Holocaust Diaries

A diary is the most personal possession someone might have. It is a journal of their wishes, fears and often their secrets. It is therefore extremely important when a diary becomes public it is treated with the utmost dignity and respect, especially those that were written during the darkest era of mankind.

Diary of Susi Hilsenrath

Susi Hilsenrath was barely ten years old when her parents decided to send her and her younger brother to France from their native Bad Kreuznach in Germany. This happened in the aftermath of the nationwide anti-Jewish violence organized by Nazi leaders in November 1938, which has often been referred to as Kristallnacht.

As the Germans invaded and defeated France in the summer of 1940, Susi’s father hired a guardian to evacuate Susi and her brother from Paris to Broût-Vernet, a small town in Vichy France. There, they were helped by the Œuvre de Secours aux Enfants, a French Jewish organization that was helping Jewish refugee children. The organization housed them with several other Jewish children in a local château, where they awaited emigration. Susi and her brother soon received immigration visas with the help of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, an American humanitarian organization that helped European Jewish refugees to immigrate to the United States. Travelling via Spain and Portugal, they arrived in New York City in the fall of 1941. There they were reunited with their parents and their youngest brother, who had managed to escape to the United States separately.

While housed at the château from the summer of 1940 until the late summer of 1941, Susi kept a diary. She described her life as part of the larger group of children and their uncertainty about the future. The diary captures a range of her moods and emotions, from childish musings to profound anxiety and sadness. Like many other child authors of Holocaust diaries, Susi expressed her awareness of the extraordinary and perilous situation she was in even though she may not have fully understood the specific threats that she was facing.

Sunday, August 3, 1941


“Oh, how happy I was, and now how many tears I’ve shed. I am not leaving. The others left an hour ago. Weichselbaum, Feuer, and Fellman aren’t leaving either. Oh, now I can’t stand it anymore, the day seems twice as long. Strange, everything is all turned around. Edith is leaving and Adolf and Alexander are leaving. Oh yes, Helga is also staying. With whom shall I go now? With Helga, impossible. In the end, she would drive me crazy. I don’t want to go with Sabine, and with Susi W., I don’t know whether we get along. The house will be empty, but I think 40 new children are going to come. […] I don’t know how long I can stand it here. I want so much to travel after them on a bus, to eat the good things, and travel so long on the train, through a whole country. Then by ship across the big ocean and then, best of all, to see my dear parents again. My dear, dear parents. But often I get quite a strange feeling, I think that my parents have separated and don’t want to be together anymore, but I don’t know why, the thought just comes to me on its own.

Today is Tisha b’Av.1 We fasted until 2:30, and I was terribly hungry. I thought I would be in Ganal by this time, and where am I now—in this miserable house? But one thing you can say, if we had gone with this transport, then we would have to thank the Directress for almost everything. Because she is on the telephone all day, she says, Hilsenrath and Feuer have to leave; she repeats it every time. One can certainly say that since Herr Weichselbaum left, she has become much nicer and more decent. She doesn’t shout as much anymore, and when she does shout, there’s a reason for it. She is much more engaged with us, too. I am extremely angry with Herr Cogan. If he had not phoned today, and the Directress had phoned instead, she would have accomplished more. It was like this: he spoke to Frau Salomon about the children who left (Flora and Gustel almost wouldn’t have gone, if the Directress hadn’t been there). He talked about Flora and someone asked him her age, and he said she was 15, and Gustel 12. The children who were over 12 couldn’t go, for the most part. I think Frau Salomon was about to say they couldn’t go, but the Directress spoke insistently […] After a lot of mulling it over, he got the words out. Then she told him [to say] a lot of other things, but he just would not say them. She spoke about us, too, she said, ask about Hilsenrath and Feuer. Not a word came out. “About Hilsenrath and Feuer,” the Directress said. Not a word. Finally, it came out. Madame Salomon said it was impossible, he said “Fine, fine,” and once again, “fine.” He doesn’t care whether we go or not. I’m sure that if the Directress had had the telephone in her hand, she would have accomplished something. But he, the dumb fool, or even better, idiot, can’t do anything. Then the Directress took the phone in her hand for a minute and asked about Hilde and Otto, because they couldn’t go either, and she accomplished it. Oh, if you only knew how angry I am at Cogan.

I’m not at all sorry about the children who left, only Edith. How we came together, I really don’t know. How happy I would be if I had gone with her. I would have enjoyed the trip twice as much. Oh, that would have been so nice, and now everything is over, all over. Never, I think, will I feel really good here”

Susi survived the Holocaust

Eva Heyman was a Jewish girl from Oradea. She began keeping a diary in 1944 during the German occupation of Hungary. Published under the name The Diary of Eva Heyman, her diary has been compared to The Diary of Anne Frank. She discusses the extreme deterioration of the circumstances the Jewish community faced in the city, offering a detailed account of the increasingly restrictive anti-Jewish laws, the psychological anguish and despair, the loss of their rights and liberties and the confiscation of property they endured. Heyman was 13 years old when she and her grandparents were murdered in Auschwitz.

