VE Day Reader: A Polish Girl’s Holocaust Diary

Rutka Laskier and her baby brother in 1938. They were both murdered in Auschwitz in 1943.

Rutka Laskier and her baby brother in 1938. They were both murdered in Auschwitz in 1943.

A teenage Jewish girl living under the Nazis in Poland during 1943 feared she was “turning into an animal waiting to die”, according to her diary, which documents the final months before her death in the Auschwitz concentration camp.

Rutka Laskier, 14, the same age as the Dutch teenager Anne Frank, wrote the 60-page diary over a four-month period in Bedzin, Poland. The diary, published by Israel’s Holocaust museum, documents the steady collapse of the ghetto under the weight of the Nazi occupation and deportations, as well as the first loves, friendships and jealousies of an adolescent girl growing up during the war.

News of the concentration camps, including Auschwitz, and the brutal killings of Jews, filtered through to her.

Writing on February 5 1943, she said:

“I simply can’t believe that one day I will be allowed to leave this house without the yellow star. Or even that this war will end one day. If this happens I will probably lose my mind from joy.

“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 or be shoved into sacks and gassed to death.”

Later she wrote: “The rope around us is getting tighter and tighter. I’m turning into an animal waiting to die.” Her final entry is brief: “I’m very bored. The entire day I’m walking around the room. I have nothing to do.”

The last entry is dated April 24 1943, at which point she hid the notebook in the basement of the house her family were living in, a building that had been confiscated by the Nazis to be part of the Bedzin ghetto. In August that year, the teenager and her family were transported to the Auschwitz concentration camp and it is thought she was killed immediately.

The diary was found after the war by Stanislawa Sapinska, a Christian whose family owned the house lived in by the Laskiers, and who had met Rutka several times during the war.

Ms Sapinska, now in her late 80s, took the diary and kept it secret for more than 60 years until one of her nephews last year convinced her to present it to Yad Vashem, Israel’s national Holocaust museum and archive in Jerusalem.

“She wanted me to save the diary,” Ms Sapinska told the Associated Press. “She said ‘I don’t know if I will survive, but I want the diary to live on, so that everyone will know what happened to the Jews’.”

The diary was authenticated by Yad Vashem, which has now published it as Rutka’s Notebook, in Hebrew and English. Rutka’s father, Yaakov, was the only member of the family to survive the camp. He moved to Israel and had a new family. He died in 1986.

His daughter in Israel, Zahava Sherz, who has written a foreword to the diary, knew nothing about Rutka before the journal surfaced. “I was struck by this deep connection to Rutka,” said Dr Sherz, 57. “I was an only child, and now I suddenly have an older sister. This black hole was suddenly filled and I immediately fell in love with her.”

Diary entry from February 20 1943

“I have a feeling that I am writing for the last time. There is an Aktion [a Nazi arrest operation] in town. I’m not allowed to go out and I’m going crazy, imprisoned in my own house. For a few days, something’s in the air. The town is breathlessly waiting in anticipation, and this anticipation is the worst of all. I wish it would end already! This torment; this is 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 die once. But I can’t, because despite all these atrocities I want to live, and wait for the following day. That means waiting for Auschwitz or labour camp. I must not think about this so now I’ll start writing about private matters.”

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Thursday Reader: Revision of Anne Frank’s Death

Anne Frank (1942)

New research sets Anne Frank’s death earlier.

For 70 years, Anne Frank was believed to have died of typhus in Bergen-Belsen just two weeks before allied forces liberated the Nazi death camp on April 15, 1945.

This week, however, new research released by the Anne Frank House in Amsterdam concludes that the 15-year-old Jewish diarist and her older sister, Margot, more likely died in February, not on March 31. The Dutch government fixed that date at the end of World War II after the Red Cross concluded Anne and her sister died sometime between March 1 and March 31.

The researchers based their new findings on eyewitness testimonies of survivors and the archives of the Bergen-Belsen Memorial, Red Cross and the International Tracing Service.

“It is unlikely that they were still alive in March; their deaths must have occurred in February 1945,” the Anne Frank House said.

