December 12, 1939 - Dawid Sierakowiak
December 12, 1939
Lodz Ghetto in Poland
The Diary of Dawid Sierakowiak
Dawid Sierakowiak was one of the most prolific teen diary writers of the Holocaust era. He began his account on June 28, 1939, ten weeks prior to the German occupation of his hometown of Lodz, Poland. Early in 1940, a Jewish ghetto was established. Dawid recorded the steady deterioration of conditions in Lodz over time, recognizing the physical deprivations, the intentional cruelties, and the progressive loss of hope.
introducing new orders
In the early days of the German occupation, the Jewish residents of Lodz were plagued with rumors of impending actions, some of which came to pass and others did not. Rules and regulations also shifted, seemingly at random. On December 12, Dawid wrote about one such meaningless change. “At Frydyrch’s, I read an order changing the Jewish yellow armbands to yellow ten-centimeter ‘Stars of David’ (Davidstern) that must be worn on the right chest, and on the back of the right shoulder. The barbarity proceeds. They will soon order us to smear tar on our noses and wear shorts. The ingenuousness of sadism has no limit. New work in the evening: ripping off the armbands and sewing on the new decorations.”
Dawid assumed that these new regulations were purposefully imposed to harass and humiliate Jewish people. This was frequently true of the Nazis’ behaviors and sadism was an accurate description. Sometimes it was the result of confusion and contradictory impulses among Nazi officials. The Nazis had not yet settled on a unified plan to implement their anti-Jewish policies and thus proceeded in fits and starts.
Dawid describes an episode like this in an entry made on December 13. He wrote about rumors circulating in the city to the effect that Jews were about to be expelled from Lodz. These rumors may have had their origins in the “Nisko and Lublin Plan” which was to set up a “reservation” for Jews in the Lublin area. About 95,000 Jews were sent there between September 1939 and April 1940. Few actual provisions were made to make such a reservation work and the plan was eventually deemed impractical. The persecution and elimination of Jews eventually proceeded along other paths. Dawid and his family were not sent away, but remained in Lodz when the ghetto was enclosed. Dawid’s diary went on to record the story of the Lodz Ghetto until his death in 1943.
Dawid’s entire diary was published in English in 1996 under the title, The Diary of Dawid Sierakowiak: Five Notebooks from the Lodz Ghetto.
Read more about the Nisko and Lublin Plan.