Dawid Sierakowiak: July 22, 1942

Even though Dawid Sierakowiak was only a teenager at the time of the Holocaust, he was one of the keenest chroniclers of life in the Lodz Ghetto. He kept a very detailed account of his experiences and observations, leaving a record that is highly prized today for the documentation that it provides for historians of this period. It is clear from his writing that Dawid was highly intelligent, but he held no special position in the ghetto. He did not enjoy any privileged access to resources or information about what was happening in the ghetto as a whole. He had to rely on his own insights to pick up on the trends that were shaping his environment.

On July 22 1942, Dawid wrote about some of the big changes he noticed happening in the ghetto. “The ghetto keeps developing. It is, rather, a factory called ‘Gettoverwaltung’, a company of German capitalists, and perhaps of Rumkowski and Jakubowitz, exploiting the ghetto as an industrial center that keeps extending the scope of its activities. The number of workers in the workshops and on the internal posts in the country of ‘Der Älteste der Juden’ [a reference to Rumkowski as the German appointed leader of the ghetto] is growing. Currently a whole block of buildings adjacent to our workshop is being reconstructed to accommodate the enlarged metal workshop and new sections of the saddler workshop. All kinds of new workshops are also being created in various spots in the ghetto, reaching out their tentacles now for the last reserves of children (even those younger than ten) and adults who are barely able to work.”

Dawid couldn’t help but notice the dramatic increase in factory production in the ghetto. Like many other ghetto residents, he suspected that Rumkowski and the other leaders were corrupt and were gaining large profits from the situation. After all, he didn’t see much of an increase in food or other basic necessities. He assumed the increase from the additional productivity was being siphoned off elsewhere. What Dawid could not have known was that Rumkowski was carrying out a desperate strategy to save the existence of the ghetto itself. He knew that Jews who were being deported were being sent to death by gassing at nearby Chelmno. He correctly assumed that the same fate awaited the rest of the ghetto – unless, perhaps, he could make it so productive that the Nazis would choose to keep it going. In the end, this strategy failed, but the Lodz Ghetto was the last of all to be destroyed. If the Soviet advance had come more quickly, it is even possible that some portion of the ghetto might have survived. Dawid did not have the “behind-the-scenes” access to see everything that was happening, but he left a valuable record of what these events looked like from the average ghetto resident’s perspective.

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.

Learn more about the controversial figure of Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski and his actions as the leader of the Lodz Ghetto here.

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