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Ringelblum, Emmanuel


Nationality: Austro-Hungarian. Born: Nowy Soncsz, 1900. Education: University of Warsaw, 1919-27, Ph.D. 1927. Family: Married; one son. Career: Teacher, gymnasium in Warsaw, 1927-39; worked for the Joint Distribution Committee (JDC), established working and personal relationship with Yitzhak Gitterman; leader, Oneg Shabbat, a secret group of writers and underground activists that chronicled life under Nazi occupation, beginning 1939; worked in the political underground and for the institute for social self-aid among Warsaw Jews. Participant, Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, 1943; prisoner, labor camp, Poniatow, 1943; escaped but recaptured, 1944. Died: Murdered, victim of the Holocaust, 1944.



Notitsn fun Varshever geto. 1952; as Notes from the Warsaw Ghetto: The Journal of Emmanuel Ringelblum, edited by Jacob Sloan, 1958.


Critical Study:

Emmanuel Ringelblum: Historian of the Warsaw Ghetto by Mark Beyer, 2001.

* * *

When World War II broke out, Emmanuel Ringelblum was a young scholar and teacher of social history, but within the next five years he himself became a significant part of history. On 1 September 1939, the day the Germans marched into his native Poland, he was attending the World Zionist Congress in Geneva. While some of the Polish delegates went to Palestine and others fled to Paris or London, Ringelblum decided to return to Warsaw. There were two main reasons for his decision to return: his relief work for the Joint Distribution Committee and his position as one of three leaders in the Zionist Labor Party. Realizing the significance of the events unfolding around him, in October 1939 Ringelblum took the first steps toward establishing a group of people devoted to recording everything that transpired during the Nazis' assault upon the Jews. Later known as the Oneg Shabbat circle, the group produced many diaries and documents that became crucial to understanding the scope and nature of the Nazis' actions. Among the most important documents is Ringelblum's own diary, which was published in Yiddish in 1952 under the title Notitsn fun Vareshever geto (Notes from the Warsaw Ghetto , 1958).

Born in 1900 in the Polish town of Nowy Soncsz, Ringelblum worked his way through gymnasium and enrolled at the University of Warsaw in 1919. Throughout his years at the university he was involved in reform movements and social action organizations for Jews. After completing his doctoral degree in 1927, he taught at a gymnasium in Warsaw until 1939. By May 1940 he had gathered together the leading figures in the Oneg Shabbat group. Rabbi Shimon Huberband, of Piotrków was his chief deputy; Hirsch Wasser, a refugee from Lodz, was his secretary; and Menachem Kon was his chief financial supporter. Once the Warsaw Ghetto was established in November 1940, the organization had dozens of volunteers working with them. Ringelblum, however, would not allow journalists or anyone associated with the Jewish Council into the Oneg Shabbat circle.

The Oneg Shabbat members lived in fear for their lives, and many were arrested and deported by the Jewish police. They were not deterred by the danger, however. Indeed, Ringelblum began recording his own diary on the Nazis' slaughter of the Jews before the end of 1939. Nor did he refrain from more active modes of resistance. A participant in the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising that broke out at Passover 1943, Ringelblum was captured by the Germans in May 1943 and sent to the slave labor camp at Poniatow. He escaped from Poniatow two days before an uprising broke out in the camp and found a hiding place in Warsaw for himself, his wife, and their son. There he continued his work on a volume that was later published under the title Polish-Jewish Relations during the Second World War (1992). In March 1944 Ringelblum and his family were discovered by the Gestapo. On 7 March the three of them—Emmanuel, his wife, and their 12-year-old son Uri—were executed, along with 35 other Jews, in the midst of the ruins of the Warsaw Ghetto. What later became his Notes from the Warsaw Ghetto was retrieved from the ruins in two parts; the first was discovered in September 1946, the second in December 1950.

—David Patterson

See the essay on Notes from the Warsaw Ghetto: The Journal of Emmanuel Ringelblum.

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