prepared to. For both Germany and Poland, the human failings were enormous and entirely essential to both these states decrying the presence of Jews within their communities, with an acceptance of their removal from their states.

“..Signs of Modern Slaves. ..Numbered and stamped. Live in barracks ..without their Wives. ..Wives and Children removed ..because slaves don’t require Families. ..Walk in crowds ..not individually. ..Beaten and terrorized at work. ..Inhuman exploitation. ..Ban on organiusation of any kind. ..Ban on any form of protest or sign of dissatisfaction. ..Every slave dependent for his life on his master. ..At any moment ..sent to ..Umschlagplatz. ..murderous discipline ..workers to forced labour camps. ..Compulsion to work. ..Worse off than slaves ..they must look after their own food. ..Confiscation of property from a dead worker’s Family ..right of inheritance has been abolished. ..Locked inside ..residential block. ..Ban on leaving your apartment ..walking in ..Streets after work hours. ..Limitation of personal freedome ..of movement. ..Worse that slaves ..because latter knew they would remain alive ..had some hope to be set free. ..Jews ..sentenced to death ..whose death sentence ..postponed indefinately ..or has been passed. ..sick and ..weak have been liquidated.” Emanuel Ringelblum.

Also clear is, that when it arrived, All Jews Were To Become Hitler’s unwilling Victims in accordance with what Hitler enabled his minions to bring forward on his behalf. The resolve of Hitler for the complete response and answer to the Jewish Question was always in operation, ever since Hitler came to power. But, and even before then, Hitler had trained his sights upon the Jewish People and their destruction was an increment away. Those stages, in words and hate filled bile, sought to camouflage somehow his impulse to destroy and punitively, the entire Jewish Race of People.

“..February 2nd. 1940 ..according to my Son Uri ..Children tell one another ..old People will be shot ..middle aged will be sent to camps ..and ..Children will be baptized and passed out among christian families.” Emanuel Ringelblum. #While what Emanuel recognised here in the words of Children and was still some years away, we saw with Kristallnacht that this had already crystallized the frenzied rhetoric of Hitler’s hatred of the Jews. What branched out into a full blown programme of destruction we see with the procession of events toward the future enslavement of the Jewish People that was destructive and clearly defined, fast approaching. We recognise too that Kristallnacht is an identified staging post for what would become the resettlent transports from the Reich to the 6 Gassing facility’s in Poland.

“..from ..principal European Ghettos set up by ..Germans ..several diaries ..collections of documents survive . ..3 largest existing sets of contemorary records are those of ..Warsaw Ghetto ..collected by Emanuel Ringelblum and his Joy of Sabbath circle ..archives of ..Bialystok Ghetto ..and ..chronicle of ..Lodz Ghetto.” Martin Gilbert.

Every facet of Hitler’s being was focused upon the Jews and their annihilation and the entry of War into this configuration gave Hitler a further 3,650,000 Polish Jews for him to resolve as an issue, as a solution, as a People. With his formative der Einsatzgruppe, small pockets of Jewish Community’s were targeted and eliminated and this is nowonly 1939. During December 1940, while work was being considered on creating the Onyeg Shabbes, the consensus amongst many is given a more immediate purpose.

Tuesday June 30th. 1942 “..Jewish population ..living under ..impact of news from London. ..world has been stirred by ..reports of ..slaughter in Poland ..aroused ..deepest emotions in all of us. Formany ..many months ..endured ..most terrible sufferings ..asking ourselves ..Does ..world know about our sufferings ..if it knows ..why is it silent. Why was ..world not outraged 10’s of 1,000’s of Jews ..shot ..at Ponary. ..10’s of 1,000’s of Jews poisoned in Chelmno. 100’s of 1,000’s of Jews ..slaughtered in Galicia. ..slaughter in Vilna. ..180,000 ..in Rostov ..Jews ..murdered ..in Kiev. ..blood is flowing in rivers. Is ..blood of ..Jews more precious…Only now have we come to understand ..cause of this silence. ..Polish government ..its own radio station .knew nothing about it. ..if London knew ..next day 100 people ..shot ..Pawiak prison ..why ..did it take many months before they learned of ..100’s of 1,000’s murdered Jews…a question which cannot be turned away by excuses!” Emanuel Ringelblum.

