Tamara Lazerson was 13 years old when Nazi Germany invaded her hometown of Kovno in 1941. Her father encouraged her to begin keeping a diary to record the historic events that were happening at the time. She had no idea how tragic those events would turn out to be.
Tamara was very intelligent and was bitterly disappointed that she would not be able to continue her formal schooling once the Jews of Kovno were forced into a ghetto. Even though she was required to work in a tailor shop during the day, she tried to stay involved in educational and cultural activities. She joined several informal study circles and was the leader of two of them. She saw herself as learning and getting ready for a future life in Eretz Yisrael. She couldn’t tolerate the idea that she was squandering any time that could be used for preparation, yet ghetto life often seemed to be nothing but a waste.
On December 5, 1943, she was overcome with despair. She wrote, “I am struggling with myself. Again the wound in my heart opens. Three years lost.”
She went on to write, “Three years. It’s hard to take. Be it as it may, if I’m alive I shall yet catch up. I know I can be a person of value to mankind… I am weighed down by my enslavement and have no time to write, to think, or even to read. I am mired in a morass, into which I sink as I daily labor from early morning to night with the slave gang. Around me is darkness. I thirst for light…”
Tamara never gave up her struggle. Fortunately, she was able to escape from the ghetto shortly before its destruction. Though she lost her parents, she and one of her brothers survived the Holocaust. She later married, finished her studies, and eventually emigrated to Israel.
Tamara copied the lyrics of the song “By the Ghetto Gate” into her diary. Click here to hear the song performed courtesy of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum.
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