Dawid Sierakowiak was a young man who had a great thirst for knowledge. His diary frequently included statements he made about wanting to go to school, his desire to earn top grades, and hoping for even more opportunities to learn. This makes his diary one of the best resources available for people who want to learn more about what happened in the Lodz Ghetto during the German occupation of Poland in World War II. Since Dawid was very observant of his surroundings, and since he tried to find out about events as they occurred in the wider world, it is very revealing when he admitted that he simply didn’t know what was going on.
On July 16 1941, Dawid wanted to write about the progress of the war. He began, “It’s been several days without German victories. Good cheer slowly creeps back into the hearts of the ghetto dwellers, and together with a tiny bit of fantasy, the boldest suppositions and rumors are being born. The United States is now almost ready for war with Germany; England is bombing, and there have been no new German conquests on the front. So perhaps the Germans are really in bad shape. But all this seems only wishful thinking. No one really knows what’s going on.”
Dawid’s entry on this day demonstrates two truths about life for Jewish people in the Lodz ghetto. The first of these is that the Lodz Ghetto was very effectively sealed away from the outside world. Some Holocaust historians have observed that it may have been the most isolated of all the ghettos. This is clearly demonstrated by Dawid’s observation that there had been no new German conquests on the front. In fact, the German military was still experiencing great progress at this stage in their attack on the Soviet Union. The second truth is that people naturally fill in gaps in information with the news that they hope they will receive, rather than accepting the uncertainty that comes with the lack of information. This entry was written relatively early in the history of the Lodz Ghetto. This tendency to see good news where none is warranted diminished over time as the war dragged on and conditions in the ghetto continued to deteriorate. It is interesting to note that Dawid, after reporting the rumors and their supporting arguments, revealed that he was not really persuaded of their truth. Sadly, his skepticism was justified. It would be many more months before the tide of the war turned decisively against Nazi Germany.
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June 1 to December 31
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