Rutka was 14 years old when she was murdered in the gas chambers at Auschwitz. In the months before her death, Rutka, like Anne Frank in Amsterdam, kept a detailed diary documenting her deepest thoughts and fears. When she and her family – younger brother Henius, mother Dorka and father Yaakov ,were moved by the Nazis from their home in the Polish town of Bedzin to a closed ghetto, she believed she would not survive and hid the notebook under a floorboard, telling only her friend Stanislawa Sapinska of its existence.
From 19 January to 24 April 1943, without her family’s knowledge, Laskier kept a diary in an ordinary school notebook, writing in both ink and pencil, making entries sporadically. In it, she discussed atrocities she witnessed committed by the Nazis, and described daily life in the ghetto, as well as innocent teenage love interests. She also wrote about the gas chambers at the concentration camps, indicating that the horrors of the camps had filtered back to those still living in the ghettos.
Below are some of her Diary entries.
January 19, 1943
“I cannot grasp that it is already 1943, four years since this hell began.”
January 27, 1943
I had my photo taken. Although usually I don’t look pretty in photographs, in reality I am very beautiful. I’m tall, thin, with nice legs, a thin waist, elongated hands but ugly fingernails. I have big black eyes, thick brown eyebrows and long eyelashes. Black hair, trimmed short and combed back, a pug nose, nicely outlined lips, snow-white teeth. I would like to pour out all the turmoil I am feeling inside, but I’m incapable. Sometimes I’m so depressed, that when I open my mouth it’s only to sting someone.
February 5, 1943
The rope around us is getting tighter. Next month there should be a ghetto, a real one, surrounded by walls.
In the summer it will be unbearable. To sit in a grey locked cage, without being able to see fields and flowers. I can’t believe that one day I’ll be able to leave the house without the yellow star.
The little faith I had has been shattered. If God existed, He would not have permitted that human beings be thrown alive into furnaces, and the heads of little toddlers be smashed with butt of guns or be shoved into sacks and gassed to death… Those who haven’t seen this would never believe it. But it’s the truth.
February 6, 1943.
Something has broken in me. When I pass by a German, everything shrinks in me. I don’t know whether it’s out of fear or hatred. Today, I recalled in detail the day of August 12, 1942 the mass round-up of Bedzin’s Jews for deportation.
We got up at 4am. There were thousands of people on the road. I looked beyond the fence and saw soldiers with machine guns aimed at the square in case someone tried to escape. People fainted, children cried. Judgment Day. It was terribly hot. Then, all of a sudden, it started pouring. The rain didn’t stop. At 3pm the selection started. 1. meant returning home, 1a. going to labour, 2. meant going for further inspection and 3. deportation, in other words death. Mom, Dad and my brother were sent to group 1. I was sent to 1a. I was stunned. Salek, Linka and Niania already sat there. The weirdest thing was that we didn’t cry AT ALL. Little children were lying on the wet grass. The policemen beat them ferociously and shot them.
I sat there until 1am. Then I ran away. I jumped out of a window from the first floor of a small building, and nothing happened to me. My lips were bitten so bad that they bled. Oh, I forgot the most important thing. I saw how a soldier tore a baby, who was only a few months old, out of its mother’s hands and bashed his head against an electric pylon. The baby’s brain splashed on the wood. The mother went crazy. I’m 14, and I haven’t seen much in my life, and I’m already so indifferent. Janek came by this afternoon. He blurted out he’d like it very much if he could kiss me. I said “maybe”. But I won’t let him. I’m afraid it would destroy something beautiful, pure. I’m also afraid that I’ll be very disappointed.
February 20, 1943…
I have a feeling that I’m writing for the last time. There is an Aktion “resettlement” of Jews. This is hell. I try to escape from thoughts of the next day, but they haunt me like nagging flies.
I was foolish about Janek. My eyes have been opened. The only thing that matters to him is that his pants are ironed, how many cakes he ate at Frontag’s coffee house and girls’ legs.
March 8, 1943…
I must pull myself together and not wet my pillow with tears. I am sick and tired of the steady fear seen in everybody’s faces. This fear clutches on to everyone and doesn’t let go.
April 24, 1943…
The sun is shining so brightly. Outside the windows apple trees and lilacs are blooming, and you have to sit in this suffocating and stinking room. The entire day I’m walking around the room, I have nothing to do.
Rutka was deported from the ghetto and was believed to have died in a gas chamber, age 14, along with her mother and brother, upon arrival with her family at the Auschwitz concentration camp in August 1943.Although there are reports she may have died later.
While writing the diary, Laskier shared it with Stanisława Sapińska (21 years old, at that time), whom she had befriended after Laskier’s family moved into a home owned by Sapińska’s Roman Catholic family, which had been confiscated by the Nazis so that it could be included in the ghetto.Laskier gradually came to realise she would not survive, and, realizing the importance of her diary as a document of what had happened to the Jewish population of Będzin, asked Sapińska to help her hide the diary. Sapińska showed Laskier how to hide the diary in her house under the double flooring in a staircase, between the first and second floors.
After the ghetto was evacuated and all its inhabitants sent to the death camp, Sapińska returned to the house and retrieved the diary. She kept it in her home library for 63 years and did not share it with anyone but members of her immediate family. In 2005, Adam Szydłowski, the chairman of the Center of Jewish Culture of the Zagłębie Region of Poland, was told by one of Sapińska’s nieces about the existence of the diary
With help from Sapińska’s nephew, he obtained a photocopy of the diary and was instrumental in the publishing of its Polish-language edition. Its publication by Yad Vashem Publications was commemorated with a ceremony in Jerusalem by Yad Vashem (the Holocaust Martyrs’ and Heroes’ Remembrance Authority), Israel’s Holocaust museum, on 4 June 2007, in which Zahava Scherz took part. At this ceremony, Sapińska also donated the original diary to Yad Vashem, in violation of Polish law.
The diary, which has been authenticated by Holocaust scholars and survivors, has been compared to the diary of Anne Frank, the best known Holocaust-era diary. The two girls were approximately the same age when they wrote their respective diaries (Laskier at age 14 and Frank between the ages of 13 and 15), and, in both cases, of their entire families, only their fathers survived the war.