Emmanuel Ringelblum

(1900-1944) Historian, teacher and community activist born in Buczacz. Ringelblum studied at the University of Warsaw, where he also received his doctorate. He worked with the Yidisher Visnshaftlecher Institute in Wilno. As a member of the Poalei Zion-Left party, he organized Jewish schools and took part in the work of the Central Jewish School Organization. He lectured in Hebrew-language high schools and worked with Jewish student organizations. He was heavily involved in community work, and was active for example in the Central No-Interest Loan Offices (Tsekabe), where he was also the editor of that institution's publication, Folkshilf.

In 1923, he co-founded the Circle of Jewish Historians in Warsaw. That circle, which later continued its activities in the framework of the Jewish Research Institute (YIVO) in Warsaw, was comprised of independent historians and students from various disciplines in the humanities. That group issued an occasional academic publication of which Ringelblum was editor.

Although Ringelblum's range of academic interests was broad, his real focus was on the history of the Polish Jews and on Polish-Jewish relations. His works include "Zydzi w Warszawie od czasow najdawniejszych do ich wygnania w 1527" (Jews in Warsaw from The Earliest Times to their Expulsion in 1527) (1932) and "Zydzi w Powstaniu Kosciuszkowskim" (Jews in the Kosciuszko Uprising) (1938). His works demonstrated the complicated nature of Polish history and the various factors that had contributed to the development of both mutual sympathy and antagonism between the two peoples.

His passion for scholarship remained with him until the end. During the war, in the Warsaw ghetto, he not only participated in the underground and organized Jewish community self-help programs, but also created a ghetto archive that was hidden underground (known as the "Ringelblum Archive"). The archive documented the life, struggle and death of the Jewish people during the German occupation. The archive was conceived as a documentation center-a place where materials from various sources could be gathered. The documents, artwork, memoirs, and historical, economic, social and literary works it contains are an invaluable source for information about the social and cultural life of the Warsaw ghetto's Jewish residents, as well as about their tragic fate. Ringelblum's personal notes and essays from October 1939 until his deportation to a camp in April 1943 have also survived.

Ringelblum prepared reports about the situation of the Jewish population for the leaders of the underground state. They were given to the Allies with the aim of alerting people in the free world to what was happening. Ringelblum belonged to a small group of conspirators who were preparing for an armed revolt in the Warsaw ghetto. After the great deportation from the ghetto in the summer of 1942, Ringelblum was officially employed in the carpentry workshop at 68 Nowolipki Street. In that building's cellar, buried in old milk cans, two sets of archival materials were hidden. In late February 1943, he managed to leave the ghetto with his wife, Judith, and their son Uri; they hid in an underground hiding place at 84 Grojecka Street specially constructed by Wladyslaw Marczak. The day before the uprising, Ringelblum returned to the ghetto. During the fighting, he was deported to an SS camp in Trawniki. Thanks to joint action by the Jewish and Polish underground, a railwayman, Teodor Pajewski (a liaison officer from the Council for Aid to the Jews, Zegota) and Roza Kossower (a Jewish woman) managed to get him out of the camp. Ringelblum, dressed as a railwayman, was transported to Warsaw. For a time, he was in hiding in an apartment on 2 Radzyminska Street; he moved a short while later to the hiding place at 84 Grojecka, where he remained until March 7, 1944, when the hiding place was reported to the authorities. All those who had been hiding there were taken to Pawiak prison and shot.
Ringelblum's own books are also a source of information about the situation in the ghetto, including instances of anti-Semitism and stupidity, paralyzing fear, heroism and an account of his own time in hiding on Grojecka Street. His works include "Kronika getta warszawskiego" (Chronicle of the Warsaw Ghetto), edited and with an introduction by A. Eisenbach (Warsaw, 1988); and "Stosunki polsko-zydowskie w czasie drugiej wojny swiatowej" (Polish-Jewish Relations during the Second World War) (Warsaw: Czytelnik, 1988), with comments and introduction by A. Eisenbach. They are worth reading in their entirety, as they provide insights into the everyday lives of people during those inhuman times. Ringelblum, with a historian's realism, matter-of-factly presents all manner of details about life at that time, yet remains fully aware of the hell that his generation was living through. He described his own time in hiding as follows:

"When Jews began to be deported from Warsaw and people began looking for places to hide on the Aryan side, a certain group requested that the M. family build a shelter. (...) Mr. and Mrs. M. had taken in a poor Jewish seamstress, without remuneration, treating her like their own child. People assumed that the M. family had all the necessary moral attributes that would allow them to be trusted with the lives of several dozen people. (...) At the shelter's helm is its "boss", Mr. Wladyslaw M., 37 years old, a gardener by profession. He decided to save the lives of dozens of Jews, against the will of the occupiers who had passed a death sentence on them. P. W. is devoted heart and soul to his dearest "Krysia" (that was what the shelter was called, alluding to the word kryjowka-"hiding place"). (...) And there were other problems: how to feed several dozen people so as not to rouse anyone's suspicions? Ingenuous Mr. M. and his no less resourceful sisters found a way. His sisters rented a grocery shop, which would purchase the goods needed to supply "Krysia". (...) Mr. M. had to sever many of his social and business contacts because of the shelter. He could not allow too many friends or clients to come into the garden, because guests might notice something suspicious, something that he might not have foreseen even in his best-laid plans for the shelter. (...) Mrs. M. is "Krysia's" heart, Mr. M. is its brain, Mrs. M.'s grandson, Mariusz, is its eyes and "Krysia's" guardian angel, its constant companion. His function is very simple, but the lives of 34 people depend on it. Mariusz brings food to "Krysia", takes out buckets, etc., but most important of all, he stands watch all day long, so no one gets too close to it. (...) He has to organize things and direct the work in the garden so that no outsiders get too close to the shelter. He must constantly be aware of whether any of "Krysia's" residents are visible from the roofs of neighboring buildings. He also has to find solutions to problems like finding a place for the garbage, dishwater, fecal matter, etc. Every day matters, but what important ones for 34 living people. (...) When the ghetto was burning in April, when the modern Neros were turning human beings into living torches, when red posters were screaming from all the walls: "Poles! Woe to any of you who are hiding Jews. We will do the same to you as we have done to them," at "Krysia", people were in the depths of despair. (...) When the weak in spirit had succumbed to the German threats and refused to let Jews continue living in their hiding places, thus condemning them to a certain death, the M. family stood by their decision to save Jews."

From "Stosunki polsko-zydowskie w czasie drugiej wojny swiatowej" (Polish-Jewish Relations during the Second World War) (Warsaw: Czytelnik, 1988), with comments and introduction by A. Eisenbach, pp. 159-164.
*Family M. = Marczak family

The documents collected by Ringelblum were found after the war and deposited in the Jewish Historical Institute. They constitute the fullest documentation of the fate of the Jews in the ghettos of occupied Europe, and also in some of the camps.

Artists and Writers
Between Zionism and Assimilation
Industrialists, Pioneers in Business
Rabbis and Tzaddikim
Tragedy of the Twentieth Century
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