Shawn Harding
Founder of The Holocaust Blueprint

I Want to Live

A young girl trapped in a world that is consumed in hate and terror. Rutka Laskier, 14 years old, felt and witnessed a deep plight in the Będzin Ghetto. A young girl not unlike many girls her age – thinking of the future and pondering about marriage. Life in the Będzin Ghetto was bleak, and her discussions about the German Aktions that took place describe an environment of destabilizing mental and physical conditions.

Rutka struggled with her reality, and she became hardened as an individual. She describes the brutal death of a baby and how the mother went insane. She speaks of this situation: “The baby’s brains splashed on the wood… I am writing this as if nothing has happened. As if I were in an army experienced in cruelty. But I’m young, I’m 14, and I haven’t seen much in my life, and I’m already so indifferent.” [1] A girl her age experiencing such levels of atrocities and enduring abhorrent living conditions as she did would have to become numb to these types of situations to survive. However, her diary shows a significant amount of pain and confusion as the world she lives in devolves into complete chaos. She speaks of love and her indifference in love. She remains adamant about her morals and ethics despite the environment of unethical and immoral acts by the Nazi regime.

Rutka showed a significant amount of intelligence and foresight throughout her diary entries. She wrote about the Germans being pushed back, and she said: “the Germans have retreated from the Eastern front, which may signal the nearing of the end of the war. I’m only afraid that we, the Jews, will be finished before tomorrow.” [2] Her witness of the atrocities committed by the Germans gave her insight into their dangerous nature. The environment in the ghetto was hopeless as they perceived an impending Aktion: “The town is breathlessly waiting in anticipation, and this anticipation is the worst of all. I wish it would end already! This is torment; this is hell. I try to escape these thoughts, of the next day, but they keep haunting me like nagging flies.” [3] The ghetto’s environment is key to understanding how Rutka and many other Jews around Europe suffered at the hands of the Nazis. Rutka’s documentation of the environment in the Będzin Ghetto is an important historical document.

Despite Rutka’s environment, she continued to look to the future and try to find hope. Rutka’s writing was beautifully and factually written, but one particular quote stands out: “If only I could say, it’s over, you die only once… But I can’t, because despite all these atrocities, I want to live, and wait for the following day.” [4] Her ability to find hope in such a hopeless environment is admirable, and it seems almost unreal. Having hope at a time of despair is difficult, but Rutka continued to have hope even after watching the Nazis commit atrocities against other children and babies. The strength displayed by Rutka is key to understanding how she survived the Będzin Ghetto.

Rutka was a beautiful young lady with an emotional and mental intelligence far beyond her age. She would survive the Będzin Ghetto, but she would ultimately be killed at Auschwitz. Her diary remains as a reminder that no matter how bad today is, tomorrow can be better – never lose hope.

[1] [2] [3] [4] Rutka Laskier. Rutka’s Notebook: A Voice from the Holocaust.

About the Author
Shawn Harding is the founder of The Holocaust Blueprint. Shawn works to create educational materials for free for users across the world to visualize the Holocaust and obtain information in relation to it.
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