Sarah Fishkin: October 1, 1941

Sarah Fishkin was eleven years old when she first began keeping a diary. In the early days, her writing probably focused on the types of events common to young people everywhere. In her seventeenth year, however, she experienced a new topic to include in her reflections; the invasion of her homeland by Nazi Germany. She lived in eastern Poland in the area that came under German occupation in the summer of 1941.

Sarah wrote frequently about the big changes that occurred in her life and in her city since the war began. She saw unrelenting destruction everywhere. Her sadness over all of this loss came to the forefront in her diary entry for October 1. She wrote, “We awaited the day of Yom Kippur with much sadness and prayer to G-d. It is a day different from all others. It is concerned with charting a good and pleasurable year. How sad and broken are the many tens of thousands of hearts being poured out before G-d, hearts that find no comfort in the present heavy darkness. They dream of something better in their lifetime, but if that is not to come, they wish for their dismal life to end as soon as possible. All about is shattered, destroyed and burned. All is obstructed by fresh graves, a virtual cemetery. Dark, menacing clouds cover everything. The entire surroundings are weeping and crying out…”

In the Jewish religion, the days from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur are referred to as the “Days of Awe”. During this period, people are to reflect upon their lives; to repent and seek forgiveness for wrongs they have committed. On Yom Kippur, judgment – for good or ill – is sealed for the coming year. A common greeting at this time is “May you be inscribed and sealed for a good year.” Of course, there would be no good year under the terror of Nazi rule. The spirit of repentance, forgiveness and reform was foreign to the mindset of the oppressors.

Sarah Fishkin’s diary has been published in book form by her brother Jacob under the title, “Heaven and Earth: the Diary of Sarah Fishkin.” Excerpts may be found in “Children in the Holocaust and World War II: Their Secret Diaries” by Laurel Holliday.

You may listen to Miles Lerman, a Holocaust survivor; describe a Yom Kippur observance among Jewish partisans in Poland here.

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