September 8, 1939
"…on September 2, the second day of the war, a telegram arrived that instructed me to be in Berlin the next morning because we would be going to Denmark. …That afternoon at four o'clock I left Essen. The departure from my parents was very short and difficult. I had no idea when I would see them again, especially because the war is on now. To be in a war in Germany as a Jew means to be ready for the worst. When I sit here all alone, I often think of my parents and grandmother and then only sad thoughts come to mind."
Klaus Langer lived in Essen, Germany when the Nazi party came to power in 1933. The early entries of his diary reflect that of a fairly normal teenage existence until the events of Kristallnacht (The Night of Broken Glass) changed his life forever. Kristallnacht is generally regarded as a dramatic turning point in the history of Germany's Jews and Klaus' diary provides a powerful record of these events as they occurred in Essen. His father was arrested and released only on condition that he and his family would leave Germany as soon as possible.
Klaus spent the next year trying to get out of Germany and struggling with the red tape that made it almost impossible for Jews to legally leave the country. Finally, on September 2, 1939, Klaus fled Germany with a group of young people to safety in Palestine. His parents and grandmother were unable to leave Germany, and Klaus never saw them again. His mother died of natural causes, and his father and grandmother were deported from Essen and murdered by the Nazis.
Klaus changed his name to Jacob, and lives in Israel today. His original diary is still with him.
Saturday, September 12, 1942
I receive a card from Charles. I have written you a card every other day just as you asked. But the directress tells me that she got a letter from a J[ewish] aid group saying that you were in the occupied zone and that you wanted to hear from me. I am afraid for [you]. I don't mail the card. It's useless. Tonight I cried. Who knows where you were taken to . . .?
Peter Feigl was born to Jewish parents who had him baptized as a Catholic at age eight in an attempt to protect him from Nazi persecution. He fled with his parents from Austria to France, where he and his parents lived for several years as refugees. In the summer of 1942, amid deportations of Jews by French authorities, Peter's mother arranged to have him placed in hiding in a Catholic summer camp. Unbekownst to Peter, his parents were deported shortly thereafter and were murdered in Auschwitz-Birkenau. Peter remained under the protection of a woman named Madame Cavailhon, who protected him from the French police and the German authorities. He addressed the first volume of his diary to his parents, who he desperately missed and hoped to see again.
For two years, Peter lived in hiding with the help of false identity papers. He was sheltered in Le Chambon sur Lignon, the Protestant enclave that is now famous for having protected thousands of Jews from the deportations organized by German and French officials. In 1944, Peter and a group of children fled across the border from France to safety in neutral Switzerland.
He now lives with his wife in Florida. The two volumes of his diary are in the collections of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.
March 7, 1940
It is evening, seven o'clock, and I am "celebrating" my birthday. I really never had such a sad birthday; I have never been alone on my birthday before. Dad is in the camp. …Peter has been in the camp for just as long and we have seen him just as little. …The grandparents are still in Vienna. The other grandmother along with Uncle Paul and Aunt Edith are in London, and Uncle Arthur, Aunt Annie, and Hederl are in San Francisco. Everyone is scattered around and no one is with me. …Today, I cooked my own birthday meal and, sitting in the kitchen, I am writing in my diary and I am sad. Today I am sixteen.
Elisabeth Kaufmann was born to a sophisticated and cultured Jewish family in Austria. In 1938, at the age of fourteen, Elisabeth and her family fled to France to escape the Nazis. Already a refugee for two years before beginning her diary, Elisabeth's entries reflect the struggles, hardships and complexities of life far from home in a hostile and alien world. Her immediate family was often separated for long periods of time, as her father and brother were held in French internment camps as "enemy aliens". At the same time, she did her best to adjust to her new life, attending art school, making friends, and bicycling around the city of Paris.