Anne Frank, left, plays with her friend Hanneli Goslar, right, on the Merwedeplein square in Amsterdam in 1941. Shortly before Anne Frank and her family went into hiding from the Nazis, she gave away some of her toys to non-Jewish neighborhood girlfriend Toosje Kupers for safekeeping. The toys have now been recovered and Anne's tin of marbles will go on display for the first time this week at an art gallery in Rotterdam, the Anne Frank House Museum says.  Photo: AP

Anne Frank, left, plays with her friend Hanneli Goslar, right, on the Merwedeplein square in Amsterdam in 1941.
Shortly before Anne Frank and her family went into hiding from the Nazis, she gave away some of her toys to non-Jewish neighborhood girlfriend Toosje Kupers for safekeeping. The toys have now been recovered and Anne’s tin of marbles will go on display for the first time this week at an art gallery in Rotterdam, the Anne Frank House Museum says.
Photo: AP

The exact date of their deaths remains unknown.

“One day they simply weren’t there anymore,” one camp survivor who was friends with the girls told the researchers.

Annelies Marie Frank’s famous diary tells of hiding with her family and other Jews in secret rooms behind a bookcase in the house that is now her museum. After two years of hiding, they were betrayed to the Nazi occupiers, and she, Margot and their mother were shipped by train to Auschwitz-Birkenau in early September 1944. Two months later, Anne and Margot were transferred to Bergen-Belsen.

In early December, Nanaette Blitz, a former classmate who was transferred to the overcrowded camp, told of finding Anne, saying it was a miracle they recognized one another.

“She was no more than a skeleton by then,” Blitz recounted. “She was wrapped in a blanket; she couldn’t bear to wear her clothes anymore because they were crawling with lice.” Lice are the main carrier of typhus, the symptoms of which include severe headaches, muscle pain, high fever, followed by skin rash and delirium.

The last time Blitz saw her was January 1945, when typhus was epidemic in the women’s camp. By that time, the researchers write, Anne Frank “was clearly already gravely ill,” and Margot “was in an even worse condition than her sister.”

Other inmates, including Auguste van Pels, who had hidden with the Franks, reported similar observations of the girls’ health before they were transferred to Raghun, another slave-labor camp, on Feb. 7, 1945.

“In fact, this is where their trail runs cold,” the researchers write.

AF3Based on those eyewitness accounts and because Anne and Margot were already frail when they arrived at Bergen-Belsen, “it is unlikely that they survived until the end of March. In view of this, the date of their death is more likely to be sometime in February.”

The earlier date lays to rest the notion that Anne and her sister were only days from being rescued when they died, researcher Erika Prins told the Guardian.

Symbolic gravestone of Anne Frank at the site of Belsen Concentration Camp,  Bergen-Belsen Memorial, Anne-Frank-Platz.

Symbolic gravestone of Anne Frank at the site of Belsen Concentration Camp, Bergen-Belsen Memorial, Anne-Frank-Platz.

“When you say they died at the end of March, it gives you a feeling that they died just before liberation,” Prins said. “Well, that’s not true anymore.”

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Photo Essay: The Winds of War

Politics aside, there are times when war is necessary. However, whether justified or unprovoked, war inevitably has its share of victims, the innocent, the powerless – those souls who are unwilling thrown into the mix as their world unravels as well as those who unknowingly, blindly follow a tyrant hellbent on domination and destruction.

This rather eye-opening edition of Throwback Thursday is dedicated to them…

War is about as close to Hell as a human being can be.

Some readers may find some of the images disturbing. 

Reader discretion is advised.

June 1944 : A sergeant of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps bandages the wounded ear of 'Jasper', a mine-detecting dog, Bayeux, France

June 1944 : A sergeant of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps bandages the wounded ear of ‘Jasper’, a mine-detecting dog, Bayeux, France

April 1945 : A German woman runs through the streets of burning Siegburg with what belongings she is able to carry, as the American 97th Infantry Division and German troops battle for control of the city street by street.

April 1945 : A German woman runs through the streets of burning Siegburg with what belongings she is able to carry, as the American 97th Infantry Division and German troops battle for control of the city street by street.

