Dawid Sierakowiak Diary - Lodz


Dawid Sierakowiak marked with a cross -(USHMM)

Lodz, August 24, 1939

Mobilization! We don't know if this is the real thing or not, but nearly every recruit is reporting. Many of our neighbours have already gone. There's not the least hint of defeatism.

Lodz, August 26, 1939

Today I read Mayor Jan Kwapinski's appeal for volunteers to dig anti-aircraft ditches. Having gotten my parents permission, I signed up immediately at the police station, as did all my schoolmates, and tomorrow morning I go to work. There are tens of thousands of volunteers.... Old Jews, young women, Chassidim, all citizens (except the Germans) are rushing to volunteer. The bloody Hun will not pass.

Lodz, August 28, 1939

My bones ache like everyone else's from yesterday's work. Fifty thousand people were out digging.

Lodz, August 30, 1939

General mobilization! All reservists up to age 40 have been called.

Lodz, September 1, 1939

The German army has crossed the Polish border in several places. Air raids on Polish towns such as Cracow, Czestochowa, Katowice, Grodno etc, have begun. Things are boiling around the world. We're waiting for France and England to join the war; maybe even the United States. Meanwhile, we're repelling German attacks quite well. We had 3 alerts today, during which enemy planes were kept from approaching our town. I go to bed half dressed.

Lodz, Wednesday September 6, 1939

Oh God, what's going on here? Panic, departures en masse, defeatism. The city, abandoned by its institutions, and by the police, awaits the imminent arrival of the German army in terror. What's happened? People are running nervously from place to place, anxiously carrying around their worn- out possessions An aimless confusion. I was on duty till 1:00 a.m. I go to wake Rysio Wojcikowski for his turn. He is quite pessimistic, and he tells me that some kind of evacuation of the city is contemplated. He tells me that in his father's office everything is packed, and they are getting ready to leave Lodz at any minute.

I'm astonished. How? Where? I hear that the Germans are going to occupy Lodz any hour now. At home I meet our neighbour Mr. Grabinski, who has just returned from the city. He tells me of the great panic and frenzy seizing people. Throngs are leaving their homes on a dangerous migration to an uncertain future. There is crying and lamenting in the streets.

i go to bed, but at 5 a.m. loud voices in the apartment wake me. Our neighbour Mr. Grodzenski, with his crying wife, is urging us to leave. Where? What for? Nobody knows. Run, run, run away as far as possible; move with care, stumble, forget everything - as long as you run from danger. My mother, my beloved, everlastingly sensitive mother, shows unusual composure as she consoles Mrs. Grodzenski, dissuading her from her ridiculous plans. Slowly, the contagion of mass hysteria, as well as the psychosis of crowds heading for slaughter, is eliminated. Father loses his head; he doesn't know what to do. Other neighbours come in, Jews to seek counsel. They say that it's recommended that everyone able to bear arms leave the city, since the enemy will send them to work camps. They don't know what to do. The matter is considered and the decision is made to stay put. Whatever, will be will be.

People are constantly on the move.Groups of men are heading toward Brzeziny to report for duty, while at the same time reservists and recruits are running away. Following them are women carrying bundles on their backs, filled with clothes, bedding and food. Even small children are running. All the leaders have left, so, for fun, we acted like we were the leaders, playing that role till noon.

Meanwhile, the situation is becoming ever more tense. Everyone has a different story to tell. Someone said that 150 English airplanes are waiting in Sieradz, another that the Germans have already occupied Zdunska Wola and are heading towards Lodz. The news gets stranger and more fantastic all the time.

Aunt Estera came to us with her children, and the house is filled with crying. Abek and Jankus ran away to Brzeziny. What is to be done? What can be accomplished? At 5 p.m. a kind of potato soup materialised: that's today's dinner. Other people might not even have that much. My father runs to our uncle, uncle back to father, but the decision remains the same: we will stay put and not run. In the afternoon a civilian patrol is organised in our neighbourhood. My father signs up for it. In the evening Rysio  Wojcikowski returns with his father. They've bought bicycles and are leaving once again. The roads are impossible.

i go to bed, expecting, for the first time, a good night's sleep. Unfortunately, there is no fear of air raids now. When you want to take over something, you don't destroy it. In the evening a column of Polish soldiers began arriving in town. They march quietly, in formation. It's hard to tell whether they're advancing or retreating. A little later some armoured tanks left the city heading for the front...... What will tomorrow bring?

