Dawid Sierakowiak: December 17, 1939

Dawid Sierakowiak’s diary provides some of the best information available about the German occupation of Lodz during the early days of World War II. Even though he was only a young teen at the time, he was a careful observer and wrote in great detail about events as they unfolded around him.

The last months of 1939 brought great disruption and confusion to the Jews who lived in Lodz region of German-occupied Poland. They experienced the implementation of many new rules and were beset by numerous acts of violence. Shortly after the German invasion, many Jews were rounded up and sent away to do forced labor. Jews also experienced confiscation of property such as radios, cars and bank accounts. In mid-November, Lodz synagogues were destroyed and Jews were required to wear the yellow star. Rumors began to spread that the Lodz area was going to be emptied of Jews. Whenever some people were arrested or sent away, this was seen as confirmation that the rumors were true. From December 13th through the 16th, Dawid wrote about the impact that these rumors had on the people. Some people packed in advance so that they would not be caught unprepared and others decided to leave on their own.

The confusion that beset the Jews of Lodz was based on more than just rumors. The Germans themselves had not yet fully determined how they wanted to proceed in implementing their racial policies. The Nazis were certain that they wanted to incorporate the region of Lodz into the greater German Reich, but there were few Germans actually living there. This meant that they would have to expel Jews and ethnic Poles and bring in German settlers. They began to deport some Poles and Jews eastward and to import some ethnic Germans from the Baltic region, but shortly after they had begun, they began to have second thoughts. They still wanted to pursue the “ethnic cleansing” of the region, but recognized that it would be a more difficult and time consuming task than they first thought. They realized that they would have to plan on the presence of Jews in Lodz for a longer period. This led to the decision to establish the Lodz Ghetto.

None of the policy shifts of the occupying forces were explained to the people living in Lodz. They had to try to figure things out on their own from the bits and pieces of news that they received. On the evening of December 16th, Dawid wrote, “In the evening the news came that the deportation will be stopped, and talks on the subject are being conducted.” The next day, Dawid continued by recording, “Yesterday’s information appears to be true. Jews may stay in Lodz until March 1. After that, departure!” As it turned out, the departure part of the rumor never materialized. The Lodz Ghetto was fully established by February, imprisoning and isolating over 160,000 Jews. This would remain the status quo until the Nazis began to implement the “Final Solution” in December 1941.

You may read about the Lodz Ghetto on the website of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. This page also contains a link to an excellent video presentation.

The Diary of Dawid Sierakowiak: Five Notebooks from the Lodz Ghetto is still available in print over sixty-seven years after the end of the Holocaust. You may read about it here.

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