Dawid Rubinowicz: January 15 & 16, 1942

Dawid Rubinowicz was only twelve years old when Germany invaded Poland at the beginning of World War II. As a Jewish boy, Dawid was in double danger. His nation was under hostile foreign occupation, which was perilous for all of Poland’s citizens. On top of that, the occupiers also had a particular hatred for Jews. Frequently, when Dawid wrote about events in his diary, he had to account for three groups; the Germans, the Poles, and the Jews. The German occupation was brutal toward both the Poles and the Jews, but the persecution of each group followed its own path. There weren’t many Jews in Dawid’s town of Krajno, so many of his family’s social contacts were Polish. Sometimes these neighbors seemed to sympathize with the plight of the Jews, but at other times not as much.

On January 15th, Dawid wrote about a situation that began when a group of German occupation police stopped near his house. They handcuffed one Jewish person and also threw two other people in jail. Dawid heard that the two in jail (one Jew and one Pole) were released when the mayor posted bail for them. He didn’t know, however, what happened to the third person. On the next day, Dawid began to ask around. He found out that the Germans had tied the man to their sledge and forced him to run behind it. When he couldn’t keep up, he fell and was dragged behind. After this torture, he was shot.

On the evening of the 16th, Dawid recorded what came next. “Toward evening, the mayor came to our house. Father fetched some vodka and they finished it off together because he was a bit chilled. … The mayor said all Jews would have to be shot because they were enemies. If I could only write down just a part of all that he said at our house, but I simply can’t.”

It is unclear from Dawid’s account whether the mayor’s words were meant as a warning about the Germans’ ultimate intent, or if (aided by the vodka) he was speaking his own opinion. In either case, the words themselves were deeply troubling. They also turned out to reveal a horrifying truth. Within a few months, the death camp of Treblinka opened and by the end September (most likely) claimed the lives of Dawid and his family.

You may read excerpts from Dawid Rubinowicz’s diary in Salvaged Pages: Young Writers’ Diaries of the Holocaust by Alexandra Zapruder.

Click here to learn more about the history of Treblinka, one of the “Operation Reinhard” death camps.

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