Lodz, Thursday, September 7, 1939

Today, there was nothing new. Like everyone else I went outside this morning, did nothing but talk about what will happen. Will they, or won't they come? We dragged ourselves to Pabianicka Highway to watch the approaching Polish military column. So that's how a retreating army looks, rather like a regular army passing by. Can it be hoped that they won't come. Will there be another 'Miracle on the Vistula River?' Will we live to see another Marne? We sit together, boys and girls, trying to chase our worst thoughts away. It's no use. What will happen?

Our neighbour's brother came on horseback. He says the Germans are being pushed back and our columns are holding fast. The afternoon newspaper claims that the French are matching into Germany and that the Poles are holding fast. A militia is being organised. My father has signed up. Maybe now he'll regain his composure and calm down.

In the evening we could hear the cannons boom and see a fiery glow in the south. Can it be so near? Some fellow claims that Lodz will be taken any moment now. I'm going home to bed, so I won't hear or see anything. Come what may! Maybe there'll be a miracle..... Marne oh Marne, if only it could happen again. Maybe a miracle is possible.

Lodz, Friday, September 8, 1939

Lodz is occupied. It's been quiet all day, too quiet. As I sit in the park in the afternoon, drawing a portrait of a girl I know, the frightening news reaches us: Lodz has surrendered. German patrols are on Piotrkowska Street. Fear, surprise.... surrendered without a fight? Maybe it's just a tactical maneuver. We'll see. Meanwhile conversations cease, the streets empty.

Mr. Grabinski returned from town and told everyone how the local Germans greeted their countrymen. The Grand Hotel, where the General Staff is to be headquartered, is decked with flowers. Civilians, including boys and girls, are jumping into passing military cars with a happy 'Heil Hitler.' One can hear loud German conversations on the streets. Whatever was hidden in the past, under the pretext of patriotism and civic-mindedness, now shows its true face.

Lodz, Saturday, September 9, 1939

An announcement in Polish and German (German first) was posted this morning, advising calm while German units enter the city. It was signed 'Civic Committee for the City of Lodz.' A little later I went over to Pabianicka Highway to see the arriving army. A great number of vehicles, but the soldiers are nothing out of the ordinary. They differ from Polish soldiers only by the uniforms they wear, which are steel grey. Their expressions are boisterous - after all they are conquerors! A car of officers with Martian-like faces speeds by like lightning. The street is quiet, watching the passing army with indifference. It's quiet, all quiet. We get back to our neighbourhood, sit on benches, talk and joke. What the hell! Damn them.

Lodz, Sunday, September 10, 1939

The first manifestation of the German presence: Jews were being seized to do digging. An elderly retired professor, a Christian who lives at no.11, warned me about going into town. A decent man. What should I do now? Tomorrow is the first day of school; who knows what's happening to our beloved school. My friends are all going to attend, just to see what's going on. But I have to stay home. I must. My parents feel they don't want to lose me yet. Oh my beloved school! Curse the times I complained about getting up early or about tests. If only those times could return.

Lodz, September 12, 1939

Jews are being seized again, and beaten and robbed. The store where my father works was robbed, as the local Germans freely indulge their whims. People speak about the way Jews are treated at work: some are treated decently, but others are sadistically abused. Some Jews were ordered to stop working, to remove their clothes and stand facing the wall, at which point they were told they'd be shot. Shots were fired in their direction, and though nobody was killed, this was repeated a few times.

Lodz, September 13, 1939

Rosh Hashanah eve. I haven't gone out and won't now that the sad holiday is approaching. It's no different from a sad ordinary day, when all one has is bread and occasionally herring. According to an order issued today, stores are to remain open tomorrow. What a blow to the Jews on Rosh Hashanah, the worst in ages! However, the synagogues are to be closed. There is no possibility of communal prayer for mercy. All basic personal freedoms are cancelled. Though I am not old-fashioned- I've considered it my freedom to avoid prayer every year, this prohibition is painful, for I understand what faith means to the devout. It's an irreparable crime to take away someone's only happiness, his belief. The Jews will not forgive Hitler for this. Our vengeance will be awesome.

Lodz, September 15, 1939

German agents remove Jews from all food lines , so that a poor Jew who has no maid is condemned to die of hunger

Lodz, September 16, 1939

Store-robbing continues. They get everything they can. Epsztajn's jewelry and watch store was completely emptied, and they scarcely got away alive.

