Janine Phillips: September 25, 1939

Janine Phillips began keeping a diary only a few days before Germany invaded Poland at the beginning of World War II. Much of her writing covered the changes brought about by the German occupation. For example, her schooling was temporarily interrupted. Also, her family fled from Warsaw to the countryside, believing that they would be safer there than in the big city. Janine and her family were not Jewish, so they did not experience the antisemitic persecution meted out by the Nazis. Even so, they were still in great danger. The German occupation of Poland was brutal. Millions of Polish people were killed before it was over. At the beginning, though, no one knew what the future would hold. Instead, it was the uncertainty of the new situation that caused much of the stress.

On September 25, only three weeks into the war, Janine wrote about the impact of stress on her grandfather. “Nothing but bad news. A convoy of German troops on the main road to Warsaw has been reported by one villager. Grandpa is in a state of continuous anxiety. Mama is worried about his health.”

People didn’t know how the occupying soldiers would behave, so they lived in continual fear. Often, it was justified. Janine recorded an experience when German soldiers entered her home. _“They bashed on the front door, nearly knocking Uncle Tadeusz down, and rampaging through the house like a torrent of hoodlums. With their rifles at the ready, they poked and probed at anything and everything. Presumably, having found nothing they were looking for, they departed, leaving everybody alive; thank the Lord, but the house in a dreadful mess.” _

While the worst did not happen in this instance, Janine’s account demonstrated that her family was helpless to prevent German soldiers from doing whatever they wanted. That was a realization that undoubtedly made life under Nazi rule much more difficult.

You may read excerpts from Janine Phillip’s diary in Children in the Holocaust and World War II: Their Secret Diaries by Laurel Holliday.

Learn more about the German occupation of Poland during World War II here.

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