The Diary of Dawid Sierakowiak: Five Notebooks from the Lodz Ghetto

The Diary of Dawid Sierakowiak: Five Notebooks from the Lodz Ghetto

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by Dawid Sierakowiak

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The surviving diary of Dawid Sierakowiak, a teenager who died in the Lodz Ghetto during World War II, relates with intimate, undefended prose the relentless horror of everyday life in the ghetto, where more than 60,000 Jews perished. 58 photos.


The surviving diary of Dawid Sierakowiak, a teenager who died in the Lodz Ghetto during World War II, relates with intimate, undefended prose the relentless horror of everyday life in the ghetto, where more than 60,000 Jews perished. 58 photos.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
When the Nazis captured Lodz, the great textile center of Poland, they squeezed the Jewish population of 200,000 into a sealed neighborhood and began systematically to work and starve them to death. Sierakowiak began his journals when he was 15, just before the war, and continued with almost daily entries until it abruptly breaks off in 1943. Edited by Adelson, producer of the documentary film, Lodz Ghetto, the diary meticulously records Sierakowiak's own deterioration as well as that of the ghetto. Sierakowiak chronicles the growing hunger and desperation of those residents not connected to Chaim Rumkowski, the ghetto's corrupt and dictatorial leader, and the loss of both parentshis mother to the Nazis and his father to tuberculosis, the disease that would claim Sierakowiak at the end. Although Sierakowiak was a Marxist, his political beliefs didn't lead to action of any sort, unlike many of the young leftists in the European ghettos. Instead, he focused almost entirely on food coupons and where he could find work. His obsession with exams, grades and abstract communist theory make the knowledgeable reader, aware of what is to come, scream with exasperation. Sierakowiak didn't have an artist's observant eye, although he was a dedicated reader of literature, so there are no distinctive individuals here aside from the writer himself, nor are there inspirational statements about the innate goodness of people. What is here is a repetitive and detailed account of a population being methodically ground into dust. (Aug.)
School Library Journal
YADawid Sierakowiak was a bright, athletic, 15 year old in 1939; he died of tuberculosis just a few months after his last journal entry in April of 1943. The ordeal that he, his family, his friends, and the Jews of Lodz endured are highlighted as the day-to-day struggle to survive emerges in these writings. The young man's desire for learning is constant in spite of the inhuman living conditions. Five of the seven notebook diaries kept by Dawid have been translated from the original Polish into English. Efforts at publishing them have been ongoing for over 30 years; the journals were first discovered following Lodz Ghetto's liberation. For libraries striving to develop an extensive collection of Holocaust materials, this book is highly recommended.Dottie Kraft, formerly at Fairfax County Public Schools, VA
George Cohen
In 1940 the Nazis forced the 200,000 Jews of Lodz, a textile center with the second-largest Jewish population in Europe, into a ghetto. In 1941, the Polish Jews were joined by more than 20,000 Jews from Austria, Germany, Czechoslovakia, and Luxembourg. Dawid's diary begins on June 28, 1939, a few weeks before his fifteenth birthday, and ends on April 15, 1943. He died on August 18, apparently from tuberculosis. A Polish gentile, returning to his home in the former ghetto after the war, found the notebooks. As Dawid watched his family and neighbors suffer, he described his increasing exasperation over the hierarchy of privilege enjoyed by Chaim Rumkowski, the ghetto's leader, and others. His own physical and emotional pain kept him constantly at the edge of endurance. Yet he studied Latin, Hebrew, English, German, and French, searching out books in which he could engage his mind. But in the end he writes in his last diary entry, "I feel myself beginning to fall into melancholy. There is really no way out of this for us." The book is filled with poignant and horrifying photographs taken inside the ghetto.
Kirkus Reviews
The diary of a bright teenage boy who endured four years in the Nazis' largest urban slave camp, the Lodz Ghetto, in Poland, before succumbing.

Dawid's bleak record of his life (edited by Adelson, who compiled the definitive history of the Lodz ghetto and produced a documentary film on the subject) almost didn't survive: Two of the seven notebooks that compose the diary were burned for fuel in the winter of 1945, and the Polish government nearly destroyed the remaining volumes in their 1960s campaign to eradicate all vestiges of the Holocaust. Dawid was a dedicated memoirist, setting down facts, dates, rumors, and moods, and his record of the destruction of his community and his own sad struggle to survive make this an invaluable portrait of the progressive exploitation and extermination of Polish Jewry. The diary, which begins in 1939, reveals Dawid to be at first a high-spirited young man, mocking Hitler, flirting in the bomb shelters. But once the Nazis seize Poland, life turns grim. Food, until the war "such an insignificant thing," dominates his thoughts and overshadows his once lively intellectual life. We not only feel the diarist's mind and spirit waning under intense suffering, we experience with Dawid how his parents die, his mother despite her stoicism and his father despite his greed and corruption. The young Marxist is bitterly aware of the ghetto's class system ("the big shots eat"). Despite a job in the ghetto bakery that affords him more life-saving calories, he is too emaciated and exhausted to continue diary entries after April 15, 1943. He succumbs to "ghetto disease" (starvation and tuberculosis) on Aug. 8. The death certificate is the last of the book's 40 striking photos.

In its determined recording of the everyday experience of oppression, Dawid's diary offers a low-key but nonetheless powerful and authentic portrait of ghetto life and death during the Holocaust.

From the Publisher
"Dawid's diaries are a terrifying record, all the more so because of the observant intelligence that persisted through life in a man-made hell."—The Atlantic Monthly

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Oxford University Press
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Meet the Author

About the Editor:
Alan Adelson has worked for more than ten years compiling and editing the written remnants of the /Lód'z Ghetto. As Executive Director of the Jewish Heritage Project in New York, he produced and co-directed the acclaimed documentary film /Lód'z Ghetto, and with Lucjan Dobroszycki, Robert Lapides, and Marek Web, he compiled and edited the volume "/Lód'z Ghetto: Inside a Community Under Siege." Kamil Turowski provided the English translation.

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