Lodz, September 19, 1939

Listened to Hitler's speech about Danzig, ranting, raving, insulting, begging, ingratiating himself, but above all lying and lying. He lied that Poland started the war, he lied about the barbaric persecution of Germans in Poland and lied about his own, always peaceful intentions.

Lodz, September 20, 1939

The Germans have introduced the German mark alongside the Polish zloty - 2 zlotys per mark - and the civic committee scrip. And a few anti-Semitic orders have been issued, namely that Jews cannot have more than 1000 marks and draw only 250 marks per week from the bank. Stores are being robbed less often, but grabbing people for work continues.

Lodz, October 3, 1939

People are gradually getting used to the new conditions and are returning to their jobs.

Lodz, October 4, 1939

I have not escaped the sad fate of my companions being seized to do work. Yesterday I took a shortcut to school, passing buildings covered with swastikas, many German cars, a lot of soldiers, and Lodz Germans wearing swastikas. I managed to evade them and, emboldened, took the same road today. A youth holding a big stick ran over yelling in German: 'Come, let's get to work! You're not allowed to go to school.' I didn't resist, for no identification card would have been of any use there. He took me to a certain square where several Jews were already working, clearing the ground of leaves. He wanted me to jump over a high fence, but when he saw i wouldn't do it, he left me. The work on the square was supervised by a soldier, also with a big stick, who told me to fill some puddles with sand.

I've never been more humiliated than when I saw those passersby smiling and laughing at someone else's misfortune. Oh, you stupid, ignorant oafs, you simpletons! We don't need to feel ashamed; only our tormentors should. Enforced humiliation isn't humiliation. But the anger, the helpless fury of being forced to do this stupid, disgraceful task filled with provocation tore me apart. One thing is left: revenge!

After about a half hour of work, the soldier gathered all the Jews, some with their hats turned the wrong way- for the sport of it - lined us up, told one of us to put away the shovels, and dismissed the rest of us. It was supposed to be a show of magnanimity. I got to school halfway through the first class, my first lateness ever. The teachers can do nothing. 'For reasons beyond the Jews control.'

This evening we found out that one of the Germans who live in our neighbourhood is 'eyeing the Jews, keeping watch over them. This completely unnerved my poor anguished parents. Meanwhile, it was announced in school that students who do not pay at least some tuition will be barred from classes. What will happen to me? We will see.

Lodz, October 6, 1939

Hitler called a meeting of the Reichstag, where he laughed at the former Polish government, rightly so, and where he gave his 'final' offer for peace. His terms, given on the radio earlier this week, are unacceptable. He said that he is even ready to resolve the Jewish question, and ridiculed the British rule in Palestine. At any rate, the speech brought nothing new,

Lodz, October 8, 1939

Today the Jewish community council announced that it will provide 700 Jews for work. Will they now stop grabbing people on the street?

Lodz, October 18, 1939

The Germans have set up a police station in our area and are going through apartments belonging to Jews, taking away radios, carpets, quilts etc. They'll probably throw us out of our apartment soon.

Lodz, October 19, 1939

No bread, no coal to be had.

Lodz, October 20, 1939

An order was issued today forbidding Jews from trading in textiles, leather, and clothing. A Jew is not allowed to buy any of these, and he can sell these goods only to Christians. A shoemaker can buy leather for repairing heels and soles, but not for making new shoes. It's true that this order hurts the black market in clothing; still thousands of Jewish families are being brought to ruin.

Lodz, October 22, 1939

Sunday, 11 a.m. A knock at the door. In comes a German officer, two policemen, and the super. The officer asks how many people live in the apartment, looks over the beds, asks about bedbugs, then if we have a radio- and finally leaves disappointed. He took radios from our neighbours- of course they only go to Jews, as well as mattresses, quilts, carpets etc. He found nothing of value in our place.

Father was very frightened because he was praying in a talis (prayer shawl), but the officer didn't notice. It's lucky, because people say that in such cases the Germans drive the Jews into the street and make them run until their talis and tefllin fall off. They took our neighbour Mr. Grabinski's only down quilt. Now it's 100% sure that they'll throw us out of our buildings.

Lodz, October 28, 1939

They ordered Mrs. Heller out of her apartment by 4 p.m. tomorrow; the administration gave her an empty apartment but only until she finds another one. Now we are all endangered.

