The most famous diary of course was Anne Frank’s diary, but there were more children and adults who kept diaries during that awful time. Below are diary entries from both children and adults. In most of the cases the authors are unknown.
Starting off with a more positive entry.
Illustrated page of a child’s diary written in a Swiss refugee camp. The diary entry describes how they crossed the border into Switzerland. The text reads, “We came out of the woods and into a clearing: we had to be as quiet as possible because we were so close to the border. Oh! I almost forgot! Before we came out of the woods, they made us stand still for a quarter of an hour while they went to explore the area and to cut through the fence. Fortunately, shortly thereafter, we began to walk again. We saw a small guard station that was literally in front of the hole in the fence, fortunately the guard was not there. One by one, silently, we went through the hole in the fence. What emotion! Finally, we were in free territory, in Switzerland.”
This letter was written by a Jewish carpenter, Srul Shaya Kalezyk, about 10 months after the Warsaw Ghetto uprising. He wrote in Polish and Yiddish, on the work permit he had used in the ghetto prior to its destruction. Lazer Levine found the permit in 1965 amongst the ruins of the ghetto.
“I am still alive. A carpenter, I lived in Warsaw in apartment 40 on 14 Krochmalna Street. On 15.2.1944, I worked at 8 Chucinska Street. I am still alive. I don’t know if I will be tomorrow. I write at a time when there are no longer any Jews in Warsaw. I would like to see my beloved wife and my two beloved children, Wareczyk and Jurek. I wonder if I will still see them. These are terrible days for me. I want to live, I feel the end coming. Kalezyk If anyone should find what I have written, publish it in a newspaper, so that my relatives – who may have survived – will know that at this time I was still alive”
With the aid of a Dutch woman, Cilli Dzialowski of Holland sent this farewell letter to her four children, who resided in England during the war. Her son Hy survived in a hideout in Holland. The letter was transmitted to Yad Vashem by one of Cilli’s daughters, Mrs. Jakobovitz, who now lives in Canada.
“Enschede, Holland 1 April 1943,
Beloved, precious children, In these final moments, before I join your dearest father, and will, like him, lose my freedom, there is an urgent compulsion within me to tell you the following. You are in our thoughts by day and night; our love for you makes our life even under these present difficult circumstances worth living; we long for the moment when we shall once more be able to embrace you with outstretched arms – you, our most precious possessions – and we have faith in the future, that this supreme joy will be granted us. ‘Beloved Sparrows’ – I must call you this once more, as I used to do when you were still very young – should circumstances alter course for us and we, according to the will of the Almighty, not meet again, I beg each one of you with all my heart to lead honest and straightforward lives always, and to support one another whenever necessary. Your young and only sister will receive your utmost thoughtfulness and love. And Hy, your eldest brother, who has missed you no less than ourselves all these years and who has suffered greatly through agony and fear, must also be close to your hearts. Unfortunately, uprooted as we have been here in Holland, we were never able to give him the secure parental home atmosphere for which he longed so much. Many times the longing for you and the desire to be reunited with you were so overpowering and strong in us, as well as in him that we feared we could bear it no longer. I know what a treasure we have in you, my beloved ones, and that you are committed and firm and of strong character, that – Baruch Hashem – you are all blessed with that essence of personality which makes you liked by your fellow men and will surely find favour in the eyes of the Creator. This knowledge brings me consolation. Never deviate from the path of God-fearing behavior and always be guided by the example of your beloved father. Our constant thoughts of you have accompanied you so far on your road through life, and our blessings will never leave you! This letter will reach you through the efforts of a fine Dutch lady who was always wonderful to us and constantly gave us courage for the future, which we accepted gratefully. My Precious Children – I bless each of you from a distance with the traditional blessing, also in Daddy’s name: ‘May you be happy and successful in life; cling one to the other; and never stray even one step from the path, from the precepts of our Torah.’ I embrace and kiss you and now feel truly united with you,
Always yours, Mummy
[The following is a part from the diary of a Jewish youth named Yarden, a member of the Ha-Shomer Ha-Tsa’ir in Lodz]
“September 13, 1939
It is hard to get bread; Jews are driven away from all the “queues.” They are seized, hauled off to labor, and beaten to a pulp. Hell has caught fire. Gangs of hooligans pounce on Jewish shops; looters plunder with impunity. Fewer Jews are visible in the streets; my father and brothers never venture out. Every knock on the door is terrifying; the slightest noise freezes the blood in our veins. Violent feelings rage within me… What more will this day bring? Shrieks, terror, blows, abductions, imprisonment, messengers, humiliation and disgrace, posters with laws – a sea of posters, white, green, red, yellow, new ones each day, but always with the same message: Jews are forbidden… to buy, sell, study, pray, gather, eat, etc., a string of prohibitions with no end! Would that the night would never end, that we could have some peace, some balm for the tumult in our hearts…”
Did I ever tell you I have a tattoo on my arm? Not by me, not my choice. I was branded.. I feel like I am an animal in the slaughter house. I was stripped of my basic human identity. Every prisoner has to have an ID number so when I first arrived here, they branded me.
I have received a letter from a relative of my fiancé’s saying that she was also taken to a concentration camp.. My world has crumbled. I have no hope anymore, nothing to look forward to. They also gave every prisoner a small triangle to wear on their uniforms. I was given a yellow triangle, yellow for Jewish. There was red for communists, green was for common criminals, pink was for homosexual men, purple for Jehovah’s Witnesses, and black was for gypsies.”
“When it’s so cold, even my heart is heavy. There is nothing to cook today; we should be receiving three loaves of bread but we will be getting only one bread today. I don’t know what to do. I bought rotten and stinking beets from a woman, for 10 marks. We will cook half today and half tomorrow. Does this deserve to be called life?”
Anonymous girl diarist, March 6, 1942
“Beautiful, sunny day today. When the sun shines, my mood is lighter. How sad life is. When we look at the fence separating us from the rest of the world, our souls, like birds in a cage, yearn to be free. Longing breaks my heart, visions of the past come to me. Will I ever live in better times?”
Anonymous girl diarist, March 7, 1942
“The day of my Bar Mitzvah arrived. I put on the tefillin and I said the blessings. As a gift from my family I received half a loaf of bread.They wanted me to eat it right there and then, in their presence. I refused. I couldn’t even imagine for how long they saved it from themselves in order to give it to me. They decided that I had to eat it, and I ate it. I couldn’t look them in the eye because I ate their bread.”
—Chaim Kozienicki, age 13
“From this day every German may shoot as many Jews as he wants. If anybody came near the wire fence, as far as his rifle could reach, he could shoot him. Hundreds and hundreds of people perished in the Ghetto this way.”
Israel Unikowski, age 13
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