“I cannot grasp that it is already 1943, four years since this hell began. The days pass by quickly; each day looks just like the previous one. Everyday it’s the same frozen and oppressive boredom. There is great excitement in town. A lot of people are about to leave for ‘the land of our forefathers,’ to Palestine...”Thus begins the sixty handwritten pages of the 14 year-old Rutka Laskier’s memoirs, written between January 19 and April 24, 1943 and hidden under the floorboards of a friend’s apartment during the rest of World War II, before she, her brother and mother were deported to the Auschwitz gas chambers and murdered upon arrival in August of 1943. It was the eve of the 20th century, the darkest hour of evil returning, a period most infamously known as the Holocaust. Three years before, in 1939, Hitler invaded Poland after the partition of Czechoslovakia. In 1943 the war was at its height, yet it would take two more years before the world realized that there was more than meets the eye, upon the discovery of camps of Jewish manslaughter in Nazi Germany’s occupied territories.
More than sixty years later, in June 2007 Stanislawa Sapinska, Laskier’s childhood friend then 89 years-old, presented the diary to the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority after her nephew’s prodding.
The diary revealed a chilling account of Laskier’s life in the Jewish ghetto in Bedzin, Poland, coupled with observations of growing up and explorations on love, including an expressed infatuation with a boy of her age. However, the reality of extermination led her into a continual reflection on war, inhumanity and death, reaching the point where she even lapsed into a desperate crisis of faith.
“Oh good Lord. Well Rutka, you`ve probably gone completely crazy. You are calling upon God as if he exists. The little faith I used to have has been completely shattered. If God existed, he would have certainly not have permitted that human beings be thrown alive into furnaces, and the heads of little toddlers be smashed with butt of guns or be shoved into sacks and gassed to death...”During the German Aktion, or the segregation of Jews to be taken to concentration camps on February 6, 1943, Laskier described the horrors which became a day-to-day occurrence. It was an ocean of horrible inhumanity which beleaguered her nation’s threshold and then entered to ransack it to the last Jew in sight:
“When I looked beyond the fence I saw soldiers with machine guns aimed at the square in case someone tried to escape - how could you possibly escape from here? People fainted, children cried. In short, Judgment Day...On February 15 she wrote: “I’m only afraid that we Jews will be finished beforehand.” And in another entry: “If only I could say, it’s over, you die only once... But I can’t, because despite all these atrocities I want to live, and wait for the following day.”
“Oh, I forgot the most important thing. I saw how a soldier tore a baby, who was only a few months [old], out of his mother’s hands and bashed his head against an electric pylon. The baby’s brain splashed on the wood. The mother went crazy. I am writing this as if nothing has happened. As if I were in an army experienced in cruelty. But I’m young, I’m 14, and I haven’t seen much in life.”
On February 20 she expressed her apprehensions and a longing to escape the war’s dark and tormenting atmosphere:
“I have a feeling that I am writing for the last time. There is an Aktion in town. I’m not allowed to go out and I’m going crazy, imprisoned in my own house... For a few days, something’s in the air... The town is breathlessly waiting in anticipation, and this anticipation is the worst of all.Her last entry was written on April 24, 1943, before she and her family were taken to the ghettos, about which she had written on February 5th:
“I wish it end already! This torment; this is hell. I try to escape... like nagging flies.”
“The rope around us is getting tighter and tighter. Next month there should already be a ghetto, a real one surrounded by walls. In the summer it will be unbearable. To sit in a gray locked cage, without being able to see fields or flowers, and it reminded me that one day I would be able to go to Malachowska Street without taking the risk of being deported. Being able to go to the cinema in the evening. I’m already so ‘flooded’ with the atrocities of the war that even the worst reports have no effect on me.”When the ghetto was still not closed off to non-Jews, the Laskiers lived in the Sapinskas, where she first met Stanislawa Sapinska. When Laskie told her that she was writing a diary, it was kept confidential from the family. Worried that she would not survive the war, Rutka requested to her friend to hide it beneath the staircase’s double-flooring, to be retrieved by Stanislawa after the end of the war. After they departed, Stanislawa never heard of her friend anymore.
Laskier wrote in 1943 while she was the same age as the Dutch Anne Frank, who perished from typhus at the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945. Frank’s diary formed the book published in 1947 by her father Otto Frank, the only member of the family who survived the Holocaust. Both girls perished in the pangs of the war.
Unlike Anne Frank, Laskier did not have the time to rewrite her memoirs. Yet the genuine freshness of Laskier’s draft provided an honest and revealing experience bitterly plucked from the turbulence of Nazi-occupied Poland, right from the manner they were handled by the German troops to the psychological trauma which accompanied the fear of premature death. The hand which slew Laskier, Frank and the others was the hand which interrupted the blossoming of the age by depriving history of what could have become some of the world’s most prized possessions for the years to come.
“Polish ’Anne Frank' Diary Revealed,” by Etgar Lefkovits, Jerusalem Post, 5 June 2007
"Holocaust Diary of 14-Year-Old Dubbed the 'Polish Anne Frank' Unveiled," Fox News, 4 June 2007
Laskier, Rutka. Rutka's Notebook: January-April 1943. Jerusalem, Israel: Yad Vashem Publications. 2007