The Arty Semite

Holocaust Archive To Be Commemorated in Warsaw

By JTA

A monument commemorating the Ringelblum Archive will be built on Nowolipki Street in Warsaw, where it was hidden during the war.

Courtesy United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
Archivists at the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw sort through the contents of the Ringelblum archive, retrieved from two milk cans discovered in 1946 and 1950 in the ruins of buildings in the former ghetto.

Emanuel Ringelblum led a secret operation code-named Oyneg Shabbos while living in the Warsaw Ghetto, in the basement of the building at 68 Nowolipki St., between August 1942 and February 1943. Ringelblum, along with other Jewish writers, scientists and neighbors, gathered newspapers, leaflets, posters, photos, drawings, notes, diaries and literary works that documented the extermination of the Jews.

The 25,000-document archive buried in metal boxes and milk cans was taken from the ruins of the ghetto in 1946 and 1955. In 1999, UNESCO placed the Ringelblum Archive on its list of the most important documents of humanity.

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A Picture Out of Focus

By Rokhl Kafrissen

Joan Marcus
Donna Murphy and Christopher Innvar in ‘The People in the Picture.’

Is Broadway ready for dancing girls in the Warsaw ghetto? Can an American musical high kick through the darkest moments of Jewish history and still avoid giving offense, or worse, falling into kitsch?

“The People in the Picture,” a new musical playing at the Roundabout theater until June 19, raises this question, treading where even the now sainted creators of “Fiddler on the Roof” dared not go. Indeed, in his commentary for the anniversary of “Fiddler on the Roof’s” original Broadway cast recording, Sheldon Harnick tells how “Fiddler” almost had dancing girls in a big second act production number. Jerome Robbins even had it choreographed before deciding that the juxtaposition of dancing girls to communal expulsion just wasn’t the show they were writing.

Though the dancing girls in the ghetto are only a brief moment in “The People in the Picture,” as an artistic choice it stands for a show which is neither very funny nor very serious, and ends up falling, unfortunately, on the wrong side of self-parody.

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In the Navy Now

By Jenna Weissman Joselit

Crossposted From Under the Fig Tree

Flickr/Paul Belson

Since coming to Washington, D.C., 18 months ago, I’ve had lots of rewarding experiences, but none quite as memorable as my recent excursion to the U.S. Naval Sea Systems Command at the D.C. Navy Yard, where I delivered a speech in commemoration of the Holocaust to a varied and engaged audience of military personnel and civilians.

I came to the Navy Yard wearing two hats. One was that of an historian, whose charge was to suggest something of the ways in which history complicates and enriches the world we currently inhabit. Toward that end, my talk, “Past Imperfect,” explored how the past relentlessly and inexorably intrudes on the present, especially when it comes to the continuous stream of new revelations — archival, cinematic and material — about the Shoah.

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Testifying for the Holocaust

By Deborah Lipstadt

Last week, Deborah Lipstadt wrote about eerie anniversaries and Hannah Arendt. Her blog posts are being featured this week on The Arty Semite courtesy of the Jewish Book Council and My Jewish Learning’s Author Blog series. For more information on the series, please visit:


This blog entry appears during the time that we mark Yom HaShoah. It is also the time of the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. I am reminded of a small article which appeared on the front page [upper half] of the New York Times on April 22, 1943. The article read as follows:

The secret Polish radio appealed for help tonight in a broadcast from Poland and then suddenly the station went dead. The broadcast as heard here said: The last 35,000 Jews in the Warsaw ghetto have been condemned to execution. Warsaw is echoing with musketry volleys.

The people are murdered. Women and children defend themselves with their naked arms.

Save us…

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Monday Music: For Uruguayan Pop Star Jorge Drexler, Jewishness Is a Connecting Force

By Sammy Loren

Getty Images

The Skirball Center, a sober cultural institution on Los Angeles’s ritzy Westside, was unusually alive on January 27. Music journalists, record executives and South American diplomats with an array of Spanish accents — from Argentina to Spain to East Los Angeles — bounced about the room. Along with the requisite contingent of L.A. yentas and Hollywood types, the event brought out an eclectic crowd.

