October 31, 1939
Dawid Sierakowiak’s diary entry on October 31, 1939 describes one of the most terrifying events that people in the ghetto had to face – the random house search. Dawid was one of the most prolific teen writers of the Holocaust era. He kept an extensive diary describing conditions and events over the course of four years in the Lodz Ghetto. His keen powers of observation allowed him to leave a valuable record that helps us to understand the crimes of the Nazi occupation and the struggle of the victims to endure and survive.
By late October 1939 the German occupation was only two months old, but its brutality was already well known. Nazi officials would enter a home looking for money or valuables to confiscate. Usually there was nothing to find, since the ghetto residents were rapidly becoming impoverished. The true danger was not that the Nazis would steal things, but that they could do whatever they wanted without any rules to restrain them. They often carried out acts of violence or murder, seemingly on a whim. Each moment of a search was filled with the terror of what might happen next. Dawid had a narrow escape during this search. He wrote,
“The Aryan lad who was giving the tour whispered to the disappointed officer that he should at least grab me for work, but the officer didn’t respond. Mom was pale and trembled for a long time after they left. She made me something to eat and sent me off to school quickly; what if they changed their minds and gave me an ‘occupation’? Later on we learned that they took Marek for work and roughed him up.”
Dawid’s mother was right to be afraid. People seized for work were often severely beaten and abused. Some did not survive the experience. Dawid was fortunate that the Nazi officer did not take him away, but there was no guarantee that his luck would hold next time. Continual fear was one of the most destructive elements of ghetto life.
To learn more about Dawid Sierakowiak and his diary, see this site.
You can also take a virtual tour of Jewish Lodz.
June 1 to December 31
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