Who Will Write Our History?

9780253036308: Hardback
Release Date: 1st August 2018

Dimensions: 152 x 229

Number of Pages: 580

Series The Helen and Martin Schwartz Lectures in Jewish Studies

Indiana University Press

Who Will Write Our History?

Emanuel Ringelblum, the Warsaw Ghetto, and the Oyneg Shabes Archive

Hardback / £34.00

In 1940, the historian Emanuel Ringelblum established a clandestine organization, code-named Oyneg Shabes, in Nazi-occupied Warsaw to study and document all facets of Jewish life in wartime Poland and to compile an archive that would preserve this history for posterity. As the Final Solution unfolded, although decimated by murders and deportations, the group persevered in its work until the spring of 1943. Of its more than 60 members, only three survived. Ringelblum and his family perished in March 1944. But before he died, he managed to hide thousands of documents in milk cans and tin boxes. Searchers found two of these buried caches in 1946 and 1950.

Who Will Write Our History? tells the gripping story of Ringelblum and his determination to use historical scholarship and the collection of documents to resist Nazi oppression.

1. From 'Bichuch' to Warsaw
2. Borochov's Disciple
3. History for the People
4. Organizing the Community: Self Help and Relief
5. A Band of Comrades
6. Who Will Write Our History?
7. Traces of Life and Death: texts from the Archive
8. The Tidings of Job
9. A Historian's Final Mission

Samuel D. Kassow is the Charles Northam Professor of History at Trinity College. He is author of Students, Professors, and the State in Tsarist Russia, 1884–1917 and editor (with Edith W. Clowes) of Between Tsar and People: The Search for a Public Identity in Tsarist Russia. He lives in Hartford, Connecticut.

Two major historians meet in this book: one named Ringelblum, the other named Kassow. Drawing on his passion for the past, his revolutionary ethos, his organizational genius, not to speak of his self-discipline, unflagging energy and courage, Emanuel Ringelblum recorded, compiled, and preserved the last chapter of Polish Jewry. Drawing on his vast erudition and moral imagination, Samuel Kassow has rescued this incomparable story. Thanks to him, the Oyneg Shabes Archive is revealed to be the single greatest memory site of east European Jewry.

David G. Roskies
author of Against the Apocalypse

Samuel Kassow's book on Ringelblum and Oyneg Shabes is a chef d'oeuvre. I can only marvel at the author's ability to master a bewildering array of primary and secondary sources and write a temperate but impassioned historical study of his own. It is one of the most important studies on the Holocaust to have appeared in years.

Zachary Baker
Reinhard Family Curator of Judaica and Hebraica Collections, Stanford University Libraries

Together, Emanuel Ringelblum and Samuel Kassow help us remember why history matters.

Slavic Review

Samuel Kassow deserves great credit for bringing the history of the Oyneg Shabes and several of its towering figures to the attention of a broader, international audience. Meticulously researched and consistently objective in its account, Who Will Write Our History? is an important scholarly achievement.

World Socialist Web Site

. . . one of the most important books I’ve ever read . . . Kassow has created a stunning and brilliant social history of Polish Jews . . .

Bonny V. Fetterman
Reform Judaism

This may well be the most important book about history that anyone will ever read.

The New Republic

Kassow provides a comprehensive overview and interpretation of the value of Ringelblum's determination to keep alive in memory the ordeal of his fellow Jews.


[A] highly readable, well-grounded study on a fascinating secret undertaking under the boot of National Socialist occupation in Poland.

POLIN: Jrnl Pol-Jew Studies

The query that gives the book its title is more than answered by the painful text of the book itself. The martyred historians achieved their purpose. It is they who wrote the history that Kassow has transformed into a compelling and significant narrative, a tribute to the courage and determination of the doomed archivists. May 2010

Hadassah Magazine

In this book, Kassow adheres to Ringelblum's inclusive philosophy, painting an exceedingly comprehensive picture of Jewish life in Warsaw before and during the war.


[T]he critical success of Kassow's book is perhaps best explained by the fact that it is far more than a straightforward presentation of the archives. It allows us to relive the daily lives of men and women who were brought together by one man's mad undertaking.


This is a book that comes to us at enormous human cost. It deserves to be read and studied by us all. July 14, 2010

Palm Beach Jewish Journal

Kassow has made a major contribution to our understanding of the depth of dedication that librarians and archivists should share toward the preservation of their materials.

Matthew Z. Heintzelman
Libraries & Cultural Record Vol. 43

If there is one book that should be read about the Holocaust, it is Who Will Write Our History?November 13, 2008

Jack Fischel
New Jersey Jewish News

. . . Trinity College professor Kassow's work is well researched, written, and documented. . . . Recommended.


A stunning revelation of the enduring spirit of the decimated residents of the Warsaw Ghetto.

Rita Kohn
NUVO Weekly

If there is any book that should be read this year (or any year) about the Holocaust it is Who Will Write Our History?Fall 2008

Jewish Book World