Lodz, November 7, 1939

And so it's happened. Today's Deutsche Lodscher Zeitung announces the annexation of Lodz to Wartheland (the western part of Poland, annexed into the Reich) and, thus,to the Greater Reich. Of course, the appropriate orders have been issued, namely: Jews are not allowed to walk on Piotrkowska Street, since it's the main street; Jews and Poles are to yield always and everywhere to uniformed Germans; wearing four-cornered hats, uniforms, army coats, shiny buttons and military belts is forbidden. Jewish bakeries are permitted to bake only bread. Jewish stores are to be marked ' Judisches Geschaft' - Jewish business, next to a yellow Star of David inscibed with the word 'Jude' - Jew. It's a return to the yellow patches of the Middle Ages.

Lodz, November 8, 1939

Terrible things are going on in town. Jews are grabbed and ordered to report tomorrow to a designated area, to bring a shovel, food for 2 days and 20 zlotys. What new idea is this? What kind of agony? Posters on street corners announce the annexation of Lodz to the Reich. A Nazi Youth Party was formed in the city: marching, singing, parades - one wants to stay home to keep from seeing all of this.

A meeting of the 'Jewish Elders of Lodz' with the authorities was called for tomorrow. We'll see what comes of it.

Lodz, November 9, 1939

The Germans came to school yesterday and ordered that its Polish -Hebrew sign be taken down and the library made orderly. The Jews who were grabbed for work and told to bring food and money were released after one day and their money taken from them. Those living on Piotrkowska Street can buy a pass for 5 zlotys per person. Everything is done for money. The community elders meeting with the authorities have not yet returned.

Lodz, November 10, 1939

There is talk that the Jewish elders were jailed and also that they were released. We were advised in school not to venture out tomorrow, the 11th of November, the traditional Polish national holiday. They hanged 3 criminals in Baluty Market today - 2 Poles for murder, and a Jew for blackmarketeering, so its' rumoured - to scare us. They're afraid of provocation. I am sure nothing will happen; nobody would dare attempt anything.

Lodz, November 11, 1939

It's quiet in town, though yesterday and today they arrested a lot of teachers, activists who fought for Polish independence in 1918, policemen etc. The daily Dziennik Lodzki is discontinued as of today. An order was issued that all signs must be written in German, correctly, since we are part of the Reich! As of the 15th, all Poles and Jews must give up their radios. We'll have no news after that. The Germans do whatever they want.

Lodz, Wednesday, November 15, 1939

The synagogue was burned down. Barbaric methods for annihilating the world are being achieved. They demanded 25 million zlotys in exchange for stopping the terror. The community didn't have it, so it didn't deliver. Something is wrong with the Germans. Since yesterday they've been engaged in terrible plunder, robbing wantonly, whatever they can; furniture, clothes, underwear, food. All Lodz German males, 18 to 45, are being mobilized today for selbstschutz - self defence. Since the regular army is leaving, someone has to stay and guard the city. We'll get the brunt of it. It's worse dealing with one Lodz German than a whole regiment from Germany. 

Lodz, Thursday, November 16, 1939

We're returning to the Middle Ages. The yellow star is again part of a Jew's garb. An order was issued today that all Jews, regardless of age or gender, must wear a 10-centimeter armband- of 'Jewish yellow' colour - on the right arm, directly below the armpit. In addition, Jews are to observe a curfew from 5 p.m. to 8 a.m.

Lodz, Friday, November 17, 1939

The mood in town is depressed. It;s hard getting used to the idea of being persecuted. The Germans are on the lookout for provocations from 'yellow armbanded Jews.' There's a lot of opportunity now to ridicule and provoke. It'll be interesting to see how the Poles react. Will they join the German rabble? The required armbands were prepared at home.

Lodz, Saturday, November 18, 1939

The Poles lower their eyes when they see Jews wearing yellow stars. Acquaintances console us that it will not be for long. Meanwhile the Germans show complete indifference. The curfew for Poles and Germans has been changed: they may go out at 6 a.m. - it was 5 a.m. before - but now they can stay out till 8:30 p.m. - it was 8 before. We can stay locked in our homes from 5 p.m. It doesn't matter. There will be better times!

