Friday, 5 July 2019


EMANUEL RINGELBLUM (November 21, 1900-ca. March 15, 1944)
            He was a historian, born in Buczacz (Buchach), Galicia.  His original first name was Menakhem.  He received a traditional and a secular education.  At the start of WWI, he fled with his family to Kolomaye and then on to Nowy Sącz.  In 1919 he graduated from high school there and left for Warsaw.  In 1927 he received his doctoral degree from Warsaw University for a dissertation on the history of Jews in Warsaw in the Middle Ages.  He was very active in cultural work of the left Labor Zionists.  After a year of teaching in Vilna’s Jewish middle school, he returned to Warsaw and until 1938 worked there as a teacher in the Polish Jewish girls’ schools, Sachs and Yehudiya.  From 1929 he took part in the work of the Joint Distribution Committee.  He was active as well in YIVO, student organizations, Tsisho (Central Jewish School Organization), and other Jewish cultural associations.  When WWII broke out, he was at the Zionist Congress in Zurich, and via a roundabout way returned to Warsaw, where he and a few remaining leaders of the Joint took over the social work, helped institute the self-help cooperative in the ghetto, and rapidly organized the collection of testimonies and documents concerning Nazi atrocities under the secret name “Oyneg Shabes” (enjoyment of the Sabbath).  Ringelblum attracted several dozen contributors and buried the accumulated materials in milk cans, one portion of which were found in September 1946, another portion in 1950, and a third part was not recovered.  As a member of the Jewish National Committee, he was in the leadership of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising of April 1943.  After suppressing the uprising, the Nazis forcibly transferred him to the Trawniki concentration camp in the Lublin region.  He was rescued from there and brought to Warsaw, where he and his family were concealed in a bunker beneath a garden.  Due to a denunciation, he, his family, and another thirty Jews were seized on March 6[1] in their place of hiding, brought to Pawiak prison, and a few days later shot.  Ringelblum had several opportunities to be evacuated from Poland but refused them.
            He began his writing work as co-editor of the organs of the left Labor Zionists: Yugnt-fon (Youth banner), Der nayer dor (the new generation), and later Fraye yugnt (Free youth) in which he signed himself Munye Heler.  He published articles on economic, social, and cultural issues in: Literarishe bleter (Literary leaves), Kooperative bavegung (Cooperative movement), Folkshilf (People’s help), and Sotsyale meditzin (Social medicine).  He published scholarly articles in: Yivo-bleter (Pages from YIVO), Der yunger historiker (The young historian), Fun noentn over (From the recent past), Historishe shriftn fun yivo (Historical writings from YIVO), and Ekonomishe shriftn fun yivo (Economic writings from YIVO).  His first and most important work before WWII was: Żydzi w Warszawie. Część pierwsza: Od czasów najdawniejszych do ostatniego wygnania w r. 1527 (Jews in Warsaw, part one: From the earliest times to the last exile in 1527) (Warsaw, 1932), 151 pp.  Several chapters from this book were published in YIVO periodicals: Yunger historiker (1926), Filologishe shriftn 1, and Ekonomishe shriftn 1.  Inasmuch as the Warsaw’s province of Mazovia was until 1527 an independent duchy, Ringelblum’s medieval history of Jews in Warsaw was at the same time a reflection of the earlier unknown history of Jewry over the entire territory.  Pursuant to his research into this history, Ringelblum (with Rifoel Mahler) published in 1930 two works (one each in Polish and Yiddish): Geklibene mekoyrim tsu der geshikhte fun di yidn in poyln un mizrekh-eyrope (Selected sources on the history of Jews in Poland and Eastern Europe) (Warsaw: Kultur-lige); and Teksty źródłowe do nauki historji Żydow w Polsce i we wschodniej Europie (Source texts for the study of Jewish history in Poland and Eastern Europe) (Warsaw: Freid).  Pieces of his research on Jews throughout Poland are: Tsu der geshikhte fun yidishn bukh un druk in poyln in der tsveyter helft fun 18tn yorhundert (On the history of the Yiddish book and publishing in Poland in the second half of the eighteenth century) (Vilna: YIVO, 1936), 64 pp., published previously in Yivo bleter (1932-1934); “Żydzi w świetle prasy warszawkiej wieku” (Jews in the light of the Warsaw press of the century), Miesięcznik Żydowski (Jewish monthly) (1932); “Projekty i prόby przewarstwowienia Żydόw w epoce stanisławowskiej” (Projects and attempts to depict Jews in the [King] Stanisławów era), Sprawy Narodowościowe (Nationality affairs) 1 (1934); “Der pinkes fun der protsker ‘khevre khayotim’” (Records of the Protsker “Association of Tailors”), Ekonomishe shriftn (1932); Żydzi polscy w insurekcji kościuszkowskiej 1794 r. (Polish Jews in the Kosciuszko-insurrection of 1794) (Warsaw, 1937), 217 pp.; “Yohan anton krieger, der nayhofer druker fun hebreyishe sforim” (Johann Anton Krieger, the Neuhof [Novy-Dvor] printer of Hebrew texts), Yivo-bleter (1934); an essay on Jews in the Polish republic, in Żydzi w Polsce Odrodzonej (Jews in the Restored Poland), vol. 1 (Warsaw, 1932); and about thirty monographic pieces about Jewish communities in Poland in the German-language Encyclopaedia Judaica.  Chapters of the second volume of his history of the Jews in Warsaw were published in: Land-kentenish (Lay of the land) (1935-1937); Historishe shriftn 2 (1937); Fun noentn over 4 (1937) and 5 (1938); and Tsien (Zion) in Jerusalem (1938).  Concerning the era of the nineteenth century, he published some twenty-five articles in Sotsyale meditsin (Social medicine) (1931-1938).
            His books (aside from those mentioned above) include: Notitsn fun varshever geto (Notes from the Warsaw Ghetto) (Warsaw: Yidish bukh, 1952), 344 pp., English translation by Jacob Sloan as Notes from the Warsaw Ghetto: The Journal of Emmanuel Ringelblum (New York, 1968), 369 pp.; Kapitlen geshikhte fun amolikn yidishn lebn in poyln (Chapters from the history of past Jewish life in Poland) (Buenos Ayres: Tsentral-farband fun poylishe yidn in argentine, 1953), 589 pp.; Ksovin fun geto (Writings from the ghetto) (Warsaw: Yidish bukh, 1961), 2 vols., new expanded edition (Tel Aviv: Perets Publ., 1985), vol. 1: Togbukh (1939-1942) (Diary, 1939-1942), with prefaces by Joseph Kermish and Arn Eisenbach (411 pp.); vol. 2: Notitsn un ophandlungen, 1942-1943 (Notes and assessments, 1942-1943), with appendices of Ringelblum’s unpublished and newly discovered notes (460 pp.).  Thanks to Ringelblum’s research, we now know more precisely and understand more fundamentally the historical development of Polish Jewry from its earliest roots until later epochs.
            In the ghetto his general Jewish research was interrupted, and he turned his full attention to taking notes—with a staff of collaborators—on every gruesome event in the realm of hunger, torture, and violence.  He thought it necessary to take down even the smallest details that might throw light on life in the ghetto.  Had Ringelblum left behind only his writings from the Warsaw Ghetto, that alone would have assured him of an honored place [lit., an Eastern place, implying a seat by the Eastern wall of a synagogue] in the history of the destruction of European Jewry.  Ringelblum’s diary of the Warsaw Ghetto has no parallel in any memoir of that horrific era.  He is depicted as one of the heroes in the novels: John Hersey, The Wall (New York, 1950); and Leon Uris, Mila 18 (New York, 1961).

