October 1, 1941 - Dawid Sierakowiak
Lodz Ghetto in Poland
The Diary of Dawid Sierakowiak
Dawid Sierakowiak was a young teen who kept a diary recording his observations and experiences under the German occupation of Lodz, Poland. His record of life in the Lodz Ghetto over the next three and a half years is one of the most complete and insightful to survive the war years. He chronicled the terrible effects of Nazi rule and described how destruction inexorably overtook the ghetto and its inhabitants. His entry for October 1, 1939, was written at the very beginning of this process; only one month after the occupation began. It was not yet clear what would happen, but even at this early stage, Dawid found little reason for hope.
The main topic that caught Dawid’s attention on October 1st was the formation of a Polish “government-in-exile.” This government was to be based in France and would represent the interests of Poland while the presence of German troops made home rule impossible. No one knew how long this situation would last, but a government of this type was far from ideal.
First, it would have a hard time doing anything practical to help its people from abroad. Also, it was to be headed by a leader, General Wladyslaw Sikorski, who had been an opponent of the previous Polish government. It was not clear at first how much influence he would have with the other countries fighting against Nazi Germany. Finally, Germany had a plan of its own.
Dawid wrote, “Meanwhile, Hitler proposes peace and wants to create a Polish “buffer state,” which would include Warsaw, Lodz, Kielce, Siedlce and Lublin, with no access to the sea. What generosity!” It may seem obvious now that this plan had no bearing on reality, but this would not have been obvious then. After all, Nazi Germany successfully pushed for just such a government for Slovakia after the dismemberment of Czechoslovakia just six months before.
“England has stated that it will fight until victorious. That may take a long time.”
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.
Dawid saw that the near future of Poland might unfold in any number of different ways. Clearly, a German puppet state was undesirable, but the alternatives didn’t seem to hold out much immediate hope. He finished his entry for October 1st by noting, “England has stated that it will fight until victorious. That may take a long time.” As it turned out, it took almost six years. Dawid, along with millions of other Polish citizens, both Jewish and non-Jewish, would not live to see that day.
Learn more about General Wladyslaw Sikorski and the Polish government-in-exile.
Take a virtual tour of the Lodz Ghetto and see a plaque dedicated to the memory of Dawid Sierakowiak.