1932 : An uniformed small child joins a parade of forty thousand teenage Fascists(ONB) at Rome's Place du Peuple Opera Nazionale Balilla (ONB) was an Italian Fascist youth organization.

1932 : An uniformed small child joins a parade of forty thousand teenage Fascists(ONB) at Rome’s Place du Peuple
Opera Nazionale Balilla (ONB) was an Italian Fascist youth organization.

Oct 1945 : Homeless orphaned sisters on a street in Rome, Italy after the end of WWII.

Oct 1945 : Homeless orphaned sisters on a street in Rome, Italy after the end of WWII.

1915 : 19 year old Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna of Russia with wounded Russian soldiers.  "My sister Olga is working as a Nurse. Olga, Tatiana and mother became nurses and worked in hospitals, even assisting in surgeries. Maria and I were too young to become real nurses, but both of us, and Aleksey, observed and helped out in operations. We saw many wounded soldiers die. Maria and I had our own hospital in the Fyodorovsky Village near the Alexander Palace. We went there all the time and tried to cheer up the wounded men. It felt like we were attending funeral services all the time." - Anastasia Olga was assassinated by the Bolsheviks on July 17, 1918 aged 22 after they were refused sanctuary in England. Olga fell in love with a wounded officer she was nursing.

1915 : 19 year old Grand Duchess Olga Nikolaevna of Russia with wounded Russian soldiers.
“My sister Olga is working as a Nurse. Olga, Tatiana and mother became nurses and worked in hospitals, even assisting in surgeries. Maria and I were too young to become real nurses, but both of us, and Aleksey, observed and helped out in operations. We saw many wounded soldiers die. Maria and I had our own hospital in the Fyodorovsky Village near the Alexander Palace. We went there all the time and tried to cheer up the wounded men. It felt like we were attending funeral services all the time.”
– Anastasia
Olga was assassinated by the Bolsheviks on July 17, 1918 aged 22 after they were refused sanctuary in England. Olga fell in love with a wounded officer she was nursing.

March 1933 : The last picture taken of Anne, Edith, and Margot Frank in Germany, prior to emigrating to Netherlands.  Anne Frank is 3 years, 9 months old. They are standing in the Hauptwache square in the center of Frankfurt am Main.

March 1933 : The last picture taken of Anne, Edith, and Margot Frank in Germany, prior to emigrating to Netherlands.
Anne Frank is 3 years, 9 months old. They are standing in the Hauptwache square in the center of Frankfurt am Main.

Dec 1940 : A Dutch woman keeping Balls of paper - the main fuel in winter during Nazi occupation, Amsterdam.

Dec 1940 : A Dutch woman keeping Balls of paper – the main fuel in winter during Nazi occupation, Amsterdam.

1917 : A loaded cart pulled by two dogs in Belgium during WW1  Horses in World War I were used by the belligerent nations for transportation of troops, artillery, materiel, and, to a lesser extent, in mobile cavalry troops. Due to lack of Horses, most carts in France, Germany and Belgium were pulled by dogs.

1917 : A loaded cart pulled by two dogs in Belgium during WWI
Horses in World War I were used by the belligerent nations for transportation of troops, artillery, materiel, and, to a lesser extent, in mobile cavalry troops. Due to lack of Horses, most carts in France, Germany and Belgium were pulled by dogs.

Dec 1945 : Elderly citizens of Berlin rest on a bench marked 'Not for Jews', after the end of WW2 An ugly reminder of Nazi days. It took 3 years to remove of all Nazi images and symbols, however with a country as large as Germany, a few were missed and still exist even to this very day.

Dec 1945 : Elderly citizens of Berlin rest on a bench marked ‘Not for Jews’, after the end of WWII
An ugly reminder of Nazi days.
It took 3 years to remove of all Nazi images and symbols, however with a country as large as Germany, a few were missed and still exist even to this very day.

Jan 1945 : A Chinese girl who recently discovered her husband's body in their burned out home, sifting through the ashes for personal possessions, Kweilin, China  Much like the Slavs, Jews, Poles, Indians and Gypsies, the Chinese were slaughtered without mercy during WWII. Photo by Jack Wilkes, LIFE magazine.

