In the spring and summer of 1944, a young man in the Lodz Ghetto penned an extraordinary diary. He wrote his entries in the margins of an old French book titled, “The Truly Rich”. Though he did not identify himself by name, he recorded his thoughts in Hebrew, Yiddish, English and Polish. It seems likely that he knew he would perish and that his diary might someday be read by others. He left an angry, anguished account describing the inhumane treatment of the ghetto at the hands of the Nazi German occupiers and at the inaction of an uncaring world.
On July 11, 1944 the writer made several entries in his diary. He was unable to sleep due to the persistent annoyance caused by an infestation of biting insects. He probably wrote to give himself some measure of relief or distraction. He compared the bugs to the occupying German forces. He wrote, “It is three o’clock A.M. I am nearly devoured by ‘my’ bugs. Visibly they too undertook some invasion – they besiege, destroy, occupy, penetrate into the most hidden places of my body and nerves. They resemble awfully to their Berlin brethren – who are even more senseless beings than my bedbugs.”
As a result of his terrible suffering, the writer frequently drew despairing conclusions about the human condition. He had written the day before that “Anyone who can sink as low as modern man… can be nothing more than an unsuccessful experiment of nature, which certainly regrets it.” Worst of all for this boy was to witness the suffering of his little sister. She kept a diary too, and of this he wrote, “I could not resist the temptation of reading my little dear sister’s introduction to her diary. It touched the deepest strains of my soul. I wondered how it was possible that a mere child should write so philosophically and wisely about her suffering.” She had recorded a short poem:
Childhood’s dear days
Alas so few they were!
That dimly only I remember them.
It is only in my dream that I’m
Allowed to imagine days bygone.
Short indeed is human happiness
In this world of ours.
This young writer lamented his sister’s loss of childhood innocence, but was amazed by her perceptiveness and eloquent expression of her situation. From our vantage point looking back on the Holocaust, we must be doubly impressed with the ability of this boy and his sister to capture the essence of the victims’ struggle in the face of the Nazis’ murderous oppression.
October 15, 2015 at 6:00 PM
FORUM: The Jewish Refugee Crisis of the 1930’s: What Can We Learn to Meet the Needs of…
October 25, 2015 at 2:00 PM
Opening Reception: The Scroll of Remembrance
October 29, 2015 at 6:00 PM
Forum at the Rosen JCC: Eva Braun, Hitler’s Bride
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