As Emanuel seeks to bring together like minded activists as archvists, those who share the same sense of urgency, Poland is evidencings all of what Hitler’s forces are securing against the Jews, throughout Poland. In Aleksandrow they Murder Jews. In Czestochowa they Murder Jews. In Konskie they Murder Jews. In Kruszyna they Murder Jews. In Lelow they murder Jews. In Ozorkow they Murder Jews. In Pietrkow-Trybunalski, in Piotrkow, in Sosnowiec, in Wieruszow, in Zarki, in Zdunska-Wola, in Zgierz and in Zloczew the Einsatzgruppe murder Jews.

“..Ringelblum certainly played an important role ..not only in ..archive ..but also in all his activity. ..an energetic ..active man ..filled a central role st Tlomackie ..in Yisa ..and had an outstanding organisational ability.” Yitzhak Zuckerman.

All of which suggests the systematic nature of the Slaughter and the planned for execution of Hitler’s developing instructions to do so. As the Murder’s become more and more widespread, the knowledge of their consistency permeates all of Poland. As Emanuel engages in the prospect of ensuring the World will know of this, we do not seek to discount any of those 50 or 60 Archivists who worked so closely to ensure it. The Memory of what was achieved against all the Jews of Poland is entered into with what we recognise is Emanuel Ringelblum’s Onyeg Shabbes Archives. 

Wednesday July 22nd. 1942 “..eve of Tisha be-Av ..Day of Mourning ..liquidation of ..Warsaw ghetto was begun. ..Public Committee was immediately summoned to find out what ..situation was and to take measures. Those attending ..meeting included Dr. A. Berman ..L. Bloch ..Shmuer Bresler ..Yitzhak Cukierman ..Zisha Friedman ..Josef Finkelstein-Lewartowski ..D. Guzik ..Yitzhak Giterman ..Josef Kaplan ..Menachem Kirszenbaum ..Alexander Landau M. Orzech ..Dr. Emmanuel Ringelblum ..Josef Sack ..Szachna Sagan ..Dr. Yitzhak Schiper. ..Opinions were divided. Representatives of ..left-wing Zionist parties and of He-Halutz ..and also some of ..men in public life called for active intervention in some way or other. ..majority wanted to wait. How long. Until ..situation became clearer. ..rumors ..circulating that no more than 50,000 to 70,000 Jews would be deported from Warsaw ..old people ..sick ..prisoners ..beggars ..after that ..Aktion would be finished.” Adam Czerniakow.

For this reason alone, the Archive will always allow for Emanuel Ringelblum’s name to ring out throughout all of Eternity. While we have at least many of the names of those who assisted Emanuel’s endeavour, we recognise a concerted effort has now been recorded into the evidence and testimony we know is The Holocaust. For all of those other contributor’s, and we are aware that not all of these are known us, we recognse them, their hand intervening and intentional and for that, they too are recalled and remembered.

Monday August 3rd. 1942 “..I am proud ..in these grave ..fateful days ..I was one ..who buried ..treasure ..in order that you ..know of ..tortures ..murders of ..Nazi tyranny.” Naum Grzywacz. #On August 3rd. 1942 in 10 Tin Boxes and Milk Churns, some holding Emanuel Ringelblum’s own Warsaw Diary, we know that this part of the Ghetto Archive, perhaps Emanuel’s own personal attachment to the Onyeg Shabbes, this is hidden by Naum Grzywacz, Israel Lichtenstein and other’s. The Jewish Self Help Society, from which this Yisa Archive arrives and all of this adds more to the culture of Poland which did Not exist without the influence of some 3,650,000 Polish Jews within that Group and Society as a whole.

