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Oyneg Shabbos (group)

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Milk can used to store documents

One of the milk cans used to hide documents. From the Ringelblum "Oyneg Shabbos" Archive

Oyneg Shabbos (Yiddish pronunciation; in Hebrew: Oneg Shabbat, עונג שבת) was the code name of a group led by Jewish historian Dr. Emanuel Ringelblum in the Warsaw Ghetto during the Nazi-German occupation of Warsaw in World War II. The group, which included historians, writers, rabbis and social workers, was dedicated to chronicling life in the Ghetto. They worked as a team, collecting documents and soliciting testimonies and reports from dozens of volunteers of all ages. The materials submitted included essays, diaries, drawings, wall posters, and other materials describing life in the Ghetto. The collection work started in September 1939 and ended in January 1943.

The members of Oyneg Shabbos initially collected the material with the intention that they would write a book after the war about the horrors they had witnessed. As the pace of deportations increased, and it became clear that the destination was the Treblinka death camp and few of Warsaw's Jews were likely to survive, Ringelblum had the archives stored in 3 milk cans and ten metal boxes, which were then buried in three separate locations in the Ghetto. Two of the canisters, containing thousands of documents, were unearthed in 1946 and a further ten boxes in 1950. The third cache has yet to be uncovered, but is rumored to be buried beneath what is now the Chinese Embassy in Warsaw. However, a search attempt in 2005 failed to locate the missing archival material.

On January 19, 1942, an escaped inmate from the Chelmno extermination camp, Jacob Grojanowski, reached the Warsaw Ghetto, where he gave detailed information about the camp to the Oneg Shabbat group. His report, which became known as the "Grojanowski Report", was smuggled out of the ghetto through the channels of the Polish underground, reached London and was published by June.[1]. Most all of the members of the Oyneg Shabbos were killed in the Holocaust. Emanuel Ringelblum did escape the Warsaw Ghetto, however Ringelblum continued to return to work on the archives and was eventually killed.

The name Oneg Shabbat means joy of the Sabbath in Hebrew and usually refers to a celebratory gathering held after Sabbath services, often with food, singing, study, discussion, and socializing. This name was selected because the group tended to meet on Saturdays to discuss the progress of their collection and documentation efforts.

In 2007, historian Samuel Kassow published Who Will Write Our History? Emanuel Ringelblum, the Warsaw Ghetto, and the Oyneg Shabbes Archive. The publication accounts the Oyneg Shabes archives that have been found.

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