They came for Jorge Drexler. When examining the life and work of the Oscar-winning musician, it becomes clear why such a diverse audience would show up.

Born in Uruguay to a German-Jewish family, 46-year-old Drexler grew up practicing classical guitar. But like others in his family, he studied medicine, eventually becoming an otolaryngologist. Yet music still beckoned, and at the urging of Joaquin Sabina, a Madrid-based singer-songwriter, Drexler left medicine — and Montevideo — for Spain.

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A Virtual Warsaw Ghetto

By Yuval Saar

Crossposted from Haaretz

One of the first stops made by visitors to the new Warsaw Ghetto Uprising exhibit in the Yad Mordechai Museum, in Kibbutz Yad Mordechai, is the projection of a yellow star on their clothing. By moving your body, you put the virtual patch in the place where it belongs. It’s part of the concept of bringing viewers into the experience.

David Gary
The museum’s model of the Warsaw Ghetto.

Later on, in order to peek at a model of the Warsaw Ghetto one takes a virtual journey on a railway car to a death camp. After the doors shut, with a realistic-sounding noise, the trip begins. A subwoofer speaker under the car simulates the sounds of traveling by train, while images of the ghetto, and then of the extermination camps, go past the barbed-wire-covered windows.

Read more at Haaretz.com

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Bringing Cantorial Music Back to Its Birthplace

By Renee Ghert-Zand

“For me, this was not about a film. This was about our using our gifts as cantors to create dialogue,” said Cantor Nathan Lam of “100 Voices: A Journey Home,” which will be shown in a one-night event in over 75 theaters nationwide on November 11. The feature-length documentary chronicles the journey in June 2009 of 75 members of the Cantors Assembly and 25 congregational singers to Poland, the birthplace of cantorial music.

Courtesy 100 Voices

Jews lived in Poland for over 1000 years, and over that time Jewish and Polish cultures were intertwined. The cantors decided to return to the land from which their music first sprouted, not only to discover their own roots and witness the places where their family trees were brutally cut off during the Holocaust, but also to reach out to the Polish people by replanting seeds of Jewish culture with the hope that they might grow reconciliation and renewed relationships.

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Holocaust Filmmaker Responds to R Rating

By Ezra Glinter

Yael Hersonski at the Sundance Festival in January, 2010.

In May 1942, around three months before some 300,000 Jews were sent from the Warsaw Ghetto to Treblinka, Nazi filmmakers shot 62 minutes of propaganda footage intended to illustrate the inhumanity of their victims. Staged scenes showed rich Jews living in luxurious indifference to the poverty and death around them, purportedly demonstrating their callousness, even toward their own people.

Chances are you’ve seen this footage, though not in its entirety. One of the only film documents to emerge from the Holocaust, bits and pieces of it have been used in nearly every Holocaust documentary ever made. But only recently has a filmmaker undertaken to examine the footage as a whole, as well as the circumstances in which it was produced.

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Mourning and Madness in the Warsaw Ghetto

By Shoshana Olidort

New Yiddish Rep

The year is 1943. The place is Warsaw. The ghetto uprising has been crushed, but one man, a Hasid by the name of Yosl Rakover, is still alive, and he is busy recording his sordid tale for posterity. After recounting the events of the last few years — the deaths of his children and grandchildren, the hunger that pervades his every bone, the sense of despair all around him — he insists: “If I were unable to believe that God had marked us for His chosen people, I would still believe that we were chosen to be so by our sufferings.”

A crowd of more than 60 people packed a makeshift theater at the Sixth Street Community Synagogue on Sunday, where David Mandelbaum, founder and director of the New Yiddish Rep theater company, staged his one-man performance of “Yosl Rakover Speaks to God.” Mandelbaum has been performing this show for more than two years now, but this staging came at a particularly auspicious time, just ahead of Tisha B’Av, which began last night at sunset.

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