Rutka Laskier was a fourteen-year-old Jewish girl from Poland who wrote a diary about her life and experiences after the German invasion of Poland during WWII. She was sent to live in a ghetto along with her family and later deported to Auschwitz where she was killed. Her diary was preserved by her Roman Catholic friend for sixty-four years and was published in 2006. Laskier’s diary is often compared to that of Anne Frank’s diary, who wrote hers between ages thirteen and fifteen, and she is sometimes referred to as the “Polish Anne Frank.” Here is more about her life and a few excerpts from her diary.
Rutka Laskier was born to a prosperous family in 1929 in the Free City of Danzig, now Gdansk, Poland. During the German invasion of Poland, she and her family were forced to live in a new ghetto in Bedzin where she started writing her diary.
Laskier’s father, Jakub Laskier, was a bank officer and her grandfather co-owned a milling company. The Free City of Danzig was a port city in northern Poland and was an autonomous city-state with a majority citizens speaking German. In 1933, the municipal government was overtaken by the Nazis. Many Jews lost their jobs and fled Danzig. Laskier and her family moved to Bedzin which was where her grandparents were from. However, after the invasion, Bedzin was turned into a ghetto as well by the Nazis.
Laskier wrote her diary starting from January 19 until April 24, 1943, in an ordinary school notebook. In it, she wrote about the atrocities of the Nazis that she had to witness as well as her innocent teenage experiences.
Laskier wrote sixty pages of entries in her diary describing several months of misery she and all the people she knew had faced. She kept the diary a secret from her family and wrote occasionally, when she could, with both ink and pencil. In her entries, she described their daily life in the ghetto and her teenage love interests. She also wrote about how dread of concentration camps had affected their lives in the ghetto.
In her entry on January 19 she wrote:
“I cannot grasp that it is already 1943, four years since this hell began.”
She also wrote how her faith in God was “completely shattered” because of the horrors she saw:
“The little faith I used to have has been completely shattered. If God existed, He would have certainly not permitted human beings be thrown alive into furnaces, and the heads of little toddlers be smashed with gun butts or shoved into sacks and gassed to death.”
Laskier’s entry on February 20, 1943
“I have a feeling that I’m writing for the last time. There is an Aktion in town. I’m not allowed to go out and I’m going crazy, imprisoned in my own house. I wanted to go to Jumek and warn him about the Aktion. Hopefully he wasn’t caught.”
The “Aktion” she was talking about was the rounding up of Jews, and if caught, for deportation to hard labor camps or Auschwitz. She was quite afraid about the fate of her friends and herself.
“The town is breathlessly waiting in anticipation, and this anticipation is the worst of all. I wish it would end already! This is torment; this is hell. I try to escape from these thoughts, of the next day, but they keep haunting me like nagging flies.
“If only I could say, it’s over, you die only once… But I can’t, because despite all these atrocities, I want to live, and wait for the following day.
“That means, waiting for Auschwitz or labor camp.”
With the help of her friend, Stanislawa Sapinska, Laskier was able to hide her diary in the house that was confiscated by the Nazis in the ghetto where she lived. In August 1943, she was deported to Auschwitz along with her mother and brother.
The house belonged to Sapinska’s Roman Catholic family. While in living in the house, Laskier soon realized that she would not survive the ordeal she would most certainly have to go through. She also understood that her diary would serve as a document of the sufferings the Jews of Bedzin had to face. So, she sought the help of Sapinska who showed her a place to hide her diary under the double flooring of a staircase in the house.
In December 1943, Laskier contracted cholera and wanted to kill herself on the electric fence fearing she’d have to face worse fate at the hands of Nazis. But she had no such luck. An SS guard made sure she was taken directly to the crematory where she met her tragic end.
When the diary was first published, Laskier was thought to have died in August 1943 along with her mother and brother at the Auschwitz concentration camp. However, an Auschwitz survivor, Zofia Minc, revealed otherwise in 2008. While there, Laskier used to sleep beside Minc in the barracks and during the cholera outbreak in December 1943, she became very sick. As Laskier was too weak to walk, Minc was made to push her in a wheelbarrow to the gas chamber. Laskier begged Minc to take her to the electric fence so that she could kill herself, but the SS guard who was following them refused, and she was taken directly to the crematory where she was killed.
When all the ghetto inhabitants were sent to the death camp, Sapinska returned to the house to retrieve Laskier’s diary. The diary was released to the public in 2005 when Adam Szydlowski, the chairman of the Center for Jewish Culture in Zaglebie, Poland, found out about its existence from one of Sapinska’s nieces and published it in 2006. The only surviving member of Laskier’s family was her father who moved to Israel and died in 1986.
[sources: wikipedia, holocaustedu]