United States Holocaust Memorial Museum The Power of Truth: 20 Years
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We are proud to feature a riveting collection of diaries kept by Holocaust victims, liberators, and other eyewitnesses. In their own words and images, they express the suffering, the humanity, and the incredible resilience that drove them to write.

These journals personalize the Holocaust with unique stories of life and loss?and they reveal the truth of what happened, and can still happen, when hatred goes unchecked.

Please take a few minutes to browse the collection below.

After escaping from a forced labor camp in Latvia, KALMAN LINKIMER and two other prisoners returned to their hometown of Liep?ja and found refuge with Robert and Johanna Sedols, who hid them and eight other Jews in their cellar. In his diary, Kalman chronicled his dramatic escape from the camp and the men’s terrifying days in hiding, where they remained until liberation—among the very few Jews of Liep?ja to survive.

 

Cover and page from the diary of Kalman Linkimer and a newspaper clipping he tucked inside it chronicling the discovery of Soviet atrocities against the local Estonian population. The headline reads “That’s How Bolshevists Lived.” U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Photo of Jews walking along a street in the Riga ghetto, ca. 1941–42. U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Staatsanwalt beim Landgericht.

MICHAEL KRAUS had just turned 14 when he was imprisoned in Auschwitz-Birkenau with his parents. After witnessing the subsequent deportation of his mother and the death of his father, he was liberated from a death march by the American army and spent the next few years filling three diaries with painstaking descriptions and drawings of his wartime experiences—all in an effort to honor the memory of his beloved parents, Karel and Lotte.

 

Page from the diary of Michael Kraus, along with a map he drew on another page of places he was sent during the war, and photos of his parents, Karel and Lotte, which he tucked in between. U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, gift of Michael Kraus.

BELA WEICHHERZ began a diary after the birth of his only child, Kitty, in 1929 to chart her development. As the treatment of Jews in their native Bratislava worsened, Bela’s proud inscriptions of his daughter’s accomplishments gave way to the heartbreaking expressions of a father’s fear for his family. Bela last wrote in his diary shortly before their entire community was deported—the words he left behind the only record of Kitty’s short life.

 

Cover, page, and photo (ca. 1933–35) from the diary Bela Weichherz kept for his daughter, Kitty. U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, gift of Judith Landshut.

CHAIM KAPLAN began his diary on September 1, 1939, when Germany invaded Poland and World War II began. For the next three years he faithfully recorded the starkly circumscribed world of the Warsaw ghetto, capturing both the hardships the Jewish residents faced and the religious and communal life to which they defiantly clung. Chaim is believed to have died at Treblinka, but his work as a respected writer and educator—and the enduring spirit of the people of the Warsaw ghetto—lives on in his diaries.

 

Cover and page from the diaries of Chaim Kaplan. U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum. Top photo, a street that has been bombed in the area that later became the Warsaw ghetto, December 1939. U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Jerzy Tomaszewski. Bottom photo, Jews forced to remove snow from the streets of Warsaw, December 1939. Archiwum Akt Nowych.

MANFRED LEWIN and Gad Beck met as teenagers when they joined the same Zionist group in Berlin. The two fell in love, and Manfred created a keepsake book for Gad to memorialize their relationship and the community of Jewish youth from which they drew their strength and their solace. Though Manfred died at Auschwitz, Gad was spared from deportation and joined the underground, risking his life to help fellow Jews hide and escape.

 

Cover and pages from the keepsake book Manfred Lewin made for Gad Beck, which Manfred titled Erinnerst Du Dich (Do You Remember). U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, gift of Gad Beck. Signed portrait of Manfred Lewin, 1941. U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Jizchak Schwersenz.

One of the first British Army officers to enter the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp after liberation, MAJOR CHARLES PHILLIP SHARP oversaw the arrest of the camp commandant, the care of women and children, and the burial of the dead. And all the while he kept a careful diary, tucking maps and documents in between the pages to provide irrefutable evidence for those who were not there to see what he saw.

 

Pages from the diary of Major Charles Phillip Sharp, including a map of Germany. U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, gift of Peter Stevens. Top photo, children who were liberated from Bergen-Belsen, April 1945. Imperial War Museum. Middle photo, survivors in the women’s ward of the hospital at Bergen-Belsen following liberation, 1945–1950. U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Gedenksa?tte Bergen- Belsen. Bottom photo, survivors receive soap at Bergen-Belsen after liberation, May 1945. Imperial War Museum.