Beginning in May 1940, as the Germans prepared their attack on France, Elisabeth and her mother were uprooted once more. Elisabeth recorded all the details of their journey south as they tried desperately to stay ahead of the German army. A gifted artist, Elisabeth filled a sketchbook with illustrations that correspond to her diary entries about life as a refugee in France and their chaotic flight south. She and her family were eventually reunited and emigrated to America. Her brother Peter returned to France in 1944 as a soldier in the American Army. He lost his life in battle at age nineteen fighting the Germans.
Elisabeth's diary and her sketchbook are now in the collections of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.
April 10, 1942
When will this terrible bloodshed finally end? If it goes on much longer then people will drop like flies out of sheer horror. A peasant from Krajno came to tell us our former neighbor's daughter had been shot because she'd gone out after seven o'clock. I can scarcely believe it, but everything's possible. A girl as pretty as a picture--if she could be shot, then the end of the world will soon be here.
Dawid Rubinowicz was born in the Polish city of Kielce on July 27, 1927. He and his parents Josek and Tauba, younger brother Herszel, and younger sister Malka, had moved to the provincial village of Krajno, where they were living at the time of the German attack on Poland in September 1939. Dawid's family was poor, his father just getting by as a dairy farmer with a single cow and a wagon.
Dawid was only twelve when the German army invaded and occupied Poland in 1939. In his diary, he reported on all the major threats to the safety and security of the Jews in his town. What emerges is a dramatic account of the Germans' systematic exploitation of the Jews and the terror of the community as daily life grew more and more dangerous.
Dawid wrote his last entry on June 1, 1942. Three and a half months later, Dawid, together with his family and 5,000 Jews from surrounding towns were loaded into cattle cars and transported to the death camp of Treblinka. Nearly all were murdered in the gas chambers.
It is presumed that Dawid and his family were among them.
October 22, 1942
We are investigating the history of Courtyard Shavler 4. …Everywhere the same sad ghetto song: property, certificates, hideouts, the abandonment of things, the abandonment of relatives. I got a taste of a historian's task. I sit at the table and ask questions and record the greatest sufferings with cold objectivity. I write, I probe into details, and I do not realize at all that I am probing into wounds…this horror, this tragedy is formulated by me in three words, coldly and dryly. I become absorbed in thought, and the words stare out of the paper crimson with blood…"
Yitskhok Rudashevski lived with his parents and grandmother in the lively and vibrant city of Vilna prior to the war. He was a brilliant student and gifted writer who had a passion for learning and writing, and a love of Yiddish language, history, and culture.
In the summer of 1941, the Germans invaded Lithuania and marched through the streets of Vilna. Repressions and terror followed. Jews were subjected to restrictions and decrees of all kinds, and were victimized constantly by German authorities and Lithuanian civilians. As a further form of humiliation, they were forced to wear a badge marking them as Jews - a large circle and inside it the letter J.
In late summer, Yitskhok and his family were forced into the Vilna Ghetto, together with hundreds of thousands of Vilna Jews. They endured the terrifying round-ups that took place during the first few months of the ghetto's existence. He viewed his diary as a way to document for posterity the persecution of Vilna's Jews as he witnessed and experienced it. To this end, he documented all the events of the ghetto's early history in his diary and began writing in it daily in 1942.
In early autumn 1943, two years after the ghetto was established, the Nazis initiated new roundups in Vilna. Yitskhok and his family went into hiding but were caught after two weeks. They were taken to the Ponar forest and shot to death. Only Yitskok's cousin Sore survived. She returned to Vilna after the war and found Yitskok's diary. The original is now in the safekeeping of the YIVO Institute for Jewish Reesarch in New York City.
January 1, 1943
We, the Jews, stand on the threshold of 1943. Of this year it was said that the Jews will not see it--they will not survive that long. …The Jew, the people cursed by Der Stürmer as the criminal of all crimes, the one responsible for the world war, the betrayer of nations, the enemy of the people, the parasite who lives at the expense of others, the Bolshevik, the capitalist, the eternal exploiter, upon whose head all curses are heaped, guilty of everything--he, yes he, has survived to a new year, the year 'forty-three!
