Holocaust diary tells story of 'Polish Anne Frank'

  • World
  • Friday, 25 Apr 2008

MYT 1:46:39 AM

NEW YORK (Reuters Life!) - Shortly after describing how a German soldier brutally murdered a baby after snatching the infant from its mother's arms, Rutka Laskier wrote affectionately about a boy who seemed to be always on her mind.

"I'm turning into an animal, waiting to die. One can lose one's mind thinking about this," the 14-year-old wrote.

"Now to everyday matters: Janek came by this afternoon ... While we were talking, he suddenly blurted out he'd like it very much if he could kiss me."

These juxtapositions appear throughout "Rutka's Notebook: A Voice From the Holocaust," an account of the girl's days in Bedzin, Poland, before being sent to the gas chambers at the Auschwitz-Birkenau death camp.

The book depicts Jewish life under German occupation and reflects a growing desperation and anger as the people around her are sent to ghettos and deported. But it also focuses on her conversations with her friends, her on-again, off-again feelings for Janek, religion and marriage.

In the English edition, which is being released on Friday by Time Books and Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs' and Heroes' Remembrance Authority, augment the diary with items such as photographs, maps and documents that show the Nazi advance across Eastern Europe.

The items place Laskier's portrait on the wider canvas of the war, explaining the meaning of German terms, and offering historical capsules that help readers unfamiliar with the Holocaust.

"They really try to make things in context," said Zahava Scherz, Laskier's half-sister who was born in Israel and never knew the family that her father had raised in Poland before emigrating after the war.


Laskier kept her diary for four months in 1943, and hid it in her family's home before being herded into a ghetto and to her death. She told her non-Jewish friend Stanislawa Sapinska where the diary was hidden. Sapinska retrieved it in 1945 and kept it for 60 years before her nephew persuaded her to release it to the public.

Time and Yad Vashem describe Laskier as a Polish Anne Frank, and hope that young people, particularly teenage girls, identify with her thoughts and feelings, said Time Inc Home Entertainment President and Publisher Richard Fraiman.

The English edition of the book is expected to debut in the fall in Britain, when the BBC plans to run a 40-minute documentary related to the diary on television.

The book is being released in cooperation with Scherz, who discovered as a teenager that her father had a wife and two children who perished in the Holocaust. But she did not learn of the diary until several years ago.

"I knew that my father had two children ... [but] they were not my sister and brother. She became my sister. I love her and adore her," Scherz said in an interview from her home in Rehovot, Israel.

"It was tragic, it was sad, but it was also a kind of satisfaction that all of a sudden, I too have a family."

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