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Tuesday, December 10, 2019

A Bloodied Pen Vs. A Killing Machine


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Just when you thought you couldn’t hear a unique story about the much reported upon Holocaust, comes a pleasant surprise in the form of an indie film, Who Will Write Our History, which tells the story of the Warsaw Ghetto, through the historic records that were created under risk of death and discovered years after the war’s violent conclusion.

I was fortunate enough to see a screening of the award-winning film, courtesy of a presentation funded by The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum and Claims Conference, which helps claim back property and wealth that was seized by the Nazis from innocent Jews.

After the film was shown, a panel, led by Meredith Vieira and executive producer Nancy Spielberg (sister of Stephen), featured Aviva Blumberg, a living survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto.  It was a very moving discussion, as they reflected on the past and tied it into the world we live in today.

Schindler’s List was a powerful story a quarter-century ago.  The Boy in the Striped Pajamas similarly told a powerful story a few years ago. This film, told in a documentary-style through re-enactments, historic footage, and the actual words of those who lived in Warsaw, is also powerful in its own way, mainly because it tells several stories. 

One is the victimization and resistance of hundreds of thousands of Jews.

That one is tragic and well known.  

The other story is about the power of the pen, and how the act of recording eye-witness accounts in real time not only may have helped those who therapeutically recorded their plight but helped to educate future generations of what really happened and who lived under such deadly circumstances.

Emmanuel Ringelbaum, a historian, was trapped inside the prison known as the Warsaw Ghetto. He led a secret band of journalists, scholars, and community activists to fight back by chronicling what was taking place.  This clandestine group committed itself to photographing, drawing, writing, and artifact-collecting anything that would help preserve an accurate record of the mass atrocity. 

They detailed daily life and nightly horrors, piecing together diaries, flyers, essays, poems, jokes, and songs that reflected their culture and a Jewish perspective of what was happening to them.  They documented senseless Nazi violence and provided eyewitness accounts of abuse, brutality, torture, death, and inhumanity.

A pamphlet from the movie screening says it best: “They sent reports of mass murder to London via the Polish underground.  Then as trains deported them to the gas chamber of Treblinken and the ghetto burned to the ground, they buried 60,000 pages of documentation in the hopes that the archive would survive the war, even if they did not.”

Some may say they should have spent less time recording their eventual demise – and more time plotting an escape or to overthrow their captors.  But that just was not possible. A well-oiled, well-fed machine of fighters led by a ruthless dictator and the support of German and Polish citizens was not going to be defeated by half-starved, defenseless women, children, and weapon-less men.  But they could write and seek to get the truth out to a world that knew little, yet enough of what was going on.

As a writer, I can appreciate what they did.  It is an amazing story. They spent several years recording things and then hid them. A few survivors came back years after and they uncovered the troves of records from beneath rubble and a rebuilt city. There were actually three key deposits of materials and two were recovered.  The third is feared lost forever.

People, through time, have risked their lives to write the truth. Governments have put many to death for doing just that. These people were no different, except they were already condemned to a fate of a slow death, so in their case, they hoped their writings may somehow save them – or at least bare witness to what happened.

If I had lived in that era, under that situation, I too would have likely written records as they did. But I also would have stabbed the eyes of one Nazi guard just before it was over.  Then the pen would’ve been mightier than the sword.

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Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at brianfeinblum@gmail.com. He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog ©2019. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby http://blog.bookbaby.com/2013/09/the-best-book-marketing-blogs and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by WinningWriters.com as a "best resource.” He recently hosted a panel on book publicity for Book Expo America.


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