She started writing in her diary on her thirteenth birthday 13 February 1944.

February 13, 1944

I’ve turned thirteen, I was born on Friday the thirteenth. From Grandpa, I received phonograph records of the kind I like. My grandfather bought them so that I should learn French lyrics, which will make [Mother] happy because she isn’t happy about my school record cards except when I get a good mark in French I do a lot of athletics, swimming, skating, bicycle riding, and exercise. I’ve written enough today. You’re probably tired, dear diary.

March 19, 1944

Dear Diary,
You’re the luckiest one in the world, because you cannot feel, you cannot know what a terrible thing has happened to us. The Germans have come!

May 10, 1944

Dear Diary,

We’re here five days, but, word of honour, it seems like five years.

The most awful thing of all is that the punishment for everything is death. There is no difference between things; no standing in the corner, no spankings, no taking away food, and no writing down the declension of irregular verbs one hundred times the way it used to be in school. Not at all: the lightest and heaviest punishment—death.

sources

https://www.yadvashem.org/education/educational-materials/ceremonies/diary.html

https://perspectives.ushmm.org/item/diary-of-susi-hilsenrath/collection/holocaust-diaries

The Brigitte Eicke Diary-A parallel universe

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This blog is not meant as an accusation it is merely meant to illustrate the differences of teenage life between German teenagers and the lives of teenagers who were considered sub human by the Nazi regime. the best way to describe it is a parallel universe.

Brigitte Eicke’s teenager account of life in wartime Germany illustrates  a complete different  perspective on the Nazi years.(shown on the right in the picture below)

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In  many ways Brigitte was just a typical teenage girl, obsessed with her friends, first kisses with boys and trips to the cinema.

However  as a  resident of Berlin  in the pre-WWII and WWII years , Brigitte was a first-hand witness to one of the most turbulent chapters of modern history and crucially, at the age of 15, she began keeping a diary.

Below are some excerpts of her diary.

‘There were some Jewish girls in my first ever class photograph, taken in 1933, but by the time the next was taken, they were all gone. When I asked my mother about them, she said they had moved to Palestine.’

May 11th , 1944

“Went in BDM (Nazi girl guide) uniform to the Admirals palast to see Madame Butterfly. It was wonderful, my first opera”

February, 27, 1943

‘Waltraud and I went to the opera to see “The Four Ruffians.” I had a ticket for Gitti Seifert too. What a load of nonsense, it was ridiculous.

‘We walked back to Wittenbergplatz and got on the underground train at Alexanderplatz. Three soldiers started talking to us. Gitti is so silly, she went all silent when they spoke to her. The least one can do is answer, even though we weren’t going to go anywhere with them.

‘Jews all over town are being taken away, including the tailor across the road.’

1 February 1944

“The school had been bombed when we arrived this morning. Waltraud, Melitta and I went back to Gisela’s and danced to gramophone records.”

2 March 1945

“Margot and I went to the Admiralspalast cinema to see ‘Meine Herren Söhne.’ It was such a lovely film but there was a power cut in the middle of it. How annoying!”

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November 1944

She writes that she has just been given a “disastrous” perm by her hairdresser and is worried about going to work “looking a fright”.

A different perspective

July 20th, 1944

Brigitte Eicke: “Sunned myself on the roof. Failed assassination on the Führer. In the night we heard the speeches of the Führer, Dönitz and Göring. Wonderful.”

Anne Frank: “Great news! There was an assassination attempt on Hitler … Sadly, ‘divine providence’ saved the Führer’s life and he survived with a few grazes and scorch wounds.

August 1st, 1944

Brigitte Eicke: “It rained all day. We had a nap in the afternoon and were in bed already by 10. It’s a shame, such a waste of a lost evening.”

Anne Frank: “Dear Kitty! … I’ve often told you that my soul is divided in two. One side contains my boisterous happiness … (and) squeezes out the other, much nicer, side that is more pure and deep. Nobody knows the nice side of Anne…” [Anne’s final diary entry]

2 May 1945

Brigitte Eicke: “At 3am Frau Schöbs came into the cellar and said: the Führer is dead, the war is over. I could only let out a scream… we went on to the street and all the soldiers were withdrawing, it is so sad.”

RtWopah

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Sources

Irish Times

Der Spiegel

 

 

 

 

The Holocaust Diaries

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.

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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.

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“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]

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“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…”

 

“Dear diary,
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

kozienic

“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

Donation

I am passionate about my site and I know you all like reading my blogs. I have been doing this at no cost and will continue to do so. All I ask is for a voluntary donation of $2, however if you are not in a position to do so I can fully understand, maybe next time then. Thank you. To donate click on the credit/debit card icon of the card you will use. If you want to donate more then $2 just add a higher number in the box left from the PayPal link. Many thanks.

$2.00