A Jewish boy kept a diary in the Lodz Ghetto during the spring and summer of 1944. He didn’t identify himself by name in any of the entries, so we can only refer to him as “Anonymous”. We can make some judgments about his circumstances, though, based on available clues. For example, he wrote in the margins and on the blank pages of a published book, rather than in a notebook designed to be used as a diary. This is proof of the scarcity that people experienced in the ghetto. Basic necessities, such as paper for writing, were in such short supply that this writer had to improvise in order to be able to record his thoughts and experiences. This also means that the diary was important to the writer, given the fact that that he continued to write in spite of the difficulties. This writer also recorded his diary in four languages; Hebrew, Yiddish, Polish and English. This probably indicates that he had been well educated prior to the German occupation. In any case, his account gives us insight into the thoughts and feelings of one young man who suffered persecution at the hands of the Nazis for the sole reason that he was a Jew.
On June 12 1944, the writer revealed in his diary that he understood the role that being Jewish played in his situation. He wrote, “I suffer terribly but I still dream of a better future, of a more beautiful life, free and humane. I dream also of being able to tell the world of my suffering, at least as much as possible. In fact I should call it our suffering. For never before has suffering been felt more collectively as it is by us in the ghetto. After fantasizing of writing in various languages I return to my own language, to Yiddish, our charming mother tongue, because only in Yiddish can I hope to express my true inner self, directly and without contriving.”
This anonymous writer was probably aware that Nazi oppression affected others in addition to Jews. He may have been aware of the persecution of people with mental, physical or emotional handicaps. He probably knew about attacks against political opponents, religious dissenters, ethnic Poles, etc. He also knew, however, that Jews occupied a unique place in the Nazi imagination. They were not targeted for destruction because of what they could or could not do. They were not targeted because of what they believed or because of where they lived. They were targeted for destruction simply because they were, by the definition of the Nazis, born Jewish. That is why he recognized that the suffering in the ghetto was communal rather than individual. It is also likely why his response was to write in Yiddish – to reaffirm the value of his identity as a member of the Jewish people.
You may read excerpts from this diary in by Alexandra Zapruder.
You may learn more about the activities of some of the other young people in the Lodz Ghetto here.
December 12, 2013 at 6:00 PM
FORUM Using art, music and drama as part of Holocaust education
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Religion 201: How Did We All Get Here, Anyway? with Judaism, Hinduism, & Atheism
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