THE DIARY OF DAWID SIERAKOWIAK by Alan Adelson

THE DIARY OF DAWID SIERAKOWIAK

Five Notebooks from the Lodz Ghetto
edited by
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KIRKUS REVIEW

 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.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1996
ISBN: 0-19-510450-1
Page count: 256pp
Publisher: Oxford Univ.
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 1st, 1996




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