Polish girl’s diary reveals ‘torment’ before death at Auschwitz

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JERUSALEM — A Polish woman who for 60 years had been holding onto the diary of a young Jewish girl killed by the Nazis in 1943, presented the journal to Israel’s Holocaust memorial on Monday.

“I have a feeling that I’m writing for the last time. There is a [roundup] in town. I’m not allowed to go out and I’m going crazy, imprisoned in my own house,” 14-year-old Rutka Laskier wrote while living in a Jewish ghetto in Bedzin, Poland on February 20, 1943.

Rutka hid her diary under the floorboards of her house before her family was deported to Auschwitz concentration camp.

It was later found by Stanislawa Sapinska, a Bedzin native, who lived in the house before the German occupation and had befriended Rutka.

“She wanted the journal to survive, even if she didn’t, so the world would see how the Jews suffered,” said Mrs. Sapinska, 82, at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem.

The two girls agreed that Rutka would hide the diary beneath a floorboard under the staircase of her house and following the war, Mrs. Sapinska would look after it, Mrs. Sapinska said.

A Yad Vashem spokeswoman said they think Rutka was killed immediately after arriving in Auschwitz in August, 1943.

Throughout the 60-page manuscript, handwritten in Polish, Rutka talks about love, death and everyday life in the ghetto. She begins one paragraph recounting the “torment” and “hell” of anticipating her own death, but finishes it with an adolescent rant about a boy she loves.

Yad Vashem has collected hundreds of diaries and poems written by Jews during the Holocaust, but Rutka’s diary stands out from the others, including the well-known “Diary of Anne Frank,” because of the story of its discovery, said Bella Gutterman, chief editor of Yad Vashem Publishing.

“The diary itself is wonderful, about personal life, loves and envies in the shadow of the Holocaust. But it was found by her friend and we only now read it 60 years later,” she said.

Mrs. Sapinska said she did not regret keeping the diary hidden.

“[I kept it to myself] because it was a precious souvenir that I read many times,” she said.

Two years ago, Mrs. Sapinska told her nephew about the book and he convinced her to make it public.

“He said I can’t hold on to it. It’s history. It’s the history of a nation,” Mrs. Sapinska said.

The original Polish manuscript was published earlier this year and has now been translated into English and Hebrew.

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