Sources: Zalmen Reyzen, Leksikon, vol. 4; Meylekh Ravitsh, Mayn leksikon (My lexicon), vol. 2 (Montreal, 1947); Yankev Kener, Kvershnit, 1897-1947, fragmentn fun zikhroynes, epizodn, geshikhtlekhe momentn, gedenkverter vegn umgekumene kdoyshim, martirer un kemfer (Cross-section, 1897-1947, fragments of memoirs, episodes, historical moments, [and] words of remembrance for murdered martyrs and fighters) (New York: Central Committee of the Left Labor Zionists, 1947), pp. 228-46; Bakh, in Bleter far geshikhte (Warsaw) 1 (1948); Yankev Shatski bibliography, in Ringelblum, Kapitlen geshikhte fun amolikn yidishn lebn in poyln (Chapters from the history of past Jewish life in Poland) (Buenos Ayres: Tsentral-farband fun poylishe yidn in argentine, 1953); Nakhmen Blumental, in Di goldene keyt (Tel Aviv) 15 (1953); Nosn Ek, in Di goldene keyt 24 (1956); Nakhmen Mayzil, Noente un vayte (Near and far) (New York, 1957), pp. 323-51; Yonas Turkov, in Tsukunft (New York) 10 (1961); Shloyme Bikl, Shrayber fun mayn dor (Writers of my generation), vol. 2 (Tel Aviv, 1965), p. 214; Rifoel Mahler, Historiker fun poylishe yidn un fun zeyer umkum un gvure (Historian of Polish Jewry and of their mass death and heroism) (Tel Aviv, 1967), pp. 374-301; Khayim Finkelshteyn, Vizye, vort un vor (Vision, word, and reality) (Buenos Aires, 1967), pp. 286-95; Joseph Kermish, in Di goldene keyt 64 (1968); Y. Trunk, in Gilad (Tel Aviv) (1976), pp. 263-66.
Dr. Rifoel Mahler

[Additional information from: Berl Kagan, comp., Leksikon fun yidish-shraybers (Biographical dictionary of Yiddish writers) (New York, 1986), col. 553.]

[1] Translator’s note. The YIVO Encyclopedia of Jews in Eastern Europe gives this date as March 7 ( (JAF)

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