Pictured above: Director Roberta Grossman with actors Karolina Gruszka and Piotre Glowacki on set in Poland.
Few people today recognize the name Emanuel Ringelblum or realize the magnitude of three milk cans and 10 metal boxes buried in the Warsaw Ghetto during World War II, but two Valley Jewish organizations intend to change that.
The Greater Phoenix Jewish Film Festival and the Bureau of Jewish Education of Greater Phoenix partner together to present the Arizona premiere of the new documentary film “Who Will Write Our History” on Tuesday, Nov. 13 at 7 pm at Harkins Shea 14 Theatre in Scottsdale.
In November 1940, days after Nazis sealed 450,000 Jews in the Warsaw Ghetto, a secret band of journalists, scholars and community leaders decided to fight back the only way they had left – with their words. Led by historian Ringelblum and known by the code name Oyneg Shabes (joy of the Sabbath), this clandestine group aimed to defeat Nazi lies and propaganda not with guns or fists but with pen and paper.
More than three-quarters of a century since the Oyneg Shabes-Ringelblum Archive was buried in milk cans and metal boxes on the eve of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, the powerful story is being told on screen. Written, produced and directed by Roberta Grossman and executive produced by Nancy Spielberg, “Who Will Write Our History” mixes the writings of the archive with new interviews, rarely seen footage and stunning dramatizations to transport viewers inside the ghetto and the lives of the courageous Jewish resistance fighters.
“ ‘Who Will Write Our History’ reveals the extraordinary example of spiritual resistance, of haunting truth-telling and of heroism by the 60 brave souls of the Warsaw Ghetto’s Oyneg Shabes group,” says Elaine Hirsch, director of adult learning and the Jewish Community Library at the Bureau of Jewish Education of Greater Phoenix. “This film brings a humanity beyond the horrific Nazi propaganda films of the Warsaw Ghetto.”
The brave men and women of the ghetto defied their murderous enemy with the ultimate weapon – the truth – and risked everything so the archive would survive World War II, even if the individual members did not. Indeed, only three members survived the Holocaust. With over 30,000 pages of writing, photographs, posters, diaries, and more, the archive is the most important cache of in-the-moment, eyewitness accounts from the Holocaust. It documents not only how the Jews of the ghetto died, but how they lived.
Grossman will appear at the Arizona premiere and host a question and answer session with the audience after the screening. “I believe ‘Who Will Write Our History’ tells the most important unknown story of the Holocaust,” she says. “My aim in making this film was to fulfill the wishes of the members of Oyneg Shabes to ‘scream the truth at the world,’ and to be remembered.”
An award-winning filmmaker with a passion for history and social justice, Grossman has written, directed and produced more than 40 hours of film and television, including this year’s Netflix original documentary “Seeing Allred,” about women’s rights attorney Gloria Allred. She also directed “Above and Beyond” for producer Spielberg, about the American-Jewish World War II pilots who volunteered to fight for Israel in the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.
Arizona film premiere of the new documentary “Who Will Write Our History”
When: Tuesday, Nov. 13 at 7 pm
Where: Harkins Shea 14 Theater, 7354 E. Shea Blvd., Scottsdale
Cost: $10 ticket in advance at BJE office; $12 ticket online in advance; $13 ticket at the door (if available); $54 reserved seat ticket