The International Day of Commemoration in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust on Jan. 27 will offer a variety of choices for Philadelphians who want to observe the day through engaging, thoughtful programs.
Gratz College is partnering with the Anti-Defamation League of Philadelphia, the Holocaust Awareness Museum and Education Center, the Jewish Community Relations Council of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia and the Philadelphia Holocaust Remembrance Foundation to screen Who Will Write Our History, a documentary described as “vital” by The New York Times.
The movie is being shown across the globe that day — from Poland to Zimbabwe to Melrose Park.
Who Will Write Our History is the story of a group of journalists and academics trapped inside the Warsaw Ghetto who sought to record the lives of the 450,000 Jews around them as a way to fight back against the Nazis. Among them was Emanuel Rigelbaum, a historian who helped found the Institute for Jewish Research (Yivo), and Rachel Auerbach, a writer who would later go on to work for Yad VaShem, collecting Holocaust testimony and assisting the prosecution during the trial of Adolf Eichmann.
During the war, they were part of a group code-named Oyneg Shabes that lead the charge to collect and create tens of thousands of documents, complete with drawings of daily ghetto life, maps of Treblinka, official Nazi documents posted throughout the city, photos and more. Interspersed with re-enactments, the movie features voiceovers from Joan Allen and Adrien Brody as Auerbach and Rigelbaum, respectively.
“The goal here is to bring the past to life while balancing against the high standards for veracity in a documentary,” director Roberta Grossman said. “To achieve this goal, we blended archival and dramatic footage, pulling from the tools of dramatic feature storytelling. While fully aware of the complexity of these techniques, I reached for these visual tools because Who Will Write Our History tells the story of a place that no longer exists [the Warsaw Ghetto], about people who are long dead, and about a period of history captured primarily in black-and-white film and mostly by Nazi propaganda photographers and cameramen. I want people not simply to learn from the film, but to be engaged and deeply moved.
“In 1999, three document collections from Poland were included in UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register: the masterpieces of Chopin, the scientific works of Copernicus and the Oyneg Shabes Archive,” she continued. “It is my hope that Who Will Write Our History will change that in the way that only a film can do, by making the story accessible to millions of people around the world.”
“We are very pleased to work with our partners and colleagues to present this important event to the community,” said Mindy Blechman, coordinator of Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Gratz College.
Josey Fisher, director of the Gratz College Holocaust Oral History Archive, will open the event with a discussion of the archive and its significance in Holocaust studies. Following the film, attendees are welcome to stay for a Facebook Live discussion with executive producer Nancy Spielberg, Grossman and Samuel Kassow, the historian who wrote the book that Who Will Write Our History is based on and who also appears in the film.
The educational program runs from 12:30 to 4 p.m., and the movie will screen at 1 p.m. Tickets are $10-15.
The movie will also be shown at the University of Pennsylvania Hillel at 6 p.m. Tickets are $10. The Ritz Five, at 214 Walnut St., will screen the movie at 1:50 p.m.
At Ohev Shalom of Bucks County, the Jewish War Veterans Post No. 697 will host a remembrance event from noon to 4 p.m. The program will feature Daniel Goldsmith, who survived the Holocaust as a child in Belgium with the help of Catholic institutions. Tickets are $7, and those interested in attending should call 215-322-9595 to reserve their seats.
The Rowan Center for Holocaust & Genocide Studies at Rowan University will commemorate Holocaust remembrance on Jan. 24 at 5 p.m. at the Student Center Patio.
On Jan. 28, Owls for Israel will host John Spitzer, a Holocaust survivor for dinner and a discussion. Spitzer survived the Holocaust in southern Hungary, where he was a forced laborer for the Nazis. The talk will be at 1441 W. Norris St., from 7:30 to 10 p.m.
On Jan. 29, JCRC will host a program for high school students to discuss the universal lessons of the Holocaust through small group discussions with survivors. This event requires preregistration, and will take place at Gratz College from 8:30 a.m. until 1:30 p.m.
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