Otto Wolf: June 4, 1944

Otto Wolf was one day away from his seventeenth birthday when he wrote his diary entry on June 4th, 1944. He also noted that this entry was written during his family’s 102nd week in hiding. In fact, they had been evading the Nazi occupation forces for so long, and from so many different hiding places, that Otto’s observations sometimes come across as routine. He frequently included details in his diary such as when he got up, what he had to eat, and when he left the shelter to empty the waste bucket from the night before. His matter-of-fact reporting style sometimes obscured the real difficulties that were involved in a life in hiding. For example, his family’s access to food was far from secure and leaving the shelter always increased the danger of being discovered. Still, Otto’s understated writing style shouldn’t cover over the importance one of the news items he reported on this day.

Otto wrote on June 4th, “Marenka [one of the Wolf family’s helpers] gives us five cakes. Again, she loans us a newspaper. The situation is great. ‘Ours’ have already reached the outskirts of Rome. Foreigners are supposedly writing that the invasion will happen any day now.” After reporting the fantastic war news, Otto returned to a description of a modest birthday celebration. “For dinner, we have bread, half an egg each, and salad. My family wish me all the best for my birthday. Lici [Otto’s older sister] gives me a hat that she’d sewn for me. It really is stylish and I love it.”

Mixed in with his food list and his birthday gift, Otto had written about one of the most important events of the war – and had done so two days before it actually happened. This event that Otto referred to as “the invasion” is known to us today as “D-Day” – the June 6th landings of Allied military forces on the beaches of Normandy, France. It was a great accomplishment of the Allied military planners that they were able to keep the exact time and place of the landings a secret Nevertheless, the fact that newspapers had written about the impending operation shows that it had been expected and that the German military was prepared to vigorously respond. The success of the landings in spite of German resistance signified one of the turning points of the war and marked one more step on the way to Nazi Germany’s defeat. Sadly, Otto did not survive to witness that event, but his diary showed that he could see it coming. Surely this realization added to his birthday celebration.

You may read excerpts from Otto Wolf’s diary in Salvaged Pages: Young Writers’ Diaries of the Holocaust by Alexandra Zapruder.

Learn more about the U.S. Army’s role in the D-Day operation here. Click here for a more general perspective.

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