Emanuel Ringelblum (November 21, 1900 – March 7, 1944) was a Polish-Jewish historian, politician and social worker, known for his Notes from the Warsaw Ghetto, Notes on the Refugees in Zbąszyn chronicling the deportation of Jews from the town of Zbąszyń, and the so-called Ringelblum's Archives of the Warsaw Ghetto.
Before the war
He was born in Buchach, then in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, now in Ukraine. Ringelblum graduated from Warsaw University, where he completed his doctoral thesis in 1927 on the history of the Jews of Warsaw during the Middle Ages. Thereafter he taught history in Jewish schools and became a member of a political movement the “Left Po’alei Zion”. He was known as a historian and a specialist in the field of the history of Polish Jews from the late Middle Ages to the 18th century. Before the Second World War Ringelblum worked for social organizations. Most notably, he helped Polish Jews expelled from Germany in 1938 and 1939.
World War II
During the war Ringelblum and his family were resettled to the Warsaw Ghetto. There he led a secret operation code-named Oyneg Shabbos (Yiddish for "Sabbath delight"). Together with numerous other Jewish writers, scientists and ordinary people, Ringelblum collected diaries, documents, commissioned papers, and preserved the posters and decrees that comprised the memory of the doomed community. Among approximately 25,000 sheets preserved there are also detailed descriptions of destruction of ghettos in other parts of occupied Poland, the Treblinka extermination camp, Chełmno extermination camp and a number of reports made by scientists conducting research on the effects of famine in the ghettos.
He was also one of the most active members of Żydowska Samopomoc Społeczna (Polish for Jewish Social Aid), an organisation established to help the starving people of the Warsaw Ghetto. On the eve of the ghetto's destruction in the spring of 1943, when all seemed lost, the archive was placed in three milk cans and metal boxes. Parts were buried in the cellars of Warsaw buildings.
Shortly before the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, Ringelblum and his family escaped from the Ghetto and found refuge outside of it. However, on 7 March 1944 their hiding place (prewar address 81 Grójecka Street) was discovered by the Gestapo; Ringelblum and his family were executed along with those who hid them.
The fate of Ringelblum's archives is only partially known. In September 1946 ten metal boxes were found in the ruins of Warsaw. In December 1950 in a cellar of another ruined house at 68 Nowolipki Street two additional milk cans were found containing more documents. Among them were copies of several underground newspapers, a narrative of deportations from the Warsaw Ghetto, and public notices by the Judenrat (the council of Jewish leaders), but also documents of ordinary life, concert invitations, milk coupons, and chocolate wrappers.
Despite repeated searches, the rest of the archive, including the third milk can, was never found. It is rumoured to be located beneath what is now the Chinese Embassy in Warsaw.
The Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw is named for him.
- Polish-Jewish Relations during the Second World War (1974)
- Mark Celinscak, A Procession of Shadows: Examining Warsaw Ghetto Testimony. New School Psychology Bulletin. Volume 6, Number 2 (2009): 38-50.
- Samuel D. Kassow, Who Will Write Our History? Emanuel Ringelblum, the Warsaw Ghetto, and the Oyneg Shabes Archive, Bloomington & Indianapolis 2007.
- Samuel D. Kassow, “Emanuel Ringelblum and Jewish Society”, Michael, Institute of Diaspora Studies, Tel Aviv University, 2004
- Sarah Traister Moskovitz, Poetry In Hell: The complete collection of poems from the Ringelblum Archives in the original Yiddish with English translations. Web. July 2010.
- Ringelblum's Archives in the State Archives of Poland
- Ringelblum's Biography
- Ringelblum in UNESCO's Memory of the World Register
- Ringelblum's Milk Can
- "Time Capsule in a Milk Can" (PDF). (791 KB)
- An online exhibition about the Ringelblum archive, by Yad Vashem
- Lecture on Emanuel Ringelblum by Dr. Henry Abramson