By the time Elsa Binder began writing her diary in December 1941, she had already witnessed a great deal of tragedy. Germany had occupied her hometown of Stanislawow, Poland the previous July. Less than three months later, ten thousand Jews in the area were rounded up and massacred. In light of this, it is not surprising that Elsa reflected on despair, hope, life and loss in her writing. She was thinking of those who had been murdered when she wrote, “I hate winter. I am afraid of the freezing weather. But when I lie on my bed at this early hour, … all my sad and lethargic self yearns for the moon, the snow the street. And when I realize that so many of my young comrades will never see them, never feel them, I rebel against it and my instinct for life awakens. Yes! I want to live. I want to eat well (butter appears only in my dreams and milk belongs to past memories), I want to dress well (I haven’t done it for ages), I want intellectual pleasures, and here comes the nicest wish – I want to love and be loved. This is nature’s law. Sad but sound. At the fresh grave of my peers I dream about such trivial things. Good God!”
Elsa had conflicting feelings about her very normal desire to live. On one hand, she longed to experience again the simple pleasures that people so frequently take for granted. On the other, she felt guilty thinking about such things when she had so many friends who had been killed, who were now beyond the joy of life. Many survivors of the Holocaust have expressed similar feelings when looking back on the loss of family and friends. Even though this reaction is understandable, it must have been very painful for Elsa. She described her situation well when she concluded, “So gray and colorless days, brightened only by dreams, go by between a sad reality and a radiant hope. Today is very sad, tomorrow is unknown.”
Elsa Binder’s diary was included in a book entitled, by Alexandra Zapruder and was one of the featured diarists in an MTV video production entitled, “I’m Still Here.” You may read a brief biographical sketch of Elsa on the “Think MTV” website.
You may read more about the fate of the Jews of Stanisławów here.
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