February 6, 1943 – Rutka Laskier
February 6, 1943
The Diary of Rutka Laskier
Rutka Laskier was 14 years old when she began keeping a diary. She lived in the town of Bedzin and—as a Jewish girl—she experienced the ever-increasing persecution brought about by the German conquest of Poland during World War II. Even though the occupation began for Rutka in September 1939, she didn’t begin her diary until January 1942. She was only able to write for about three months before she disappeared behind the walls of the ghetto. Her diary was left in the keeping of a non-Jewish friend who brought it to light in 2006.
Rutka’s diary makes it clear that she was trying to maintain as much of a normal life as possible. She still met with friends and thought about her future. She fretted over the state of her relationships with her family and with her peers. The personal nature of her writing, coupled with her insight into her own emotions has led some to compare her diary to the one written by Anne Frank. Because she wrote so much about her feelings, her diary gives us insight into the psychological impact of living under the continual danger and loss inflicted by the Nazis.
A MOMENT OF HATRED
On February 6, 1943, Rutka made a startling admission in her diary, one that seemed completely out of character for her. She wrote, “Something has broken within me. When I pass by a German, everything shrinks in me. I don’t know whether it is out of fear or hatred. I would like to torture them, their women and children, who set their doggies on us, to beat and strangle them vigorously, more and more.” After that violent verbal outburst, she changed gears and began to write about her friends as if her previous statement had been like a lone cloud passing over the sun on a clear day. How can we account for such sentiments? Was Rutka simply indulging in a moment of revenge fantasy or was the cruelty of her oppressors rubbing off on her? Later in the same diary entry, we find out rest of the story.
“I’m turning into an animal waiting to die.”
On this day, Rutka wrote fully for the first time about a traumatic event that had happened the previous August. All of the Jewish people in her town were required to undergo a selection and sorting process that would send some of the people back to their homes, some to forced labor and others to deportation. All of Rutka’s immediate family members were sent home, but she was selected for labor and led away. As this process was unfolding, she witnessed children being beaten and even one child murdered right in front of his own mother. Later that night, she escaped from the holding area and returned home; traumatized but momentarily safe.
Thinking back on these horrible events, Rutka observed, “I am writing this as if nothing has happened. As if I were in an army experienced in cruelty. But I’m young. I’m 14, and I haven’t seen much in my life, and I’m already so indifferent. Now I am terrified when I see ‘uniforms.’ I’m turning into an animal waiting to die. One can lose one’s mind thinking about this.”
Rutka couldn’t have known that her emotional state was very normal for someone who had experienced such traumatic events, but we can recognize that this was just one more of the many facets of the crime of the Holocaust.
Learn more about Rutka Laskier, her diary, and her fate.
Read Rutka’s Notebook: A Voice from the Holocaust through Yad Vashem publications.