Jan 1945 : A Chinese girl who recently discovered her husband’s body in their burned out home, sifting through the ashes for personal possessions, Kweilin, China
Much like the Slavs, Jews, Poles, Indians and Gypsies, the Chinese were slaughtered without mercy during WWII.
Photo by Jack Wilkes, LIFE magazine.

70 years ago this month - Mar 1945: Anne Frank dies at age 15 of typhus in Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp.  Anne Frank's enduring legacy still resonates around the world.

70 years ago this month – Mar 1945: Anne Frank dies at age 15 of typhus in Bergen-Belsen Concentration Camp.
Anne Frank’s enduring legacy still resonates around the world.

1943 : Polish youngster carrying an armload of loaves of bread at Red Cross refuge camp in Tehran, Iran during WWII.

1943 : Polish youngster carrying an armload of loaves of bread at Red Cross refuge camp in Tehran, Iran during WWII.

English children who had been evacuated during WWII are finally reunited with their families.

English children who had been evacuated during WWII are finally reunited with their families.

A man looks directly at the photographer, an Einsatzgruppen soldier, the moment before he is shot; below him are his dead friends, neighbors and family. The soldier wrote on the back of this photo "the last Jew in Vinnitsa, 1941."

A man looks directly at the photographer, an Einsatzgruppen soldier, the moment before he is shot; below him are his dead friends, neighbors and family. The soldier wrote on the back of this photo “the last Jew in Vinnitsa, 1941.”

Dec 1918 : A young Serbian refugee in the town of Grdjelitza after the end of WWI, as photographed by Lewis W. Hine. Hine was hired by the Red Cross to document its European relief efforts. In the waning months of World War I and after the armistice, Hine traveled through France, Belgium, Germany and the Balkans shooting the shattered continent devastated by World War One.  Hine wrote as he took the picture of this young Serbian girl: "With not even a roof over their heads, these families were finding their way back home on foot from northern Serbia where the Austrians and Germans had sent them to produce food for the enemy … When these people reach home, it will not be home, but simply ruins."

Dec 1918 : A young Serbian refugee in the town of Grdjelitza after the end of WWI, as photographed by Lewis W. Hine.
Hine was hired by the Red Cross to document its European relief efforts. In the waning months of World War I and after the armistice, Hine traveled through France, Belgium, Germany and the Balkans shooting the shattered continent devastated by World War One.
Hine wrote as he took the picture of this young Serbian girl: “With not even a roof over their heads, these families were finding their way back home on foot from northern Serbia where the Austrians and Germans had sent them to produce food for the enemy … When these people reach home, it will not be home, but simply ruins.”

Allied servicemen stop to hand out sweets to Dutch children during the Allied liberation of the Netherlands, summer 1944.

Allied servicemen stop to hand out sweets to Dutch children during the Allied liberation of the Netherlands, summer 1944.

A German dog hospital, treating wounded dispatch dogs coming from the front, 1918

A German dog hospital, treating wounded dispatch dogs coming from the front, 1918

Colourized WWII photo : Pfc. Harvey White of Minneapolis gives blood plasma to a Pvt. Roy W. Humphrey from Toledo, Ohio of the 7th Inf. Regt., US 3rd Division at the aid station, Sant'Agata, Sicily, after he was wounded by shrapnel on the 9th August 1943  (Pvt. Humphrey was wounded near San Fratello and was later taken to the 93rd. Evacuation Hospital, where he recovered)

Colourized WWII photo :
Pfc. Harvey White of Minneapolis gives blood plasma to a Pvt. Roy W. Humphrey from Toledo, Ohio of the 7th Inf. Regt., US 3rd Division at the aid station, Sant’Agata, Sicily, after he was wounded by shrapnel on the 9th August 1943
(Pvt. Humphrey was wounded near San Fratello and was later taken to the 93rd. Evacuation Hospital, where he recovered)

1943 : An on-leave serviceman and his date take a break from a dance at Fullerton Beach, Chicago.

1943 : An on-leave serviceman and his date take a break from a dance at Fullerton Beach, Chicago.

