Rutka Laskier kept a diary for a little more than three months at the beginning of 1943. At the time, she was 14 years old. Her hometown of Bedzin had already been occupied by the Germans for over three years when she began her writing. Over the course of that time, the Jews of Bedzin had been subjected to many harsh regulations. They had been required to move into restricted housing and much of their property was confiscated. They were forced to wear the “Jewish star” and were subjected to forced labor. All of these depredations were carried out under the constant threat of violence and murder.
As horrifying as these events were, Rutka had not yet felt compelled to take up her pen. Why did she wait so long to begin recording a response to Nazi persecution? Perhaps a clue can be found in her entry for January 30th. She wrote,
“I met Micka and we talked about our lives in the future. In the morning I made an appointment with Janek and Micka to meet at 4:30 p.m. I returned home from Mietek before 4 o’clock, and I was told Janek had already been here and left. He will probably not come again. Micka didn’t come either. How can you not go crazy?”
Rutka’s diary shows that she was trying to maintain a normal life, even in her drastically restricted circumstances. She still made plans to meet with her friends. She indulged in gossip and daydreams. She even tried to imagine that she still had a future and pretended to plan for it with her closest companions. Unfortunately, reality was becoming harder to deny. She wanted to be angry with her friends who didn’t show up for an appointment, as if they were simply irresponsible. She knew, however, that it was also possible that they had been taken away or killed. After all, mass murder had already begun and Auschwitz was only a few kilometers away. How could she possibly respond to such a situation?
The event that caused Rutka to begin her diary was the news that the Nazis were preparing to enclose the Jewish ghetto. She realized that there would be no possibility of escape, so she wrote in order to leave a record of her life. She arranged with an older Christian friend to hide her diary before entering the ghetto, so that it could be preserved. Her words would have a chance to survive even though she would not.
You may read more about Rutka and her diary here.
More about the fate of the Jews of Bedzin is available at this Jewish Virtual Library webpage.
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