There has been concern that public awareness of the Holocaust is declining, particularly among younger people, which makes the documentary Who Will Write Our History timely now. Director Roberta Grossman’s moving documentary is especially well-suited to the task, as it focuses on a secret group in the Warsaw Ghetto, led by a Polish Jewish historian, who set out to create a history and record of Jewish culture, to counteract the version of Jewish life they saw Nazi propaganda creating. As the Nazis’ genocidal plans became clearer, the group’s record-keeping also became a trove of eye-witness accounts of atrocities.
Who Will Write Our History is a tale of heroic resistance, a pen-versus-sword way of striking back against the Nazis. Although the documentary’s title lacks a question mark, it is the story of brave people who chose to answer the question of “who will write our history” by saying it would be them, and not the Nazis.
The secret group was called Oyneg Shabes, and the Polish Jewish historian leading it was Emanuel Ringelblum, with journalist/feminist Rachel Auerbach among the contributors to the archive. Adrien Brody and Joan Allen read from Ringelblum’s and Auerbach’s writings, among the actors providing voice-over narration in the film, drawn from the archive’s writings.
The documentary is both powerful and beautifully crafted by the award-winning Grossman, whose previous films include “Blessed Is the Match: The Life and Death of Hannah Senesh.” Who Will Write Our History blends high-quality re-enactments, with interviews with historians and archival materials. The film is based on Samuel Kassow’s book of the same name.
The combination of re-enactments with voice-over readings, and historians describing the flow of historic events makes for an emotional and compelling portrait of bold resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto, making Who Will Write Our History a must-see film.