This Week In History

July 17, 1942

Dawid Sierakowiak was a young man imprisoned in the Lodz Ghetto during the German occupation of Poland in World War II. He began keeping a diary when he was 14 years old, shortly before the war started. He continued until he was in his eighteenth year. Dawid’s account was contained in five notebooks that represent one of the most extensive and detailed descriptions of the Lodz Ghetto in existence. Gaps in the dates between the notebooks probably mean that there were others that were never discovered. He wrote with such regularity that his diary may truly be considered a “day-to-day” record of this terrible period in Jewish history.

On July 17, 1942, Dawid was thinking about the challenges of the future. He knew that the only long-term hope for survival lay with the defeat of Germany in the war. Unfortunately, he could see no indication that such an event was likely to come any time soon. The tide of the war had not yet turned in favor of the Allies. His main access to news came from German papers that were still confidently predicting a final Nazi victory. Since he could see no quick end to the war, his thoughts turned to surviving another year in the ghetto. This seemed nearly impossible since the ghetto residents were living in terrible conditions that made their ongoing struggle even harder. Starvation, lack of medicine and poor sanitation had a devastating impact on people. Dawid wrote, “The death rate keeps rising in the ghetto. Many teachers in the former gymnasium have died, or are dying, or are incurable sick. I keep hearing about all kinds of previously unknown diseases that put people down after a short struggle. All immunity is disappearing, and any little thing can become a cause of death. … Meanwhile, winter is approaching. Who will survive it? It’s very doubtful that we will. Nevertheless, spending one more winter in the ghetto becomes an inevitable and implacable prospect. No, the war will not end this year.”

The war did not end for almost another three years. Dawid was correct when he saw that time was working against him. Although he and his family continued their struggle, he perished from tuberculosis, complicated by starvation and exhaustion on August 9, 1943. Dawid’s diary gives us remarkable insight into the life of this remarkable young man and helps us to mourn with deeper understanding the tragic loss of lives in the Holocaust.

You find out more about conditions in the Lodz Ghetto here.

You may read more about Dawid and his diary here.

Previously in This Week In History



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