Rutka Laskier

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Rutka Laskier
Born 1929
Free City of Danzig
Died 1943 (aged 14)
Auschwitz concentration camp
Occupation Posthumously published writer

Rutka (Ruth) Laskier (1929–1943) was a Jewish teenager from Poland who is best known for her 1943 diary chronicling three months of her life during the Holocaust.


Laskier was born in the Free City of Danzig (now Gdańsk, a port city in northern Poland), then a predominantly German-speaking autonomous city-state, where her father, Jakub (Yaakov) Laskier, worked as a bank officer. Her family was well off, her grandfather serving as co-owner of Laskier-Kleinberg and Company, a milling company that owned and operated a grist mill. In the early 1930s she moved with her family to the southern Polish city of Będzin, whence her father's parents had come. While there, in 1943, at the age of 14, Laskier wrote a 60-page diary in Polish, chronicling several months of her life under Nazi rule, which was not released to the public until[1]

Laskier's family was forced to move to Będzin's Jewish ghetto during World War II. Laskier was believed to have died in a gas chamber, along with her mother and brother, upon her arrival with her family in August 1943 at the Auschwitz concentration camp, at the age of 14.[1] However, it was revealed in 2008 that she was not sent to the gas chambers. In a published account of her time in Auschwitz, Zofia Minc, who was a fellow prisoner, revealed that Laskier slept in the barrack next to her until falling victim to a cholera outbreak in December 1943. The girl pushed Laskier, still alive, in a wheelbarrow to the gas chamber. (According to Zahava Scherz [2] Rutka was being taken directly to the crematory.) Rutka begged Zofia to take her to the electric fence where she could kill herself, but an SS guard following them would not allow it.[3]

Rutka's father was the only member of the family who survived the Holocaust. Following World War II, he emigrated to Israel, where he remarried and had another daughter, Zahava Scherz. He died in 1986.[citation needed] According to Zahava Scherz, interviewed in the BBC documentary "The Secret Diary of the Holocaust" (broadcast in January 2009),[4] he never told Scherz about Rutka until she discovered a photo album when she herself was 14, which contained a picture of Rutka with her younger brother. Zahava explains that she asked her father who they were and he answered her truthfully, but never spoke further about it. Zahava went on to explain that she learnt of the existence of Rutka's diary in 2006, and she expressed how much it has meant to her finally to be able to get to know her half-sister, to whom she felt a closeness after reading her diary.


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.

The diary begins on 19 January with the entry "I cannot grasp that it is already 1943, four years since this hell began."[1] One of the final entries says "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."[1]

Discovery of Laskier's diary[edit]

In 1943, 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 believe that 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.[5] 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.[6] 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 Laskier's half-sister Zahava Scherz took part. At this ceremony, Sapińska also donated the original diary to Yad Vashem, in violation of Polish law.[7]

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.[8] 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).

Publication of diary[edit]

The manuscript, as edited by Stanisław Bubin, was published in the Polish language by a Polish publisher in early 2006. In June 2007, Yad Vashem Publications published English and Hebrew translations of the diary, entitled Rutka's Notebook: January–April 1943.


  • Laskier, Rutka (2006). Pamiętnik Rutki Laskier (Rutka Laskier's Diary). Katowice, Poland. ISBN 978-83-89956-42-2.
  • Laskier, Rutka (2007). Rutka's Notebook: January–April 1943. Foreword by Dr. Zahava Sherz; historical introduction by Dr. Bella Gutterman. Jerusalem, Israel: Yad Vashem Publications.[9]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d "Polish 'Anne Frank' diary revealed", by Etgar Lefkovits, The Jerusalem Post (5 June 2007). Retrieved 6 June 2007.[dead link]
  2. ^ BBC: The Secret Diary of the Holocaust
  3. ^ « Dans notre block, je dormais à côté de mon amie, Rutka Laskier, de Bedzin. Elle était tellement belle, que même le Dr Mengele l’avait remarquée. Une épidémie de typhus et de choléra a alors éclaté. Rutka a attrapé le choléra. En quelques heures, elle est devenue méconnaissable. Elle n’était plus qu’une ombre pitoyable. Je l’ai moi-même transportée dans une brouette au crématoire. Elle me suppliait de l’amener jusqu’aux barbelés pour se jeter dessus et mourir électrocutée, mais un SS marchait derrière moi avec un fusil et il ne m’a pas laissé faire. » in "Journal d’outre-tombe" by Nathalie Dubois and Maja Żółtowska, Libération (10 March 2008) (French).
  4. ^ BBC - BBC One Programmes - The Secret Diary of the Holocaust Archived 14 February 2011 at WebCite
  5. ^ "Pamiętnik Rutki" (Rutka's Diary), after Dziennik Zachodni (Polish)
  6. ^ "Rozmowa z Adamem Szydłowskim, prezesem Zagłębiowskiego Centrum Kultury Żydowskiej" (Conversation with Adam Szydłowski, the chairman of the Center of Jewish Culture of the Zagłębie Region), by Marek Nycz, after Dziennik Zachodni (Polish) Archived 14 February 2011 at WebCite
  7. ^ Biblioteka Narodowa: dziennik Rutki Laskier wywieziono nielegalnie (National Library: Rutka Laskier's diary was illegally exported), after Dziennik Zachodni  (2008-10-05) (Polish) Archived 14 February 2011 at WebCite
  8. ^ "Polish Teen's Holocaust Diary Unveiled", by Aron Heller, Associated Press (June 4, 2007). Retrieved June 7, 2007.[dead link]
  9. ^ Archived June 11, 2007 at the Wayback Machine

Further reading[edit]

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