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Sierakowiak, Dawid

SIERAKOWIAK, Dawid

Nationality: Polish. Born: Lodz, 25 July 1924. Died: Victim of the Holocaust, 1943.

Publication

Diary

Dziennik. 1960; as The Diary of Dawid Sierakowiak: Five Notebooks from the Lodz Ghetto, edited by Alan Adelson, 1996.

* * *

Dawid Sierakowiak was born on 25 July 1924 in Lodz, Poland. He and his younger sister, Nadzia, lived with their parents in Lodz and appear to have had a close immediate family, despite tensions between Dawid and his father. When Dawid returned to Lodz from several weeks away from home at summer camp in July 1939, he wrote, "On the way I meet Mom. God, what joy! At home the same with Father and sister." The next day he remarked, "I feel terrific being at home."

Though diaries always reveal only fragments and glimpses of the true inner and outer life of the writer, the length and scope of Dawid's diary—written over almost four years under the most trying of circumstances—offer much to consider about the young writer. He emerges first and foremost as a young intellectual gifted at languages, reading and writing in English, German, Hebrew, Yiddish, and French. He was deeply committed to books and writing, not only reading philosophy and literature but experimenting in prose and poetry and the art of translation.

In this context it is not surprising that Dawid kept a diary. Though some volumes are lost, and gaps in the narrative thus exist, nowhere in the surviving notebooks did Dawid explicitly state his reasons for writing or his intentions for his text. At the same time, the very fact that he wrote virtually every single day, and his tenacity and determination in continuing to write even as he wasted away from hunger, illness, exhaustion, and despair, leaves little doubt that he viewed his diary as a deliberate testimony of his life. His attachment to the diary comes through in a few lines written on 27 May 1942. After considering the possibility of volunteering for deportation (the true nature of those departures still unknown to the ghetto inhabitants), Dawid gave up on the idea, citing among his reasons, "I would miss my books and 'letters', notes and copybooks. Especially this diary." As was the case for many young writers of the period, the diary was not only his record of the demise of his community and his family but also a confidant and a friend in an increasingly isolating world.

The struggle to maintain an intellectual life in the context of starvation and illness is a prevailing theme in the diary. Many young writers of this period shared the impulse to continue studying, reading, writing, and learning as if in defiance of the stagnation imposed upon them in the ghetto. But few expressed as vividly as Dawid the dwindling of intellectual and mental energy that made the struggle to continue to learn such a herculean one. Dawid's despair mounted through the diary as he found himself increasingly unable to concentrate, unable to read, and unable to learn. On 29 April 1942 he wrote, "Again I don't have any will, or rather any strength, for studying. I want to do something, but everything is exceptionally difficult for me, so I just stick to reading most of the time. Time is passing, my youth is passing, my school years, my power and enthusiasm are all passing. Only the Devil knows what I will manage to save from this pogrom."

Despite his determination to write, and to continue writing even as he recorded his rapid decline toward death, Dawid ceased his entries on 15 April 1943 with the ominous words, "There is really no way out of this for us." By the time he ceased writing, he had endured the deportation of his mother and the death of his father. His sister Nadzia is presumed to have been deported to Auschwitz in the final liquidation of the ghetto in August 1944 and murdered there.

According to the published edition of Dawid's diary, Waclaw Szkudlarek, a non-Jewish inhabitant of Lodz, returned to his apartment after the war and there found Dawid's notebooks piled on the stove. In his testimony regarding the discovery of the Sierakowiak diary, Mr. Szkudlarek speculated that the gaps in the sequence of the diary may be attributable to the fact that some notebooks were burned for fuel during the winter of 1945. Two of the original notebooks are now housed in the archives of the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw; the remaining three are in the Collections of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

The five notebooks of Dawid's diary were published in English under the title The Diary of Dawid Sierakowiak: Five Notebooks from the Lodz Ghetto (1996). They were translated from the original Polish by Kamil Turowski and introduced by the editor of the volume, Alan Adelson.

—Alexandra Zapruder

See the essay on The Diary of Dawid Sierakowiak: Five Notebooks from the Lodz Ghetto.

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