Elsa Binder was a Holocaust diarist in the Stanisławów Ghetto in today’s Ivano-Frankivsk, Ukraine. Her diary serves as an important testament and memorial to the victims of the ghetto as she documents Bloody Sunday and other important elements operating within the ghetto.
Elsa Binder has a unique outlook on life, and she often describes this outlook in her diary. Her perceptions of justice remained selfless in nature, and she maintains a peculiar sense of hope throughout the diary. An important quote that summarizes her diary is: “When fear crawls out in the evenings from all four corners, when the winter storm raging outside tells you it is winter, and that it is difficult to live in the winter, when my soul trembles at the sight of distant fantasies, I shiver and say one word with every heartbeat, every pulse, every piece of my soul—liberation. In such moments it hardly matters where it is going to come from and who will bring it, so long as it’s faster and comes sooner. Doubts are growing in my soul. Quiet! Blessed be he who brings good news, no matter from where, no matter to . . . where. Time, go ahead. Time, which carries liberation in its unknown tomorrow; not for Cip, who was happy to live in interesting times, maybe not for me, but for people like me. The result is certain. Down with any doubts. Everything comes to an end. Spring will come.”  Elsa was in her early twenties during the war, but her maturity set her apart from society. She understood the power of her words and her ability to write.
Elsa Binder used her writing to memorialize her friends and the Jews who were slaughtered by the Nazi regime. Elsa wrote, “Cip: this is really hurting so much. With your open arms, lightly like a bird, you flew into the grave after your family… Cip. A serious girl with a schoolgirl’s smile or serious eyes… You loved life with so much passion.”  Elsa describes her friend Samek: “a poet and dreamer, dedicated one of his poems to me. I don’t know whether you apprehended with some peculiar atom of your soul tat you would die on such a day.”  These descriptions give you a sense of the people she surrounded herself with and the lives they with. She uses a strong form of descriptive writing which paints a picture for the reader of the victims that suffered in the Holocaust. However, her diary also documents the tragedy known as Bloody Sunday in the ghetto: “Today our town is missing twelve thousand Jews, but life has to go on.”  Elsa was surrounded by a bleak environment that strangled the life out of the inhabitants. Despite this, she continues to maintain a sense of hope and love of life: “‘Piasecki says, “Life is worthless-it starts then it ends.’ What nonsense! That’s the very beauty of life.”  It is unfathomable that people can find hope in such a hopeless environment, but Elsa remained in this faith that the future would be better for someone.
The descriptive nature of her diary serves as a way to understand the environment of the ghetto, but it also evokes the question as to how Jews survived in this type of atmosphere. “The crowd can see how mothers are preparing their children for death. ‘Mama, we want to live so much,’ they whine. “Children, since we can’t live, we are dying together,’ she sobs.”  The cruel lengths that the Nazis would go to are documented by Elsa in her diary, and she explains the moments of horror that occurred throughout the ghetto in great detail. It is believed that Elsa Binder was killed by the Nazis at a mass execution site as her diary was found in a ditch on the side of the road. The mass execution site used was a local cemetery. 
Elsa’s diary serves as a historical platform for the Stanisławów Ghetto, and its contents are invaluable to any Holocaust scholar. It is an important piece to understanding the conditions of living in a ghetto, but Elsa’s ability to write makes the reading of her diary evoke intense emotion. Elsa Binder may not have survived the war, but her words will forever live on, and her spirit will never be forgotten.
       Alexandra Zapruder (Editor) – Salvaged Pages: Young Writers’ Diaries of the Holocaust.