The Oyneg Shabes Archive buried three caches of writings and artifacts from the Ghetto. Two of the caches were found after the war, in 1948 and 1950. More than 30,000 documents were found In the metal boxes and milk cans in which the first two caches of the archive were buried. Here are a select few examples of the treasures of the Oyneg Shabes Archive:
Prawda (Truth) Newspaper
Prawda (Truth), newspaper of the Catholic Front for the Rebirth of Poland, May 1942.
Oyneg Shabbes collected publications of the Polish underground press. They reflected the ambivalent relationship of many Poles with the Jews.
"The Jews are suffering from their transgression of having rejected Christianity... Yet, ... we cannot interfere... Any...attempt to help shall be punished by immediate death.
As catholics, we must make an accounting of conscience... why have we not pursued our apostolic mission?...Had someone approached [the Jews]... and converted them, we would not be considering that the German are doing the Poles a favor by murdering them. Not only Ukrainians and the Volksdeutsche are used in this executions. In [various towns] the local population took a willing part in the murderous actions against the local Jews.
We must face this shame and be sure it never happens again... If somebody says that the Germans have done well by murdering Jews, he is not worthy of being called a Catholic."
In the Spring of 1941, the German Army began to exploit the production resources of the Ghetto.
Under unspeakable conditions and for mere pittances, Ghetto residents produced clothes, underclothes, shoes and hats, mattresses and quilts, as well as toys, dolls and candy.
The candy factories, which needed sugar allocations, were subordinated to the industry and trade department within the Judenrat. The candy was affordable only for a very small minority in the Ghetto. Some candies were produced for the holiday of Purim, when it is traditional to send gifts of food to friends and neighbors.
Summons to Report for Resettlement
Summons to report for resettlement, July 29, 1942, during the Great Deportation. The Nazis blackmail people through starvation.
These summons, issued by the Ghetto Police, inform the public that all who voluntarily report for resettlement will be given three kilograms of bread and one kilogram of jam.
July 28, 1942, Abraham Lewin wrote:
The [Great Deportation] continues. Many volunteer. Two families have left their apartments and turned themselves in. Reason: terrible hunger.On August 9, Lewin wrote:
We found out that 99% of the resettled people are murdered.
Map of Treblinka Camp as part of report by escapee Abram Jakub Krzepicki.
Krzepicki was deported on August 25, 1942 and escaped 18 days later. His report on Treblinka was recorded for the Oyneg Shabbes by Rachel Auerbach. Key to map includes (1) railroad, (6) undressing barracks, (8) gas chamber, (9) crematorium, (16) guard tower and (arrows) forest.
Portrait of a Young Boy
Artist Gela Sekstein's portrait of a young boy from the Warsaw Ghetto.
Many of Gela Sekstein's paintings were of children, as well as Jewish writers and poets. Sekstein, her husband and their twenty-month old daughter Margalit probably died during the night of the beginning of the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising.
Circular Urging the Jews to Fight
Call to arms by the Jewish Fighting Organization (ZOB), January 18, 1943.
After the mass deportation of the summer of 1942, knowing the truth about the fate of the deportees, the youth movement began to prepare for armed resistance. They distributed circulars urging the Jews to fight:
"Do not go to your deaths without resisting. Defend yourselves. Take hold of an axe, a crowbar, a knife, barricade your house. LET THEM CAPTURE YOU LIKE THAT... In fighting you stand a chance to survive... FIGHT"This is one of the last documents destined to enter the second part of the Oyneg shabbes collection.
Punishment order for not wearing armband, May 29, 1942.
Eta Gulbas was ordered to report to the prison in Warsaw within one week to serve a 50-day sentence because she was caught not wearing the Star of David armband. If she did not report voluntarily, she would be arrested. She was given the option of paying a fine of 250 zlotys instead of being imprisoned.
Jewish Symphony Poster
Poster announcing two concerts of the Jewish Symphony Orchestra, August 2, 1941.
Many musicians who were members of the Warsaw Philharmonic, the Opera House, and the Polish radio orchestras were forced to move into the Ghetto. They created the Jewish Symphony Orchestra and gave concerts in the Main Judaic Library and at the Melody Palace. Virtually all of the eighty musicians in the orchestra were murdered in the Treblinka death camp.
Labor Camp Letter
Letter dated November 7, 1940 from the slave labor camp in Tyszowce.
On October 26, 1940, Nazi Governor-General of Poland Hans Frank ordered compulsory labor for the Jewish Population. 437 Labor camps were established, predominantly in the Lublin area.
This letter, from a group of 176 men from Warsaw, was sent to the Warsaw Judenrat:
"We are appealing to you to SAVE US!! ... We are beaten and mistreated ... there are 23 hostages who may be shot to death at any moment... the cold reaches extreme temperatures... and we are standing partially in water.. We are dying of hunger... SAVE US OR IT MAY BE TOO LATE!!!"
Ration card for potatoes, issued to Bluma Wasser, 1941.
Potatoes were a staple food item in the Ghetto. Bluma Wasser was a member of Oyneg Shabbes, and the wife of Hersh Wasser, secretary of the Oyneg Shabbes. Food coupons and an official ration card—rations were limited to 189 calories a day, and a quarter of the ghetto population starved to death.