Teaching Who Will Write Our History | Facing History & Ourselves
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Teaching Who Will Write Our History

Invite students to reflect on why it matters who tells our stories as they view a documentary film about the profound courage and resistance of the Oyneg Shabes in the Warsaw ghetto.


At a Glance

unit copy


English — US


  • History




Three or more 50-min class periods
  • The Holocaust
  • Resistance


About This Unit

Who Will Write Our History tells the extraordinary story of the Oyneg Shabes, a clandestine organization composed of sixty Jewish leaders, artists, and intellectuals living in the Warsaw ghetto during the Nazi German occupation of Poland. Creating an archive that was discovered only after the war, the Oyneg Shabes collected diaries, essays, jokes, poems, and songs—anything that would counter Nazi propaganda and help the world understand life in the Ghetto from the perspective of its Jewish inhabitants. As the war progressed, the Oyneg Shabes’ role changed from preserving culture to documenting atrocity: they began to collect evidence of Nazi mass murder and send reports to London via the Polish underground. All but two of the members of the Oyneg Shabes were murdered by the Nazis, but their buried archive survived, and it provided a window into Jewish experience, resistance, and resilience that would fundamentally alter the scholarship and legacy of the Holocaust.  

Facing History’s two lesson plans for Who Will Write Our History support students to be thoughtful, reflective viewers of the film, and guide them to explore the profound courage and resistance of a group of people who seized control of their own narrative even as they faced certain death. While acknowledging the singularity of their story, students will consider key questions raised by the example of Oyneg Shabes: What story about my community should I preserve for future generations? Whose story do I tell, and how do I tell it?

Why does it matter who tells your story?

Students will: 

  • Be thoughtful, emotionally engaged viewers of Who Will Write Our History
  • Explore deeper themes of the film, including why it matters who was documenting and telling the stories of the Jews in the Warsaw ghetto for future generations
  • Reflect on dominant narratives about their own communities, and consider how to tell their community’s story in a more just and equitable way

This unit supports a three or more 50-min class period exploration of the the documentary film Who Will Write Our History. It includes:

  • 2 lessons
  • Videos, readings, and handouts that correspond with activities

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