Voices From The Ghetto [world Service]

Episodes

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20121230 (WS)
20130126 (WS)
20130127 (WS)

tells the story of a remarkable secret project conducted inside the Warsaw Ghetto during the World War II. Codenamed Oyneg Shabbat (Joy of the Sabbath), a team of 'researchers' wrote and collected documents detailing life and death inside the ghetto. The archive began as the Germans created the grotesque prison city of the ghetto, separating the Jewish population of Warsaw from their Catholic neighbours and destroying the city both physically and as the centre of Eastern European Jewish life. Led by the historian, Emanuel Ringelblum, the archive included surveys on schooling, smuggling, the life of the streets, the bitter jokes, the price of bread. Members of the project gathered posters, songs, newspapers, pamphlets and even tram tickets that together convey the essence of the Ghetto. As the community was pulled from its apartments, transported to Treblinka and murdered, these reseachers collected scraps of testimony scribbled in notebooks and thrown from train windows. This colossal and perilous enterprise was intended to create a people's history to both warn the world and preserve the memory of a community clinging to life, belief and hope on the brink of destruction. Nearly all those who worked on the project were murdered, including Ringelblum himself. But in the final days of the Ghetto and the Uprising that followed, the archive was buried in the ruins and was recovered after the war. Drawing on the words of the Oyneg Shabbat project and the memories of Janina Davidowicz, then a child who escaped the Ghetto just before its destruction, this programme marks the time behind the walls when people lived and struggled for another life, using rare recordings to reimagine the sounds of an extinguished world. Presenter Monica Whitlock Producers Mark Burman and Monica Whitlock.

Oyneg Shabbat was a secret project to record the history, life and death of the Jewish Ghetto in Warsaw during World War II.

The contemporaneous attempt to preserve the memory of life in the Warsaw Ghetto.

Poland was at the centre of East European Jewish civilization and Warsaw its most populous heartland. In 1940 they were forcibly separated from their Catholic neighbours and confined by Nazi decree, along with hundreds of thousands of Jewish refugees, to an impossibly crammed living space. A deliberate policy of starvation, constant predation, disease and the terrors of occupation confronted all within the Ghetto with impossible choices and reduced many to despair.

But within the Ghetto a remarkable and clandestine project began to document how people lived and died, how they struggled for a better life and to retain their beliefs and culture. Codenamed Oyneg Shabbat (Joy of the Sabbath), the project was led by the historian Emmanuel Ringelblum. A team of 'researchers' wrote detailed surveys on schooling, smuggling, the life of the streets, the bitter jokes, the price of bread and the details of their destruction. They gathered posters, songs, newspapers, pamphlets and even tram tickets that together convey the essence of the Ghetto. All to ensure that should they perish, a people's history would be written to both warn the world and preserve at least the memory of a life on the brink. Nearly all who worked on the project would be murdered, including Ringelblum himself, but in the final days of the Ghetto and the Uprising that followed, the archive would be buried in the ruins to be finally recovered after the war.

Drawing on the words of the Oyneg Shabbat project and the memories of Nina Davidowicz, then a child who escaped the Ghetto just before its destruction, this programme marks the months and years behind the walls when people lived, dreamed and struggled for another life.

Presenter Monica Whitlock

Producers Mark Burman and Monica Whitlock

(Image: A man is led away by Nazi soldiers, Credit: AFP/Getty Images)