Ilya Gerber, the younger of two children, was born in Kovno, Lithuania in July, 1924. His father, Boris Gerber, was a well-known music teacher and conductor in Kovno; but little is known about his mother and older sister Chaya.
The Jews of Kovno were forced into the Kovno Ghetto in August 1941, when Ilya was just seventeen. One year later, he began writing his diary. A keen observer of the world around him, Ilya filled his diary with vivid descriptions and colorful drawings of the ghetto inhabitants suffering around him. For Ilya's immediate family, life was made a bit easier by the fact that his father was well connected to high-ranking members of the ghetto leadership. These connections allowed the Gerber family access to food and other luxuries, and Ilya's diary reflects his unusual status as a "privileged" person in the ghetto.
Ilya wrote his final diary entry on January 23, 1943. The diary breaks off at that point, and no other notebooks belonging to Ilya have been found. Ten months later, in October 1943, there was another massive roundup in Kovno. The ruthless destruction of the remainder of the Kovno Jews followed, and in July 1944 Kovno was emptied. By war's end the vast majority of the former Kovno Jewish community had perished. It is presumed that Ilya and his family were among them, though nothing specific is known of their fate.
Ilya's richly illustrated diary is now in the archives of the Vilna Gaon Jewish Museum in Lithuania.
Petr and Eva Ginz
From Petr Ginz's diary: February 8, 1944
After thinking about it for a long time, I decided to write a diary. I'm doing it for my Mom, Dad, and Eva, to whom I cannot write everything I would like in a letter because, first, it is not allowed and, second, my German is not good enough. I'm also writing it for myself so I won't forget the great number of incidents and types of people that I have come into contact with.
From Eva Ginz's diary: August 20 
Today we made our beds here in the room on the floor. We tried in vain to get to sleep and regretted that we don't have a place for lying down in the corridor or in the courtyard. We were bitten by bedbugs and fleas (as were the other girls who had stayed and slept in the room). We caught forty-eight bedbugs on our mattresses, not even counting those we caught on the floor and on ourselves. We had the lights on all night and we hunted bedbugs. I can't even properly imagine going home again and sleeping in a clean bed with nothing there to bite me.
Petr Ginz was born Prague, Czechoslovakia in February, 1928; almost exactly two years later, his sister Eva was born. Their mother was Catholic, and their father Jewish, but they grew up in a traditional Jewish home. When the Nazis took power in Czechoslovakia in September 1938, Petr and Eva were classified as children of a "mixed marriage" and were subjected to the onslaught of laws and restrictions enacted against Jewish people throughout Europe.
Petr was deported to the Terezin ghetto first, in 1942, and Eva followed him there in 1944. They each kept diaries during their imprisonment in the ghetto. Petr's journal is an ambitious record of his creative, intellectual, and artistic efforts in the ghetto. A gifted artist and writer, Petr produced watercolors, drawings, painting, linoleum cuts, and written articles and commentaries about life in Terezin. Eva, also talented, addressed her diary to her parents, and filled its pages with descriptions of the hardships of her life in the ghetto. Though different in tone and content, the Ginzes' diaries shed new light on life in the ghetto and the experiences of young people torn apart from their families.
Petr and his cousin Pavel were deported from Terezin to Auschwitz-Birkenau in September 1944. Before leaving, Petr entrusted his diary to his younger sister. He was killed immediately upon arrival in Auschwitz. Eva and her parents survived the Holocaust.
Eva, now named Chava, is an artist and lives in Israel today. Both her diary and that of her brother are in her safekeeping. Most of Petr's artwork is in the archives of Yad Vashem in Jerusalem.
Friday, February 27, 1942
Starvation is terrifying. People die like poisoned flies. Today I got one kilogram of parsley. My father, brother, and I ate it raw. O fate! O irony! Will it ever end? I'm sick of life. We live worse than animals. Human life is so miserable, but one still fights for it.
