By Michele Russo
As a high school English teacher, I am always trying to help my students understand the power of writing and how it is a powerful tool. I have told them that one day their diary may end up in a museum. They don’t really understand that until we discuss primary sources and the events that occurred in the Warsaw Ghetto.
An example of the power of writing is when people write down their own stories. When people document their lives, it becomes a living history.
We witnessed that today. Day one of this seminar we visited the Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute where the exhibitions were archives of Jewish life during the German occupation.
Dr. Emanuel Ringelblum, a historian and teacher, started this clandestine group in 1940 to tell the story of what life was really like living under persecution. They did not know what the future was going to be for the Jewish people in Warsaw, so they wanted to document their story knowing that if the Nazis were the victors their story may never be told. The exhibition has letters, diary entries, pictures, postcards, drawings, and multiple other artifacts that tell the story and give a voice to so many of the victims.
The power of their writing is a witness to what happened and was also used in actual trials as evidence of Nazi war crimes.
It was moving to see these handwritten, heartbreaking, messages in person. These people were real heroes who fought against the Nazis by preserving the truth.