“..Ringelblum asked me to transfer Michael Weichert’s archive from Krakow to Warsaw. ..It wasn’t a personal archive but ..YISA archive.” Yitzhak Zuckerman. #Emanuel Ringelblum, who sought to remind the closed World of Poland, the ever threatened Europe and consequently the World thrown into conflict of what will be missing of Polish Jewry. We should be certain that while some 3,000,000 Polish Jews are to be missed, they form a part of a larger 6,000,000 Slaughtered Jews are missed but must never be forgotten. We know too that in the March of 1943, Emanuel, Yehudis and Uri escape to the aryan side of Warsaw and away from the Ghetto.

“..Before ..War ..Jews lived in their 2 storey tenement. As neighbours ..they were on good terms. A Jewish vegetable merchant and a Jewish fruit trader bought products from their garden and orchard. Old Mieczyslaw’s Father was known for his liberal attitude towards Jews. He was an honest man ..of noble character. Modern trends had not touched him. He did not understand hatred towards Jews. It was in that spirit that he raised his children ..in whom he instilled ..principles of justice and to treat everyone ..same ..without regard to religion or nationality. Mrs Malgorzata ..Mieczyslaw’s Mother adopted that family tradition from her Husband.” Emanuel Ringelblum.

Emanuel could not forego his undertaking to gift us memory and was always adding to what the Archive would finally constitute in recalling what the Jews were enduring. The vulgar horror of the actual Slaughter rips through the whole of civilisation and marks any perceived culture with a disdain that resonates though 6,000,000 Jews lost. The War against the Jews was no coincidence and World War II will not conceal that fact, an integral part of its knowledge not hidden behind a smoke screen an attempt to shroud and deflect a World’s attention.

“..When it was needed to rescue ..current residents of Krysia from ..Ghetto ..Wieczyslaw personally drove his cart to ..finish ..loaded ..suitcases and parcels onto ..cart ..sat ..people onto ..packages and drove home. One time ..he loaded on 8 people ..Women ..Children ..and ..before ..eyes of ..police ..szmalcownicy these blackmailers ..and ..neighbours ..he drove along ..main streets of ..City ..arriving home safely.” Emanuel Ringelblum.

Along with the Archives from Warsaw, there was also many other Archives which Emanuel pooled together from the far flung corner’s of Hitler’s intention for Polish Jewry. In this we can recall, Bialystok, Cracow, Lodz and Vilna and know from them, the physical resistance is placed alongside the cultural emphasis always Jewish, always a Jewish enterprise and always in confrontation with Hitler’s demands. It is indeed unfortunate that some in history see, that it required the tide of the War to move against Hitler for him to unleash The Final Solution.

“..What could I answer. ..We all knew well that if we succeeded in taking Ringelblum out of there and bringing him to us as a shoemaker or tailor ..his Family would still be doomed. My silence conveyed ..truth to him.” Julian Hirszhaut.

This is very far from the truth as in every corner of Germany and Austria, in Czechoslovakia and on into Poland, from these earliest days, the Jewish People were being Murdered and to scale. On March 5th. 1944, Emanuel was betrayed by the Pole, Jan Lakinski, and their place of hiding was uncovered by the Germans. Emanuel and his Family, and all the others in the hiding place, as well as the Pole who hid them, were taken to Pawiak prison. There are variants to the last details of Emanuel’s life, and those of his Family.

“..On ..morning of March 7th 1944 ..Germans and polish police came to ..kitchen where we were sitting ..my Mother ..my Brother Mieczyslaw ..Me and my sick Sister Halina. They took my Brother and led him straight into ..garden to ..greenhouse. I immediately went into another room and lowered ..blind as a signal of danger. Janusz was in front of ..greenhouse. When he saw ..drawn blind ..he jumped into Krysia and stayed there. Through ..window ..I saw ..Germans standing near Krysia as ..Jews emerged. They were then stood against a wall with their arms raised. That same day ..or ..next ..Krysia was pillaged and burned. ..polish police stood guard there for another 3 days before they were recalled.” Wanda Szandurska.

