The Jewish children of Lodz suffered unfolding harsh realities after the German invasion of Poland. Some of the children, among them Dawid Sierakowiak, recorded their experiences in diaries. Their voices offer a view into the struggle of a community and its young to live in spite of the most difficult circumstances.
“A student from the same grade as ours died from hunger and exhaustion yesterday. As a result of his terrible appearance, he was allowed to eat as much soup in school as he wanted, but it didn't help him much. He is the third victim in the class.” —Dawid Sierakowiak, age 16, May 13, 1941
“I'll start my work in the saddlery workshop tomorrow. My student career has been suspended, at least for a while. The main thing now is to make an income and survive poverty.” —Dawid Sierakowiak, age 17, October 23, 1941
“All I care is that there is soup in my workshop.” —Dawid Sierakowiak, age 17, April 3, 1942
“We are not considered humans at all; just cattle for work or slaughter. No one knows what happened to the Jews deported from Lodz. No one can be certain of anything now. They are after Jews all over the Reich.” —Dawid Sierakowiak, age 17, May 20, 1942
Dawid Sierakowiak was born in Lodz, Poland, in July 1924. He and his younger sister Nadia lived with their parents Majlech and Sura Sierakowiak. Dawid was a student in a private Jewish preparatory high school (gimnazjum) in Lodz, where he was on a scholarship.
Sierakowiak kept a diary from before the war where he meticulously noted events, as well as his own feelings, moods, and opinions. Dawid was an avid reader and an excellent observer.
Following the concentration of the city’s Jews into the Lodz ghetto, Sierakowiak’s diary chronicled the daily tragedies of ghetto life. He wrote of his desperation to find a job, the sufferings of his younger sister, the growing tensions between himself and his father, and the deportation of his ailing mother during the Gehsperre Aktion of 1942. Sierakowiak's diary ends in April 1943 with a hopeful note about getting a job in the ghetto bakery.
Dawid Sierakowiak died on August 8, 1943, probably of tuberculosis. His sister was deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau, where she was murdered.
After the war, five notebooks of Dawid's diary survived. Today these notebooks are housed in the archives of Yad Vashem and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. While incomplete, they are a rich and revealing account of life in the Lodz ghetto.
Series: Young Diarists from the Lodz Ghetto
Critical Thinking Questions
- Why are diaries an important part of the historical record?
- What makes children’s diaries distinct?
- How are some of these accounts different from that of Anne Frank?
- Investigate the experiences of children in the ghettos.