New Diary Offers Glimpse of Life in Nazi Grip Hidden for decades, the diary of a 14-year-old Polish Jewish girl who was killed at Auschwitz was recently published in English and Hebrew. Her writings offer a personal account of life in Poland during the Holocaust.
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New Diary Offers Glimpse of Life in Nazi Grip

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New Diary Offers Glimpse of Life in Nazi Grip

New Diary Offers Glimpse of Life in Nazi Grip

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This is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News. I'm Robert Siegel.


And I'm Melissa Block.

It is being compared to the "Diary of Anne Frank." After being hidden for more than 60 years, the diary of a 14-year-old Polish Jewish girl, who died in Auschwitz, has been published. It's a combination of the daily thoughts of a teenage girl and the growing oppression of the Holocaust.

From Jerusalem, NPR's Linda Gradstein reports.

LINDA GRADSTEIN: Like many teenage girls, Rutka Laskier kept a diary of her hopes, her dreams and her disappointments. There's a lot about boys - the ones she liked and the ones she didn't - and her friends. Written in pencil in a spiral notebook, the diary offers a glimpse of life in the Polish town of Bedzin during three months in 1943 as the Nazis tightened their grip on Poland.

Rutka asked her non-Jewish neighbor, Stanislava Shapinska, where she should hide the diary if she had to leave home suddenly. They agreed she should leave it hidden beneath some stairs in Rutka's house.

When Rutka didn't return after the war, Shapinska went into the house and found the diary. She kept it for more than 60 years. One day last year, for reasons that are not clear, the now 80-year-old Shapinska brought it to the mayor of Bedzin. It was first published in Polish. Earlier this month, Yad Vashem, Israel's Holocaust memorial, published it in Hebrew and English.

Lea Roshkovsky of the education department of Yad Vashem, says a personal diary like this one helps students focus on individuals among the many who died in the Holocaust.

Ms. LEA ROSHKOVSKY (Yad Vashem Institute): You have to get the individuals out of the pile of bodies. We don't let them stay in the piles with no names and no faces.

GRADSTEIN: Bella Gutterman, the editor-in-chief of Yad Vashem Publications, says the diary offers much more than a history book can.

Dr. BELLA GUTTERMAN (Editor-in-Chief, Yad Vashem Publications): She knew how to describe things. She was very gifted in writing. And the story about her everyday life - and, you know, such banal things get a special impact when you know that she was living under the German rule with everyday danger. Every day, people were missing. This is something that you feel like she was talking to you.

GRADSTEIN: In this excerpt from February 5th, 1943, Rutka describes how all of the Jews in her town were being forced to move to a ghetto. In addition, Jews were not allowed to leave their homes without a yellow star sewn to their clothing.

Unidentified Woman: The rope around us is getting tighter and tighter. Next month, there should already be a ghetto, a real one, surrounded by walls. In the summer, it will be unbearable to sit in a gray, locked cage without being able to see fields and flowers. I simply can't believe that one day I'll be able to leave the house without the yellow star, or even that this war will end one day.

GRADSTEIN: The diary takes on added significance as many survivors of the Holocaust have died. Until now, Israeli students could hear first-person accounts from survivors. But soon, diaries like this one will be the only personal accounts of life during the Holocaust. Yad Vashem is training teachers to use the diary in junior high schools beginning next year.

Here's another excerpt from February 5th, 1943:

Unidentified Woman: The little faith I used to have has been completely shattered. If God existed, he would have certainly not permitted that human beings be thrown alive into furnaces and the heads of little toddlers be smashed with the butt of guns.

GRADSTEIN: In this diary excerpt from February 20th, 1943, as German soldiers conducted a raid, or aktion in her town, it seems that Rutka had some idea of her fate.

Unidentified Woman: I have a feeling that I'm writing for the last time. There is an aktion in her town. I'm not allowed to go out, and I'm going crazy, imprisoned in my house. I wish it would end already, this torment, this 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 only need to die once. But I can't. Because despite all these atrocities, I want to live and wait for the following day.

GRADSTEIN: In August 1943, Rutka and her family were deported to Auschwitz. She and her mother were killed immediately. Her father survived the war and eventually moved to Israel where he remarried and had a daughter named Zahava.

Linda Gradstein, NPR News, Jerusalem.

BLOCK: You can read excepts of Rutka's diary entries about life under Nazi occupation at

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