Lost Diary Tells of Teenage Holocaust Victim

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Many people worldwide know the story of Anne Frank -- and now the discovery of a long lost diary is causing a sensation about another teenage Holocaust victim.

Her story has been waiting to be told for more than 60 years.

Rutka's Story

Beautiful 14-year-old Rutka Laskier was forced to live with her family in the Jewish ghetto during the Nazi occupation of Poland.

For four months in 1943, she recorded her life - memories of typical teen-age life mixed with the unbelievable horrors of the Holocaust.

Her story survived thanks to a non-Jewish friend, entrusted with the diary months before Rutka, her baby brother and mother perished in the gas chambers of Auschwitz.

After 60 years, that friend - now in her 80s - revealed her secret: she had kept Rutka's diary. The news was life-changing for Rutka's half-sister Dr. Zahava Scherz.

"I simply fell in love with her and also full of sorrow that I couldn't meet her," Zahava said.

Scherz was born after WWII to Rutka's father who narrowly survived the Holocaust and remarried. After learning of her half-sister's diary, she believed the world needed to know the story and helped publish - "Rutka's Notebook" - a voice from the Holocaust.

"She was an extraordinary girl. As you can see from the picture, she was beautiful. She knows that the Nazis are determined to kill the Jews and they are throwing them to gas chambers. She writes specifically that I would like to live but I don't think we Jews are going to make it," Scherz said.

In one of her entries -- Rutka writes about witnessing a horrible act committed by a German soldier.

"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. Now I am terrified when I see 'uniforms.' I'm turning into an animal; waiting to die. One can lose one's mind thinking about this," Rutka's 1943 entry read.

While Rutka seems to know and even writes that she will probably not survive the war -- she still finds time to document the daily dramas of a young teen-age girl.

"I'm persuading myself that I'm not in love with Janek, but in the meantime I miss him, and sometimes I suffer because I don't see him and hear his voice," she wrote.

"She was starting to discover herself as a growing woman - being attractive - and being attractive to young men - and so in this sense, you feel that it's a modern girl - a regular story," Scherz said.

But her story was anything but regular. Rutka's attempts to enjoy life's simplest pleasures were overshadowed by reports that Jews were being sent to death camps. She feared this was her fate as well.

"The rope around us is getting tighter and tighter," she wrote. "Despite all these atrocities, I want to live, and wait for the following day."

"This is also something that is emotionally very hard, a young girl, 14 years old, so cheerful and so much aware of what's going on. This was also a surprise for me, because we didn't think that the Jewish people in Poland knew exactly what was going to happen to them," Scherz said.

Scherz says her hope is that Rutka's story will become part of the curriculum in schools around the world - such as Poland where non-Jewish students are already reading the story.

"And they love Rutka, they love the story, and they feel very close to her. And I ask them, could you be a friend of Rutka? And they say yes, because she's so much like us," Scherz said.

As Israel celebrates its 60th anniversary this month, Scherz says Rutka's story is a good reminder of how important the state of Israel is for the Jewish people.

"This story reminds the world and reminds us that we should keep the country, we should be an example for the world -- and we should educate our nation that this kind , like the Holocaust would never happen again."

Originally published May 5, 2008

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