March 12, 1940 - Elisabeth Kaufmann


March 12, 1940




The Diary of Elisabeth Kaufmann

Elisabeth Kaufmann’s diary entries were usually brief and to the point. Her entry for March 12th was no different. Even so, her terse description of the events of that day was packed with emotion.

Elisabeth Kaufmann was a fourteen-year-old girl when she left Austria after the German take over in 1938. Intense persecution of Jews began right away, so her family sought refuge in France. They tried to settle down and live a normal life, but they were refugees and this was not easy. They experienced two types of prejudice. Some people didn’t like them because they were Jews. Others distrusted them because they were foreigners. Some exhibited both attitudes of rejection at the same time. As tough as things were at the beginning, they got much worse after the German invasion of Poland that started World War II in Europe.  Now they weren’t just foreigners. They were considered enemy aliens. Her father and brother were both arrested and spent time in internment camps. By March 12th, her father had been released, but her brother Peter was still in custody. Also, because of the unsettled situation, Elisabeth was living apart from her mother and father and was desperately looking forward to the day when her entire family could be reunited.

On March 12th she wrote, “Dad should be coming within the next few days. Permission to visit Peter at the internment camp was rejected. It’s unbelievable. I would like to know what harm it would do if we were to visit him. We are going to apply for permission once more.” Two days later she wrote, “Dad came this afternoon. Mother came in the morning. I was home alone when Dad came and he climbed immediately into the bath tub. Now we will talk, embrace, talk…”

Unfortunately, things would not get better any time soon. In fact, Germany began its conquest of Western Europe a few weeks later and the Kauffmann’s situation went from bad to much worse.

You may read entries from Elisabeth’s diary in Salvaged Pages: Young Writers’ Diaries of the Holocaust by Alexandra Zapruder. 

Read more about what happened to Elisabeth and her family.