A teenage girl living in the Lodz ghetto in Poland kept a diary of her daily experiences over two months in the winter of 1942. She never recorded her name, so her identity is unknown and virtually nothing is known of her early life or her family.
Her diary entries reflect the dire circumstances of all Jews in Lodz who were completely cut off from the surrounding non-Jewish population. Unable to smuggle in food, supplies, or medicine, the Jews inside the Lodz ghetto survived only on the meager rations allotted by the German authorities. In her diary, she records the daily anguish of starvation and the struggle to maintain dignity amid crushing hardship and injustice.
Her diary breaks off in the middle of a sentence in March 1942. Nothing specific is known about her fate, though she and her family are presumed to have perished in the ghetto. The diary was found in an abandoned apartment in Lodz, Poland after the war and is now is the archives of the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, Poland.
Tuesday, February 10, 1942
Every day there are new problems, every day we hear other news that tests our nerves to the limit. Salvation is getting close, deliverance is getting close, then they get farther away; everything is a mirage of what we want, and, like every mirage, it gets farther and farther away as time goes by.
Miriam Korber was born to Leon and Klara Korber in 1923 in the small town of Campulung, in the southern part of the Romanian province of Bukovina. Her father repaired windows and roofs for a living, and in 1927, he opened a glass shop in Campulung.
When World War II broke out, the Romanian authorities allied themselves with Nazi Germany. In fact, Romania's own fascist government undertook a program of persecution and genocide of its Jewish population, enacting anti-Semitic laws and restrictions. After enduring years of suffering in Campulung, Miriam and her family were deported from their home in Romania to the remote region of Transnistria in Ukraine, together with hundreds of thousands of Romanian Jews. Once in Ukraine, the deported Jews were left to die in unsealed ghettoes, exposed to hunger, cold, illness, filth, humiliation and despair. In her diary, Miriam describes the terrifying transport from her home into exile, and records the details of her day to day life in the ghetto of Djurin.
Miriam, her sister, and her parents all survived the Holocaust. They returned home to Romania after the war, and Miriam went on to study medicine and become a doctor. She lives in Romania and has kept her diary with her to this day.
December 31, 1941
The winter is freezing. Frost knocks at the door with its skinny fingers. We have enough coal for a week and supplies for a month. …Under these conditions our dreams of going out into the streets to welcome the liberators are less and less realistic. What are you bringing me, long-awaited 1942? …I welcome you my longed-for year. Maybe you will be more propitious for our ancient, miserable race whose fate lies in the hands of the unjust one. And one more thing. Whatever you are bringing for me, life or death, bring it fast.
Elsa Binder lived with her parents and sister Dora in the town of Stanislawow, Poland before the outbreak of war in 1939. Little is known about her and her family apart from what can be gleaned from her wartime diary.
In the summer of 1941, the German army occupied Stanislawow. Repressions, terror, and executions followed swiftly. On October 12, 1941, a massacre of more than ten thousand Jews took place. Two months later, in late December 1941, the ghetto was established, and at about the same time Elsa began writing in her journal. For more than fifty years, the identity of this young writer was not known; she was called only by the name - Eliszewa - that she had scrawled on the cover of her diary.
She kept her diary for seven months, describing in it the harshness of life in the ghetto, focusing primarily on her family's hunger and deprivation, and her own efforts to retain a job in order to keep them alive. She also wrote about friendship and love, confiding her dreams and desires in the diary's pages.
At the end of March 1942, Elsa's sister Dora was caught in a round up and taken away. Less than three months later, Elsa wrote her last entry, which breaks off in the middle of a sentence. She and her parents are presumed to have perished, though nothing concrete is known of their fate.
Elsa's diary was found in a ditch on the way to the killing site for the Stanislawow Jews. It is now in the archives of the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, Poland.
To learn more about these diarists you can purchase a copy of the book Salvaged Pages: Young Writers' Diaries of the Holocaust by Alexandra Zapruder (Yale University Press) from the MTV Shop.
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