Sarah Fishkin: August 3, 1941

Sarah Fishkin was 17 years old when Germany invaded her part of eastern Poland. She had been keeping a diary since she was eleven, so recording her feelings and observations was already a habit for her.

On the day the occupation of her town began, Sarah wrote about the violence she witnessed. “Innocent people, their lives stopped by bullets fired by a deliberate barbaric hand, drop in the streets.” She concluded with the observation that, “The same kind of fate awaits everyone.”

Five weeks later, on August 3, Sarah was even clearer about her situation. She wrote, “We seem now to have reached the end of everything. One craves more of youth and joy. However, the present time presents little other than tragic pictures, all of them mirrored in the eyes of thousands, of millions of individuals. One’s sole thought is to survive this painful, oppressive time and to see something better before one’s eyes.”

Sarah’s words reveal a significant truth about the Holocaust. Victims did not hang on to hope because they had reason to believe that they would survive. Honest, clear-eyed observation could only show that they were doomed. People held onto hope anyway, in spite of the obvious, because it was impossible to do otherwise. As the Roman orator Cicero observed over 2000 years ago, “Where there is life, there is hope.” There can be no greater testimony to the humanity of the Nazis’ victims than their refusal to give up the hope of life, even against all odds.

To explore some of the history and background of Jewish life in Sarah’s city (now in Belarus), you may visit The Yizkor Book Project Website.

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

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