For three and one-half years, a teenager named Dawid Sierakowiak penned one of the most complete and detailed diary accounts of the Lodz Ghetto to survive the Holocaust years. Dawid experienced fear and deprivation first-hand, but was able to maintain enough detachment as an observer to see the demoralizing effect of Nazi policies on the ghetto as a whole. In particular, he saw how food and supply shortages could turn some ghetto residents against each other, when cooperation and mutual help was needed to survive.
On May 7 1942, Dawid wrote,_ “Deportation of the German Jews continues. The barter is quieting slowly because no one has any food to exchange anymore, and those who still have it have finally wised up and prefer to eat it themselves.”_ Dawid also reported that his father had fallen ill and that a doctor had recommended that he “…eat every two hours, and lie in bed for some time, and gave him other similar directions that are impossible to carry out in the ghetto.”
After reflecting on the very real dangers brought on by malnutrition, Dawid criticized the fact that privileged people in the ghetto, including some doctors, were able to lay hands on more generous allotments of food. It would have been horrible enough if there had been no food to go around, but to see some have enough while others starved was particularly galling. He concluded his diary entry for the day with a wise and foreboding observation. “Social divisions in the ghetto become more and more scandalous. But we are in such a state of exhaustion that now I understand what it means not even to have enough strength to complain, let alone protest.”
The deadly combination of physical deprivation, illness and loss of hope afflicted many in the ghetto. In the end, many people lacked the strength to hang on and fight for life. This was known as “ghetto disease.” Dawid was wise to see that divisions in the ghetto made this condition worse. His observation also foreshadowed personal disaster because he would succumb to this very condition fifteen months later.
You may read more about hunger and the harsh conditions in the Lodz Ghetto here.
You may see a map of the ghetto, also known as Litzmannstadt here.
October 15, 2015 at 6:00 PM
FORUM: The Jewish Refugee Crisis of the 1930’s: What Can We Learn to Meet the Needs of…
October 25, 2015 at 2:00 PM
Opening Reception: The Scroll of Remembrance
October 29, 2015 at 6:00 PM
Forum at the Rosen JCC: Eva Braun, Hitler’s Bride
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