Monday, November 19, 2012

Rutka’s Notebook: A Voice from the Holocaust by Rutka Laskier 2008

"More than 60 years after the teenager wrote it, the diary vividly describes the world crumbling around her as she came of age in a Jewish ghetto." from an article by the Associated Press published in the New York Times on 5/5/07

Rutka Laskier, a teenager growing up in Bedzin, Poland during World War II, kept a journal for a very short time - from January 19 to April 24, 1943. At that point her family was forced to move to the ghetto in Kamionka, so she hid her journal under the floor boards and told a Polish friend to retrieve it if she didn’t return. Her friend found it two years later and kept it hidden until 2006. Its tragic brevity mirrors Rutka’s life which ended in Auschwitz to where she was deported in August, 1943. (Note: Though often called a “diary,” the more correct term in English is journal – writing used not just to record dates and events, but to reflect on perceptions, feelings, and daily events.)

In her writing Rutka records events and reflects on her past, her present, and her future. One minute she is full of life and excitement, discussing her friends, both boys and girls, and, like many teenagers everywhere, she critically evaluates her physical appearance. The next minute, with no transition at all, she describes her terror at witnessing beatings and murders. She recalls in vivid detail the horrifying sequence of events that had taken place during the Aktion of August 12, 1942, called the Hakoah after the sports field in the neighboring town of Sosnowiec where the Jews were forced to congregate. Her family, sent to the sports field, managed a reprieve. She also writes about her job working in one of the factories owned by Alfred Rossner who tried to protect his Jewish workers. She is tormented by day-to-day waiting for she knows not what. One minute she’s convinced the war will be over soon. The next, she despairs and expects to die.

This volume of the English translation called Rutka’s Notebook which was co-published by Yad Vashem, includes very interesting short essays. Much attention has been paid to illustrate the journal and the essays with historical photographs both of public scenes and of Rutka and family members.

Rutka’s half-sister, Zahava Laskier Scherz, is the author of two of the supplemental essays. The first one is an introduction in which she describes how she came to learn that her father had had a previous family before he married her mother and that they had been killed in the Holocaust. She then writes about how she came to learn, many years later, that her half-sister Rutka had kept a journal and that it had survived.

In her second essay, called “The Three Lives of Yaacov Laskier,” she describes her father’s early years as a Zionist member of D’ror, an early trip he made to Palestine, and a return to Poland when he became ill. Resettling in Bedzin, he became a banker and was raising a family when the Germans invaded Poland.  She describes how when he was deported with his family to Auschwitz he learned that the Germans were looking for people with experience working with money. He volunteered and was transferred to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp where he became a member of Operation Bernhard, which was set up to make counterfeit money. (Recently Operation Bernhard has been the subject of books and of the Austrian movie, The Counterfeiters.) She then describes his post-war life when he remarried and settled in Israel.

Another essay, written by Menachem Lior, a former Bedzin resident now living in Israel, details the search for Rutka’s surviving family once the the journal was made public. The next essay provides information about Bedzin and the Holocaust, and the last essay discusses journals by other teenagers who wrote about their lives during the Holocaust. The volume also includes an annotated bibliography of a selected list of teenage journals.

To read the memorial (yizkor)  book written to commemorate Bedzin's Jewish community pre-World War II, click here.

David Laskier- married to Golda Zisman
    Yehezkel-Yosef – son of David and Golda
    Ester Laskier-Rodel – daughter of David and Golda
        Lily Rodel – daughter of Ester
    Zila Laskier – daughter of David and Golda; married to Josef Abramson
        Lipman Laskier – son of Zila and Josef
    Yisrael Laskier – son of David and Golda; married to Sara Prawer
        Yehoshua Laskier – son of Yisrael and Sara
    Gutsha (Gustawa) Laskier-Rottner – daughter of David and Golda
        Yosef Rottner – son of Gutsha
    Mania Laskier – daughter of David and Golda; married to Yitzhak Zilberscaz
    Emanuel (Moniek) Laskier – son of David and Golda; married to Bronia Oppenheim
        David Laskier – son of Emanuel and Bronia
    Yaacov Laskier – son of David and Golda; married to Dvorah (Dorka) Hampel; 2nd marriage to Hanna Weiner
        Rutka Laskier – daughter of Yaacov and Dvorah; author
        Joachim-Henius Laskier – son of Yaacov and Dvorah
        Zahava Laskier – daughter of Yaacov and Hanna; married Avigdor Scherz
            Yishai and Ruth – children of Zahava and Avigdor

Emanuel Laskier – relative, relationship unclear
Jonathan Laskier – brother of Emanuel; married to Else Lasker-Schuler

    Mordechai Hampel – sister of Dvorah
        Dalia Hampel Mercazi– daughter of Mordechai

Friends and Acquaintances
Natek Aleksandrowicz
Herko Brukner
Paulinka Gold Kleinlehrer
Hanka Granek
Menachem Lior
Luba Prawer
    Genia Prawer – daughter of Luba
Heniek Lewin
Salek Goldzweig
Niania Potocka
Haka Zelinger
Rozka Rechnic
Salek Saper
Heini Wajnsztok
Dasha Rittenberg   

Bedzin, Poland
Kamionka, Poland
Zaglembie, Poland
Auschwitz, Poland
Sachsenhausen concentration camp, Germany
Givatayim, Israel
Migdal settlement, Israel
Magdiel, Israel
Rishon LeZion, Israel

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