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?
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:
Videos, readings, and handouts that correspond with activities
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This educational version of the documentary tells the story of the Oyneg Shabes archive, created by a clandestine group in the Warsaw Ghetto who vowed to defeat Nazi lies and propaganda by detailing life in the ghetto from the Jewish perspective.
Students will apply the lessons they have learned about the intersecting histories of wartime North Africa and the Holocaust as they create an artifact that explains the context of the found poems they wrote in Lesson 3.
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Facing History & Ourselves is designed for educators who want to help students explore identity, think critically, grow emotionally, act ethically, and participate in civic life. It’s hard work, so we’ve developed some go-to professional learning opportunities to help you along the way.
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