Anna Zakrzewska served with the Polish underground army as a courier and a medical orderly.  Zakrzewska's underground code name was Hanka Biała (White Hannah). She received training at the end of June and in July 1944 in the Wyszkowa forest. She was killed in the course of desperate combat during the Warsaw Uprising, aged 18.

Anna Zakrzewska served with the Polish underground army as a courier and a medical orderly.
Zakrzewska’s underground code name was Hanka Biała (White Hannah). She received training at the end of June and in July 1944 in the Wyszkowa forest. She was killed in the course of desperate combat during the Warsaw Uprising, aged 18.

Concentration camp survivor - This little girl was asked to draw a picture of her home, while living in a residence for disturbed children in Poland 1948. As you can see, she no longer has any concept of what 'home' is (or was) The look in her eyes is truly haunting...

Concentration camp survivor – This little girl was asked to draw a picture of her home, while living in a residence for disturbed children in Poland 1948.
As you can see, she no longer has any concept of what ‘home’ is (or was) The look in her eyes is truly haunting…

May 1945 : Inmates of the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria pull down the swastika emblem over the main gate after Liberation This camp had many prisoners of war(Pow's); mostly Soviet & French officers. Nearly 210,000 inmates perished at Mauthausen.

May 1945 : Inmates of the Mauthausen concentration camp in Austria pull down the swastika emblem over the main gate after Liberation
This camp had many prisoners of war(Pow’s); mostly Soviet & French officers. Nearly 210,000 inmates perished at Mauthausen.

1942 : Three Soviet citizens are hanged from a tree near Minsk in Belorussia by SS forces with a placard reading “We are partisans and have shot at Germans” in both German and Russian.

1942 : Three Soviet citizens are hanged from a tree near Minsk in Belorussia by SS forces with a placard reading “We are partisans and have shot at Germans” in both German and Russian.

1948 : A little girl with her battered doll, waiting for milk distribution along with her little brother at an Orphanage run by Unesco at Naples, Italy  The World War II casualties and even larger numbers of POWs meant that many Italian children were left with only their mother to support them. And in a collapsing economy this was very difficult. When the fighting reached Italy itself, villages and cities were devastated all the way up the peninsula. Many children were killed or wounded and in many cases lost both parents. Large numbers of children were displaced as well as many orphaned.

1948 : A little girl with her battered doll, waiting for milk distribution along with her little brother at an Orphanage run by Unesco at Naples, Italy
The World War II casualties and even larger numbers of POWs meant that many Italian children were left with only their mother to support them. And in a collapsing economy this was very difficult. When the fighting reached Italy itself, villages and cities were devastated all the way up the peninsula. Many children were killed or wounded and in many cases lost both parents. Large numbers of children were displaced as well as many orphaned.

March 1946 : A young orphan eating bread provided by the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Association in post war Rome, Italy. From mid 1945 to 1949, most of mainland Europe was in absolute poverty caused by the devastation of WWII.

March 1946 : A young orphan eating bread provided by the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation Association in post war Rome, Italy.
From mid 1945 to 1949, most of mainland Europe was in absolute poverty caused by the devastation of WWII.

Guide Dogs for the Blind was founded in 1942 to aid blinded servicemen returning from World War II.  The first veteran to graduate from the program was Sgt. Leonard Foulk, who was paired with a Guide Dog named Blondie.

Guide Dogs for the Blind was founded in 1942 to aid blinded servicemen returning from World War II.
The first veteran to graduate from the program was Sgt. Leonard Foulk, who was paired with a Guide Dog named Blondie.

1945 : The Cologne Cathedral stands tall in the midst the ruins of the city after Allied bombings, Germany. During the 1939 to 1945 period the Royal Air Force dropped 34,711 tons of bombs on the Cologne.

1945 : The Cologne Cathedral stands tall in the midst the ruins of the city after Allied bombings, Germany.
During the period from 1939 to 1945, the Royal Air Force dropped 34,711 tons of bombs on Cologne.

