In the Autumn of 1940 the Jews of Warsaw were forced into a crowded ghetto, enduring unimaginable conditions until most were killed. Yet, amid this, one man, Emanuel Ringelblum, started an extraordinary clandestine organization dedicated to recording life under Nazi occupation. His aim: to ensure that, if he died, his people's history would still be written.
Codenamed Oyneg Shabes, this underground group painstakingly gathered together an archive of some 35,000 documents - letters, poems, photographs, personal testimonies, menus, sketches, songs and official papers - which was buried in tin boxes and milk bottles just before the ghetto was razed to the ground. This secret cache lay deep beneath the rubble for years, long after most of the Oyneg Shabes's members had perished, until one of the few survivors led the way to its secret location.
Only now can the story of this incredible historical record, and the people behind it, be fully told. It is a testament to an extraordinary act of defiance in the face of tyranny, and to the triumph of history.
Samuel D. Kassow is the Charles Northam Professor of History at Trinity College. He is the author of Students, Professors, and the State in Tsarist Russia, 1884-1917 and editor (with Edith W. Clowes and James L. West) of Between Tsar and People: The Search for a Public Identity in Tsarist Russia. He has lectured on Russian and Jewish history in many countries, including Israel, Russia and Poland.