An American living in Vienna with her children and husband while he was on a six-month sabbatical, HELEN BAKER became an eyewitness to history when Germany annexed Austria in 1938. The Baker family filmed what they saw on their Kodak movie camera and Helen wrote it all down in a notebook, capturing the chaos in the streets, the Nazis’ use of propaganda to foment antisemitism, and the mounting distress of her Jewish acquaintances as persecution against them intensified.

 

Pages from the diary of Helen Baker; stills from film footage the Baker family shot of graffiti on a Jewish-owned store and Helen’s attempt to enter a Jewish shop guarded by a Nazi; and the Bakers’ 16mm Kodak movie camera. U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, gift of Stanley A. Baker.

In October 1944, the Nazis deported more than a thousand Jewish Hungarian women to Sömmerda, a subcamp of Buchenwald, where they were forced to manufacture ammunition. Despite the dire living conditions, THE WOMEN OF SÖMMERDA managed to create a camp newspaper, write and perform songs, secretly observe their Jewish faith, and record it all for posterity in their diaries. In April 1945, the majority of the women were sent on a death march and later liberated by Allied forces.

 

Pages and blue cover from the So?mmerda diary of Lilly Isaacs, along with a photo of Lilly and her then-future husband, Gyo?rgy Iczkovits, in their backyard in Hungary in 1943. Gift of Lilly Isaacs. Cover (with scenery) from the diary of Clara Kempler. Gift of Clara Kempler. Cover from the diary of Sari Ickovits. Gift of the estate of Charlotte Neufeld (ne?e Sari Ickovits).

In 1943, JOSEF AND NATALIA ROZTROPOWICZ welcomed Sabina Kagan—a Jewish infant who had been abandoned—into their home in a Polish village, where they renamed her Inka to hide her identity and cared for her until the end of the war. The Roztropowiczes’ daughter STANISLAWA recorded Inka’s arrival in a diary, writing affectionately of the joy the little girl brought them despite the deprivations of war and the risk they undertook in hiding her.

 

Page, drawing, and photo from the diary of Stanislawa Roztropowicz. Inka is the little girl on the left of the photo; Stanislawa, who kept the diary, is on the far left of the top row and her mother, Natalia, is on the right in the front row, with her arm outstretched to the baby. U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, gift of Stanislawa Roztropowicz-Szkubel.

OTTO WOLF, a Czech Jewish teenager, began his diary the day he and his parents and sister, FELICITAS, escaped from an assembly center where they had been brought for deportation. For nearly three years Otto recorded his family’s life in hiding in the woods and makeshift shelters provided by local villagers until he was captured and killed two weeks before the end of the war. Felicitas finished her brother’s diary for him, ensuring neither he nor their harrowing experiences would be forgotten.

 

Cover and pages from the diary of Otto and Felicitas Wolf and their portraits. U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of Felicitas Wolf Garda.

SELMA ENGEL, a Jewish woman born in the Netherlands, met her future husband, Chaim, a Polish Jew, when they were imprisoned in the Sobibór killing center. Young and in love, they made a daring escape with other prisoners during the camp uprising and found refuge with a farmer until liberation. In her diary Selma writes about Sobibór and her deepening relationship with Chaim, with whom she created a translation dictionary so the two could communicate with each other.

 

Cover and pages from the diary of Selma Engel and a photo of Selma and Chaim Engel (center) with their child, ca. May 1945. U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, gift of Selma Wijnberg Engel.

MIRJAM KORBER was 18 years old when she began keeping a diary of the difficult days she and her family faced after their deportation to the Djurin ghetto in the Transnistria region of Romania. The family survived, and Mirjam’s determination to record what she witnessed and experienced—the harsh winters, the outbreaks of disease, the exploitation by local residents—produced a rare, invaluable account of ghetto life in Transnistria.

 

Page and photos from the diary of Mirjam Korber. The photo of her parents, Klara and Leon, is dated 1932; the photo of Mirjam was taken in 1928, when she was five. U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, gift of Mirjam Korber Bercovici.