Some 130 Jews are recorded as having been in hiding alongside Emanuel and his Family and were caught by the Germans as they sought Emanuel and even his Archive. Other’s contest that it is within Pawiak Gaol that Emanuel and his Family were shot and either way, Emanuel Ringelblum has left to posterity what we surely gain from. We can afford him no other accolade than the saving of a Jewish Cultural rebellion that stood against the tide of such uncivilised atrocity, there is a victory we might not choose to mention while it is steeped in the blood of 6,000,000 Jews. Emanuel deserves more than just a mention far beyond what is to be learned of, and ahead of all of his effort for us.

“..populace is afraid that at ..crucial terrifying moment ..Germans will discover some clever way of turning to nought all our efforts ar self rescue. Whether this is true or not ..only future will tell.” Emanuel Ringelblum. #The Foresight to see, while all around you is crumbling into dust, that choking feeling of isolation being masked by the flames of destruction and all the time while facing the blanket of ash from the Slaughter of Your People, this is what confronted 11,293,3000 Jews of Europe and Emanuel Ringelblum ws one of those Jews. Emanuel Ringelblum established for all time what history now acknowledges is the formative archive of the Jewish Struggle to Survive. This idea, this concept worked tirelessly against Hitler’s plan to ensure no trace of any Jew could survive, either physically, culturally, or effectively.

“..If ..third part of ..Ringelblum Archive ..and with it my papers ..turned over for safe keeping after ..Great Deportation began ..is ever found ..it will include a ticket from ..Ghetto’s laundry with a poem by Yisroel Shtern about a tree in ..Ghetto.” Rachel Auerbach. #And here, as we recognise this day, March 7th. 1944, as the very day Emanuel and his Family are murdered, we know more of what happened to those who used to surround him in Warsaw, 300,000 to 450,000 Jews, filtered through the Umschlagplatz into oblivion. The Archive itself, this Onyeg Shabbes, and their wealth of evidences and materials that were preserved in metal cases, boxes, milk crates, is a treasure to be measured by 6,000,000 priceless lives. Uncovering thsee artefacts, one of the sites was uncovered in September 1946 with 10 cases of the Archive still intact. On December 1st. 1950, the second resource, the Milk churns containing more of these evidences and testimonials were discovered.

“..Everything depends upon who transmits ..who writes ..history of this period. ..they might wipe out our memory ..as if we had never existed ..as if there had never been a Polish Jewry ..a Ghetto in Warsaw ..a Majdanek. ..if we write ..history of this period of blood and tears ..I firmly believe we will ..who will believe us. Nobody will want to believe us ..because our disaster is ..disaster of ..entire civilised World. ..we are Abel ..murdered Brother.” Isaac Schipper.

This other large section, Rachel Auerbach’s 3rd. Section of the Archive has as yet remained hidden beneath the depths of the Ghetto and will possibly never be uncovered. What we have though, are the raw materials of Jewish Life while they are facing the daily perils of The Final Solution of the Jewish Question. This, at the time when the forces of Hitler were decimating Jewish existence is not to be measured lightly, nor forgotten easily. The physical evidence of the persistance of more than 3,000,000 Jews who were eradicated from all of Poland stands also as a testimonial to World failure and Jewish loss. 6,000,000 Jewish losses, all too easily forgotten by those who would seek to forget our lamentable failings as human beings has its reminders.

“..we die ..knowing ..we hurt ..enemy. ..unmasked his ..plan to destroy Polish Jewry. ..upset his plans ..revealed his cards. ..if England keeps its word ..goes through with its threats ..maybe we will be saved after all.” Emanuel Ringelblum.

Emanuel Ringelblum
Yehudis Herman Ringelblum
Emanuel and Uri Ringelblum
Onyeg Shabbes Contained
A Wealth in Words