Rutka Laskier was a young Jewish girl from Bedzin, Poland who kept a diary during the German occupation of Poland in World War II. She has sometimes been referred to as the “Polish Anne Frank”. This is probably due to the fact that she was near to Anne in age and also because she wrote in a similar personal style. Often, her diary entries were more about her relationships with family and friends than they were about the war and the persecution of Jews by the Nazis. Her descriptions of her friendships, especially her interests in a certain boy, were so vivid that readers would be excused in forgetting the truly perilous circumstances in which she lived. On the other hand, there were days when she chose to write about the larger events that impacted her and the rest of the Jewish community as a whole. February 20, 1943 was one such day.
Rutka confided to her diary on February 20th, “I have a feeling that I’m writing for the last time. There is an Aktion in town. I’m not allowed to go out and I’m going crazy, imprisoned in my own house. I wanted to go to Jumek and warn him about the Aktion. Hopefully he wasn’t caught.” The “Aktion” that Rutka referred to was a roundup of Jews for deportation. She believed that those caught would be sent away to do hard labor, or that they might be sent to Auschwitz. From the way she described her perceptions of the process, it is clear that she expected transport to Auschwitz to equal a sentence of death. The fear she experienced for herself and also for her friends was unbearable. She wrote, “The town is breathlessly waiting in anticipation, and this anticipation is the worst of all. I wish it would end already! This is torment; this is hell. I try to escape from these thoughts, of the next day, but they keep haunting me like nagging flies. If only I could say, it’s over, you only die once… But I can’t, because despite all these atrocities I want to live, and wait for the following day. That means, waiting for Auschwitz or labor camp.”
Rutka’s words perfectly captured the terror of her situation. Not only was there the persistent fear of persecution and death, but also the additional burden of uncertainty of not knowing when the ax would fall. It’s amazing that she was able to bring herself to write at all. Her diary gives us at least a tiny glimpse into how ferociously she, and others like her, tried to hold onto life and hope in spite of everything.
Rutka Laskier’s diary was published in English in 2008 under the title, Rutka’s Notebook: A Voice from the Holocaust. You may read more about how the diary came to light online here.
Click here to learn more about the Jews of Bedzin and their fate.
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