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#WarWednesday: The Images of War

In keeping with my war theme this #WarriorWednesday, I believe that it is just as important to share certain images of war – direct or indirect. While we celebrate the victors, console the non-victors, remember those who have fallen, honor our heroes, it’s just as important to be reminded of others who suffer because of war’s horrible effects, be reminded of its tragedies, its triumphs, its losses and be glad in the miracles that come from winning a few battles on in a little while…

joseph

April 1945  4-year-old Joseph Schleifstein, who survived the Holocaust by being kept hidden by his father, from Nazi officials inside Buchenwald concentration camp, is seen here shortly after his liberation

Joseph was hidden by his father in a large sack, enabling him to avoid detection by SS guards when arriving at the camp. Other prisoners helped his father keep him hidden and Schleifstein survived until the Americans liberated the camp. After the war, Schleifstein and his parents emigrated to the United States. He did not discuss his wartime experiences for decades, even with his children. His case was discovered by chance in 1999, leading to a search for him and an eventual newspaper interview.

italy

July 1944: Two Italian boys in Naples, one of who lost his leg during the war.

anne

The Netherlands. 1940: Rare Portrait of 11-year-old Anne Frank smiling outside the family home, wearing a straw hat.

anne2

Amsterdam 1937: 8-year-old Anne Frank and her friends playing in a sandbox.

london

March 1941: London mothers send their children away to find peace in the country as German Bombing continue.

The second batch of children evacuated to the country to enable war-weary babies to recover from shelters were seen off by their mothers from the East End of London. They were on their way to Syston Court, Gloucestershire. Money for these children was being provided by the Allied Relief Fund.

belgium

October 29, 1917: Soldiers of an Australian 4th Division field artillery brigade walk on a duckboard track laid across a muddy, shattered battlefield in Chateau Wood, near Hooge, Belgium.

The photo was taken during the Battle of Passchendaele, fought by British forces and their allies against Germany for control of territory near Ypres, Belgium.

poland

September 1944: A Polish man cries as his wife was killed during a German air raid at 10 Moniuszko Street, Warsaw during the Warsaw Uprising.

lithuania

1941. Gangs of SS soldiers & local fascists are roaming Lithuanian cities, looking for bearded Jewish men to attack.

bomb

1945: Harold Agnew carrying the plutonium core of the Nagasaki Fat Man’ bomb.

art

Thanks in greater part to the US Army’s Monuments men, many art treasures were recovered from Nazis. Many other priceless pieces were hidden by the French, Belgians and many others in Europe. In this photograph, the final return of the Mona Lisa at the end of WWII. Unfortunately, many thousands of other piece were destroyed by the Nazis as they withdrew.

On the eve of war, curators at the Louvre swathed the museum’s most priceless painting in layers of waterproof paper, boxed it up and spirited it to the French countryside for safekeeping. The painting was moved another five times during the war before she was safely returned to the Louvre after the Liberation.

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Saturday Reader: Anne Frank’s Final Diary Entry

Anne_Frank

I’ve always loved her optimism, in the face of all evil. She’s always inspired me: Not only for that but because she. Never. Gave. Up…

Seventy years ago, Anne Frank made her final diary entry from her hiding place in Amsterdam on Aug. 1, 1944.

Anne lived in the Secret Annex at 263 Prinsengracht with her family for two years during the German occupation of the Netherlands in World War II, documenting her life faithfully in her diary during that time. In her last entry, Anne was introspective and wondered about how people would perceive her.

“I’m afraid that people who know me as I usually am will discover I have another side, a better and finer side. I’m afraid they’ll mock me, think I’m ridiculous and sentimental and not take me seriously,” she wrote.

“I’m used to not being taken seriously, but only the ‘lighthearted’ Anne is used to it and can put up with it: the ‘deeper’ Anne is too weak.”

Three days later on Aug. 4, the SS, working on a tip from an informer who has never been identified, raided the hiding place. All eight people in hiding were arrested and sent to concentration camps. Anne Frank died at Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in Germany from typhus in March 1945.

Her father, Otto, was the only person from the hiding place to survive. He returned to Amsterdam and recovered Anne’s diary, which he published for the first time in the Netherlands on June 25, 1947.

Since then, Anne’s diary has inspired films and stage performances. The diary has been translated into at least 67 languages and more than 30 million copies have been sold, according to the Anne Frank Center USA.

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