One of the most extensive and revealing accounts of ghetto “life” during the Holocaust was recorded by a remarkable young man named Dawid Sierakowiak. His diary gives us great insight into day-to-day events as they were experienced at the time.
On July 18 and 19, 1941 Dawid bitterly recorded his reaction to news of German battlefield success. He wrote, “A victory again! The Germans have captured Kishinev. They are also writing that the Russians are on their last legs.”
It is hard for us to imagine today the despair that the victims of German occupation and Nazi racism must have felt in the summer of 1941. We know, from our perspective, how things would eventually turn out, but at that time, German victory seemed imminent. In the struggle to endure, hopelessness was almost as great a danger as hunger and disease. Dawid was interested in political resistance against the Nazis, but he confessed in his July 18th entry that he was having difficulty in seeing any work to do that would make a difference. We should not assume that any type of resistance against the Nazis was easy. In addition to the physical dangers of such activity, hope was needed to believe that fighting back could do some good. If entire nations could not withstand the onslaught, what chance did deprived ghetto residents have?
Of course, Dawid did continue to struggle to live and he became involved in political activity, but in the end he did not survive. He lived long enough, however, to know that the tide of battle had turned against Germany and that it would most likely lose the war.
Dawid’s diary was recorded in five notebooks, beginning a few months before the war and continuing through April 15, 1943. By August of that year, he lost his fight against starvation and disease.
You may read more about Dawid Sierakowiak and how his diary came to be published on the Holocaust Education & Archive Research Team website.
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