By Rakhel Finkelstein 9th grade, Goldie Margolin School for Girls
This essay won second place in last year’s Holocaust Art and Essay Contest, open to all 6-12 students in Tennessee and the Mid-South. This year’s contest is just gearing up. The image is one of two second place winners, created by Anisa Shank, 8th grader at Colonial Middle School.
Students in grades 6-8 are invited to submit artwork, and students in grades 9-12 are invited to submit essays, on this year’s theme of Sustaining Culture and Community: The Many Faces of Resistance in the Warsaw Ghetto. Learn more here.
February 4th, 1940
The Germans invaded Lodz today. They forced 160,000 of us to move into a cramped and isolated ghetto. We had to leave right away, so I wasn’t able to say goodbye to my non-Jewish friends. I asked my parents if I ever was going to see them again, but I think I knew the answer already. The ghetto is surrounded by a barbed wire fence and a bunch of German police guards. No one is allowed to leave and no one is allowed to enter unless the Germans give special permission. Our lives are in the hands of the Germans. If we stay alive or not is determined by the Germans. I’m scared and I know that this is just the beginning.
February 16th, 1940
Living space is very cramped. My family is living with a bunch of other families in one apartment. We’re given little food, and people are suffering. It’s only been a short while in the ghetto, but it already feels like an eternity. Jacob, my little brother, is crying every day, and my parents have enough on their hands, I don’t know what to do. I try to calm him down, but I can barely keep calm myself.
May 21st, 1940
Months have passed. Conditions are getting worse, people are getting sick and dying from starvation. I walk around the ghetto, and it pains me to see so many suffer. Kids are losing parents or siblings, and it scares me to think that this could actually happen to me. The Germans established factories in the ghetto to produce their goods. Men are being forced to work in the factories. My father is one of those men, and I’m scared. Just after his first day of work, already he came home so exhausted, and I hate to see him like that.
November 23rd, 1940
Winter has arrived, and the thing that I was dreading the most has happened. My mother has become very ill. My father spends all his time devoted to taking care of my mother. I am left alone to care of Jacob. There is scarce heating fuel, and it’s super cold outside and inside. We try to bundle up, but not everyone has the right clothing. We had to leave our original homes right away; we didn’t have time to worry about what clothes we needed. More people are dying now because of the cold. I’m really worried about my mom. Jacob doesn’t know what’s going on with our mom, and I don’t know how and what to tell him. My father won’t tell me the latest news on my mother’s status, but I know it can’t be good if he’s not telling me.
December 13th, 1940
A few weeks passed, and my mother died. It was the worst day of my entire life. I couldn’t stand feeling all the grief. I knew I had to be strong for my father and my brother, so I didn’t cry.
January 11th, 1941
A year has gone by since my mother passed. It’s hard, but we’re getting through it. My dad had stopped working since my mother died and today he started again. Today the Germans started taking large groups of us out of the ghetto. My brother thought it was a good thing, but I knew it wasn’t. I saw children being separated from their parents, it was devastating. I actually prayed to be able to stay in the ghetto. I don’t know what’s going to happen next, I’m scared, but one thing I do know is that as long as I’m with my family, I will get through it.
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