Lodz, December 6, 1939

The first Chanukah candle was lit. Father made a hole in a potato, poured in some oil, inserted a wick of braided cotton, and lit it. All our Jewish neighbours are waiting for a new Chanukah miracle. Maybe the fervent prayers of millions of Jews to be liberated will be answered! We have a buyer for our wardrobe and couch, who will give us 130 zlotys for both pieces (They cost us 350 zlotys). He is a German, a very decent man, known for his kindness toward Jews. Father is trying to secure a permit from the authorities allowing him to make the sale so that he can pay the rent.

Lodz, Thursday 7, 1939

The ZUS administration gave its permission to sell the furniture. Father is still worried constantly; he gets upset very easily. I wish everything could finally be taken care of. Everyone is surprised that nothing's been heard about Hitler lately. There is speculation that he is dead or removed from power. There is news that Germany has suffered heavy defeats in the air and at sea.

Lodz, December 8, 1939

The cupboard - wardrobe was finally sold and rent paid till December 31. There are new rumours of all kind, probably just gossip.

Lodz, December 9, 1939

Today we heard about Jews being badly beaten on Reymont Square yesterday; even 3-year old children were kicked. Jews are now living on messianic prophesies. A rabbi has said that on the 6th day of Chanukah a judgement, and liberation will occur. Uncle says there are few Germans and not many soldiers on the streets. I'm annoyed by such talk, would prefer to hear nothing.

Lodz, December 10, 1939

A great many of the large buildings in the city centre have been 'cleared' of Jews, and there's talk of sending a large number of Jews from Lodz to the Protectorate - not a pleasant prospect. 

Lodz, December 11, 1939

Father came home with the news that starting today at 6 p.m. Jews will be deported from Lodz. All the neighbours packed bags, bundles etc, and we did also, but nothing happened, and everyone eventually went to bed.

Lodz, December 12, 1939

I saw a frightful sight. A Jew being hit with a huge pole by a German. The Jew kept bending lower and lower without turning around, so as not to be hit from the front. A new order was issued today: The yellow patches are to be removed, and 10 cm yellow stars of David are to be worn on the right chest and on the right side of the back.

Lodz, December 13, 1939

There was more fear and anxiety when Dadek Hamer came to tell us that Jews are being driven into the empty market halls in Nowo -Zarzewska Street, to be sent to the Lublin district. This evening we heard that the Jewish community administration has announced that the Jews must leave Lodz. Apparently, during the next four days, anyone can leave for any destination, except the Reich, and after that mass deportations will begin. The community administration will give the poor 50 zl. each and has started sending them out as of today. There is terrible panic in town, everyone has lost his head, but knapsacks and bundles are being packed.

Lodz, December 14, 1939

Mass arrests continue into the third day: thousands of teachers, doctors, engineers with families (babies included) are driven into the empty market halls and then to German prisons. The same happens to old activists, former legionnaires, even ordinary rich men. Quite often, groups of important people are dispatched to their death.

It seems that Lodz is really going to be cleared of Jews. For the time being, only the poor are registering. They get 50 zl. per person and are literally thrown out of town: first transported by rail to Koluszki and from there let go.

Lodz, December 15, 1939

It gets worse all the time. Last night some Jews were evicted from a few places in Baluty and sent to the Reich. It's not known where they are, or what happened to them. Everywhere people have their bags packed with essentials. Everyone is very nervous.

Lodz, December 17, 1939

The Jews are to remain in town till March 1, and then- out! They say that 80 frozen babies from Koluszki were sent to Lodz today. These babies belong to deported Jews.

Lodz, December 31, 1939

The last day of 1939, a year that began with tension and ended with war. Let's hope next year will be better, for no one knows what awaits us.

Lodz, Sunday, April 6, 1941

I start a new notebook, hoping that it will begin a better period in my life than the one recorded in the preceding diary. It's a lost cause, it seems. In spite of a beautiful and expensive Passover ration, the situation is as awful as it's been. No hope for any improvement.

Lodz, Monday, April 7, 1941

The matzoh will cost 2 RM 25 Pfennig for 2.5 kilo, the portion allotted for one person for the 8 days of Passover. Of course, we'll take bread instead, since the budget of a menial labourer doesn't allow for matzoh. Mother would prefer the matzoh, but we need to sell the bread so that we can buy other food.

Lodz, Tuesday, April 8, 1941

Jews are hoping that the Balkans will bring us liberation, an idea I do not share. Nothing will come of it.

Lodz, Wednesday, April 9, 1941

This week I wrote an article for the communist textile workers' newspaper, about the situation of students.