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 the three months of her life during the Holocaust. She was killed at the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1943 at the age of 14. Her manuscript, authenticated by Holocaust scholars and survivors, was published in the Polish language for the first time ever in early 2006, drawing comparisons to the diary of Anne Frank instantly. It has since been released in numerous translations.
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 & Co, a milling company that owned and operated a grist mill. In 1933, the municipal government was taken over by the German Nazi Party (NSDAP) which engaged in anti-Semitic violence and state-sponsored discrimination. Many Jews were fired from their positions and fled Danzig. Rutka moved with her family to the southern Polish city of Będzin, where her father's parents had come from. Following the German invasion of Poland, while in the Będzin Ghetto, Rutka Laskier, age 14, wrote a 60-page diary in Polish, chronicling several months of her life under the Nazi rule in 1943. Her diary remained in the hands of Rutka's surviving friend for 64 years and was not released to the public until 2005.
Laskier's family was forced to move to the newly formed Jewish Ghetto in Będzin during the Holocaust in World War II. 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. However, when her diary appeared in a book, it was revealed in 2008 that she was not sent to the gas chambers along with them. Zofia Minc, who was a fellow prisoner, revealed in a published account of her time at Auschwitz, that Laskier slept in the barrack next to her until falling victim to a cholera outbreak in December 1943. Another prisoner pushed Laskier, still alive, in a wheelbarrow to the underground gas chamber. (According to Zahava Scherz, 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.
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. According to Zahava Scherz, interviewed in the BBC documentary "The Secret Diary of the Holocaust" (broadcast in January 2009), 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." 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."
Discovery of Laskier's diary
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. 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 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.
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).
Publication of diary
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.
- Hélène Berr - a French diarist
- Hana Brady - Jewish girl and holocaust victim; subject of the children's book Hana's Suitcase
- Helga Deen – wrote a diary in Herzogenbusch concentration camp (Camp Vught)
- Anne Frank - a Jewish girl an holocaust victim; author of The Diary of a Young Girl
- Etty Hillesum – wrote a diary in Amsterdam and Camp Westerbork
- Etty Hillesum and the Flow of Presence: A Voegelinian Analysis
- Věra Kohnová - a Czech diarist
- David Koker – wrote a diary in Herzogenbusch concentration camp (Camp Vught)
- Janet Langhart – Writer of one act play Anne and Emmett
- List of diarists
- List of posthumous publications of Holocaust victims
- Sam Pivnik
- Rainer Maria Rilke, a German poet who influenced her thoughts and diary writings.
- Tanya Savicheva
- Sophie Scholl - German student executed by the Nazis
- Westerbork transit camp
- Calel Perechodnik - Polish Jewish Ghetto Policeman who wrote a memoir Am I a Murderer?
- Henio Zytomirski - Polish boy who was a holocaust victim
- Etgar Lefkovits (5 June 2007), "Polish 'Anne Frank' diary revealed", The Jerusalem Post. Retrieved 6 June 2007.
- Gippert, Wolfgang. "Die "Lösung der Judenfrage" in der Freien Stadt Danzig" (in German). Zukunft braucht Erinnerung.
- Epstein, Catherine (2010). Model Nazi: Arthur Greiser and the Occupation of Western Poland. Oxford University Press. p. 103. ISBN 978-0-19-954641-1.
- The 2007 photograph of original manuscript by Rutka Laskier. Internet Archive.
- BBC: The Secret Diary of the Holocaust.
- « 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).
- BBC - BBC One Programmes - The Secret Diary of the Holocaust Archived 14 February 2011 at WebCite
- "Pamiętnik Rutki" (Rutka's Diary), after Dziennik Zachodni (Polish)
- "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
- 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
- "Polish Teen's Holocaust Diary Unveiled", by Aron Heller, Associated Press (June 4, 2007). Retrieved June 7, 2007.[dead link]
- http://www1.yadvashem.org/research_publications/temp_publications/temp_index_Rutkas_Notebook.html[dead link]
- Rutka Laskier diary page from Yad Vashem site
- Photo of Laskier's original diary
- Article about the diary of Rutka Laskier (Polish)
- Articles about Rutka Laskier (Polish)
- NPR story from All Things Considered program, July 5, 2007
- WPR Interview with Zahava Scherz, Rutka Laskier's half sister, read excerpts
- BBC - BBC One Programmes - The Secret Diary of the Holocaust detailing the 2009 BBC Documentary The Secret Diary of the Holocast which largely follows Zahava Scherz's journey to discover her half-sister and contains her own account of family life with their shared father after the war.