Miriam Korber was nineteen years old when she recorded her diary entry for January 29, 1942. She and her family had been deported from their home in Romania to the city of Djurin in Transnistria, which was being used as a dumping ground for Jews. There they lived in squalid, overcrowded conditions that left very little room for hope. All of this had been done by the Romanian government, which was allied with Nazi Germany. On this day, less than three months after their arrival, Miriam wrote about the stress that the conditions placed upon her family and their relationships with one another. She wrote particularly about the impact that these events had on her father.
“I will never forget last evening. Everything was all right, Dad was in a relatively good mood. Sisi and I went to bed. Dad went out once more and when he came back in the house, by mistake he put out the lamp of the Horovitzes (who live in the hallway), as often happens because of the draft. And for such a mere trifle as a match, Dad, nervous to the brink, started to quarrel in a loud voice until mother barely managed to calm him down. All night long he sighed and felt sorry for this ridiculous squabble; he regretted it and realized what an unpleasant situation he placed us in. […] he has an excuse, poor man. He is so nervous that I believe it makes him ill. He worked his entire life and now he sees that all that is left of it is a bundle with a few rags […] At home father was a man of such integrity, but here we must behave toward him as if he were ill, and he is actually very ill; if we are not saved, I don’t know if we will find a cure.”
Miriam knew that her father was a good man. As a younger girl, she remembered looking up to him for his strength and integrity. Now, however, she was embarrassed by his outburst of temper, though she understood its source. Still, she commented on his weakness and infirmity with a sense of shame. Surely he felt it even more, because he was not able to support and care for his family. He was probably not comforted at all by the fact that it wasn’t his fault. He was also not alone. Frequently during the Holocaust, parents who were unable to care for or protect their children felt an extreme sense of loss. Children in those circumstances often ended up taking care of their parents in a type of role reversal. This was just another of the destructive elements of the Holocaust.
You may read more of Miriam Korbers’ diary entries in by Alexandra Zapruder.
You may learn more about the Holocaust in Transnistria online here.
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