Żydowski Instytut Historyczny im. Emanuela Ringelbluma

  • The Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute
  • JHI

History

The Emanuel Ringelblum Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw was officially created in 1947, yet its nucleus — in the form of the Jewish Historical Commission, established by decision of the Central Committee of Polish Jews — — had already existed since 1944. Since its beginning, the Institute has been housed in the pre-war building of the Main Judaic Library. The Library’s walls survived the fire caused by the Germans on May 16, 1943, as they were dynamiting the adjacent Great Synagogue. (The „Blue Tower” on Plac Bankowy now stands in the synagogue’s place.) Since 2009, the Jewish Historical Institute has had the status of a state cultural institution serving as a research and documentation center.

Archival and Other Holdings

The Jewish Historical Institute‘s Archives have the largest collection in Poland of documents concerning the history of Polish Jews in the 20th century. During the whole post-war period and until today, the JHI Archives have been supplementing their collection of testimonies and memoirs concerning the Holocaust. Today, the collection numbers 6967 testimonies and 346 memoirs. The Archives are still collecting, though now on a small scale, documents and testimonies referring to the history of the Jews in Poland.

The year 1944 can be considered the beginning of our Archives, when right after the end of the war, the Central Jewish Historical Commission was established in Lublin by the Central Committee of the Jews in Poland – the Jewish self-governing body. In 1945, the Commission headquarters was moved to Łódź, and branches were opened in a few cities, among others, in Krakow, Białystok, Warsaw, Katowice and Wrocław. One of the major aims of the Commission was documenting the Holocaust.

In the years 1949–1950, the JHI Archives accepted records of the dissolved post-war Jewish organizations, especially of the Central Committee of the Jews in Poland, but also of the Organization for the Development of Creativity (ORT), the Society for the Protection of Health (TOZ), various political parties and Zionist organizations (Ichud, Hanoar Ha-Tziyoni, Poalei Zion, Hitachdut, Keren Ha-Yesod) and of the Bund. Documentation also reached the Archives from foreign organizations that had branches in post-war Poland: the American Joint Distribution Committee and the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. The above-mentioned archival units are very large in volume and show in detail post-war Jewish life in Poland, together with the problems of emigration. Unique on a worldwide scale is the card catalogue — numbering nearly 300,000 records — of the Jews registered in Poland after the war.

The Underground Archive of the Warsaw Ghetto, the so-called Ringelblum Archive, listed on UNESCO ’s „Memory of the World” Register as a monument of world heritage, is a unique collection of documents that are one of the world’s most significant testimonies about the extermination of Polish Jewry.

It was created in November of 1940 at the initiative of historian Dr. Emanuel Ringelblum and with the involvement of the Oneg Shabbat (Joy of the Sabbath – because of their Saturday meetings) organization created by him. The group numbered several people and undertook the task of gathering and developing documentation — broadly defined — on the fate of Jews under the German occupation. The activity of the Oneg Shabbat was completely secret. The inhabitants of the ghetto did not know about it. As a cover for their activities Oneg Shabbat used the Jewish Social Self-Help (ŻSS), a social-service organization tolerated by the Nazis, but also leading considerable underground activity. The ŻSS office was located in the building of the Main Judaic Library, next to the Great Synagogue at Tłomackie St. That building since 1947 has been the Jewish Historical Institute headquarters and the storage site of the Ringelblum Archive.

When, at the beginning of 1942, the first news of the mass murder of Jews reached Warsaw, the activity of Oneg Shabbat underwent reorientation. Instead of collecting materials for a broad monography on the life of Jewish people on the Polish soil, the group started documenting the destruction of further Jewish communities and relaying this information to the public. The organization maintained contact with the Polish resistance movement (including the Government Delegation for Poland) and provided it with copies of gathered documents. In 1942, through Polish and Jewish organizations, the Holocaust reports of Oneg Shabbat found their way to the West. For further information see A. Skibinska (ed.), chapter 2.

Finding Aids, Guides, and Publication

online finding aid: http://www.jhi.pl/en/inventories Your visit in the Archives should start from viewing the list of archival record groups and selecting interesting items. The list is available online and in the Archives. Next, you want to refer to the archival inventories of selected record groups. We made most inventories accessible in pdf format – to read them you can use the computer in the Archives‘ catalogue room or in the JHI reading room. The inventories of testimonies (RG 301), diaries (RG 302), Department of Yad Vashem Documentation (RG 349) and a few smaller collections are in FileMaker format, which enables you to search for data using any portion of the description. The majority of inventories have personal and geographic indexes.

Opening Times

The Archives reading room is open Monday to Friday from 8:30 A.M. to 4:00 P.M. except for legal holidays and Jewish holidays (those dates are published each time on the JHI website).

Conditions of Access

The JHI Archive is open to all interested. You do not need an authorization from your university, company or organization supervisor. You need only to complete and sign a declaration as an Archive user.

Sources