Rutka Laskier was fourteen years old during the period when she kept her diary. For the most part, her entries covered a three month period between January 19th and April 24th, 1943. During this time, her family lived in the open ghetto of Bedzin, but would soon be forced to move into a closed ghetto nearby. Rutka’s diary ended at that point.
Rutka was aware of the events that were transpiring around her. A Christian friend, interviewed many years later, believed that Rutka had contact with an underground resistance group. In any case, some of Rutka’s diary entries make it clear that she knew about the progress of the war in the east and also about the murderous nature of Auschwitz.
Often, Rutka’s writing gives evidence of a very mature understanding of complex world events. For the most part, though, she wrote about her personal life. Like many teens, she was deeply concerned with her relationships with friends. She wrote frequently about a boy named Janek. She questioned her feelings for him and wondered if she was in love. She carefully analyzed his every word, his posture, and even his facial expressions. She also noted when he was late or failed to come for a visit. At first read, it may seem as though Rutka was very fickle in her feelings for Janek, alternating between desire, affection, anger, and indifference.
A closer read reveals something else. Rutka’s feelings were driven by the stress and uncertainty caused by war and persecution. On March 7th, she wrote “I wish I could leave all this behind and run away from Janek, Jumek, Mietek, my house and all this grayish rottenness. Spread out wings and fly high and far away, hear the wind howling and run wild on my face, feel its breeze. Fly to places where there are no ghettos, ‘shops,’ no pretending.” The next day she added, “Because of whom or what am I crying? Because of Janek, certainly not. Then because of whom? Probably because of freedom. I am sick and tired of these gray houses, of the steady fear seen on everybody’s faces. This fear clutches onto everyone and doesn’t let go.”
Every aspect of life, including friendship and romance, was warped by the destructive power of the Nazi’s advancing “Final Solution.” It is not possible to separate the political and the personal. They are intertwined, as Rutka’s diary eloquently demonstrates, on the same page.
You may read more excerpts from Rutka’s diary in this New York Times review
For more information about the Jews of Bedzin and the surrounding region during the Holocaust, see this site
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