In 1939, in Nazi-occupied Poland, Emanuel Ringelblum, having been sent to the Warsaw ghetto, established an underground organisation called the Oyneg Shabbos.
Amongst the group’s members were historians, social workers and writers, who began creating, curating and hiding essays, diaries, drawings and posters in an effort to document their creative responses to the horrors unfolding around them.
This rich archive, created by a group of around sixty Jewish ghetto residents, was hidden in milk cans and tins as all but three members of the collective were murdered. Most were deported and exterminated at the Treblinka death camp.
Their work remained safely hidden until discovered in 1946 and 1950, and eventually published in 2007, under the collective title “Who will write our history?”
Today I set off on a journey. Although from a culturally Jewish background, I do not consider myself Jewish, nor do I practice any religion, or believe in a god. Rather than an interest in modern or biblical Judaism, thirteen years of ‘religious’ education has left me fascinated by the events and stories of the holocaust and pre-war Jewish life in Poland, where my family roots lie.
A quick cross-reference between my family tree and the Yad Vashem holocaust memorial database reveals that the members of my family who did not leave Poland for the UK in the 1920s were, like the members of the Oyneg Shabbos, murdered at Treblinka.
Over the next week I will be producing a body of creative work as I accompany a group of concentration camp survivors, students and teachers as they visit memorial and educational sites across Poland. I will be photographing, drawing and writing my own (and their) history, as we celebrate stories of survival and uncover the histories of those who perished during World War II.