Dawid Rubinowicz

The diary of Dawid Rubinowicz

Dawid Rubinowicz's diary is famous throughout the world. Writing down his thoughts and observations in short and direct notes in five ordinary school exercise books with orange covers, 13-year-old Dawid Rubinowicz gives an insight into the time of the Nazi occupation of Poland, and the world of a Jewish boy and his family in the time of the open ghetto of Bodzentyn.

In his diary, Dawid Rubinowicz shares his thoughts and fears. The Diary of Dawid Rubinowicz—Pamiętnik Dawida Rubinowicza—is known to be one of the most touching testimonies of the fate of Jewish children during the Holocaust.

Introduction

Dawid Rubinowicz was born on 27 July 1927 in Kielce. He had two younger siblings, a brother and sister. The reason for the Rubinowicz family’s moving from Kielce, where Dawid was born, to the rural setting of Krajno close to Bodzentyn is unknown. There may, however, be some indication in the old records of births and marriages of this small satellite farm village. More than a few Jewish families have lived there, including members of the extended Rubinowicz family. In Krajno, Dawid's father Josek (Jósef) Rubinowicz ran a small dairy farm.

Even at the time of war, and especially in the summer of 1940 and even in 1941, Dawid describes the everyday life in the rural setting of Krajno with great fondness, gazing at the green fields from his window, going to the woods, picking morels (mushrooms), bilberries et cetera. His depiction of the area is similar to those of survivors recalling their own childhood in nearby Bodzentyn.

When people were interviewed after the war—at the time of the discovery of the Diary—they recalled that people liked the Rubinowicz family. Their honesty, cleanliness and kindness towards others, was much appreciated in the neighbourhood. There was no medical assistant in the Krajno, and allegedly Dawid's mother, Tauba Rubinowicz, had pain relief powder and iodine, which she offered to curate people in the surroundings.

In October 1939, all Jewish children were excluded from the Polish state school system. Twelve-year-old Dawid Rubinowicz continued to study, but seemingly on his own and at home, or so he writes on 12 August 1940, i.e. just before the first anniversary of the outbreak of war and only weeks before the beginning of a new term. Thinking about how he used to go to school, Dawid feels like bursting into tears. “Today, I must stay at home and can’t go anywhere,” he exclaims.

Dawid began to chronicle his experiences on 21 March 1940—more than half a year after the outbreak of the war. Posted on a storefront in Krajno, a notice catches his attention: Jews are no longer allowed to travel on vehicles. Some months later, Dawid recalls the suffering that people have already experienced and how much everyone has gone through in such a short time.

Dawid wrote in Polish, the language he was taught at the local school, and Dawid uses the Polish expression for the SS extermination squads, the German żandarmerią. He also refers to the Judenrat, the Jewish Council. According to Dawid’s diary, Dawid’s father and other adults elected a council on 5 August 1940.

Still residing in Krajno on 12 December 1941, Dawid starts receiving alarming news about the terror of the Germans and fears coming face to face with them. In the districts of the General Government, Jews were required to wear an armband with a Star of David on it. Dawid knew that moving illegally, he would need to take off this armband not to be quite so easily recognized as a Jewish fugitive. Walking to Bodzentyn on 12 March 1942, the day the family moves into the ghetto, Dawid writes: “I went without an armband on […] I was terribly frightened, O God, if anybody had met us, then… Thank God we arrived safely.”

"Early in the morning, I went through the village in which we live. I saw a notice that said Jews may not travel on vehicles."

The diary of Dawid Rubinowicz (21 March 1940)

In the spring of 1942 and continuing towards the summer, raids and house-to-house searches intensified in the open ghetto of Bodzentyn. People accused of hiding goods were arrested. Those who refused to co-operate with the Germans were shot or sent to Auschwitz, and Jews seen outside the ghetto or disobeying curfew laws were shot.

The house at Kielce Street No. 13, where the Cislowski family lived and the Rubinowicz family stayed, no longer exists. It was located in the opening on the right-hand side of the street, next to the black and white house in the photomontage. Find the location on Google Maps

We know from Dawid’s own account that his family stayed at 13 Kielce Street with his cousins, the Cisłowski family. Ruchla Roza Cisłowska Zilberberg seemingly brought it to the family’s attention that Dawid might try to hide. Having blue eyes and light hair, he may have seen fit to pass as a Gentile. Dawid’s father Josek did not favour such a scheme, firmly believing that “one cannot escape one’s destiny”.

On 28 February 1942, before the deportation to Bodzentyn, Dawid writes something that resembles his father’s fatalistic frame of mind: “We’ve put ourselves in God’s hand and are ready for anything.”

Excerpts from the diary 

"While [the boy] was tied to the sledge he couldn't run anymore, and they'd dragged him along behind the sledge..."

The diary of Dawid Rubinowicz (15 January 1942)

"I saw a policeman come and turn into our yard. I ran away, but heard the policeman shouting: 'Where are the potatoes? Hand over the rest!'"

The diary of Dawid Rubinowicz (6 May 1942)

Abrupt ending on 1 June 1942

On 8 May, Dawid Rubinowicz writes that he hid in the house of a Polish woman living close by, not to get caught in one of the numerous raids. There is thus at least one reference to a "Polish woman", who may be Mrs Wacińska—the mother of the neighbouring family. In interviews from 1960, one 32-year-old Mr Waciński is described as the person whom Dawid Rubinowicz probably refers to in his diary on 11 May, when he recounts that he spent almost the whole day at "one Polish boy’s place" as he was afraid to stay at home.

In the article "Wyjście z Bodzentyna", Mrs Wacińska gives her version of the final days for the Jews in Bodzentyn: "When the day of their displacement was close, Dawidek came to us and brought a parcel with books and notebooks. He said: 'Mrs Wacińska, may you store it for me, when I come back, I will take it back.'"

In the parcel, Mrs Wacińska found Jewish religious books and five yellow exercise books with stamps on them that read: D. Rubinowicz, Bodzentyn, 13 Kielecka Street. According to the interviewee in the article, the Germans rounded up the Jews a few days later, and the Rubinowicz family came to say goodbye.

From Dawid Rubinowicz's diary and eyewitness accounts, we know that raids took place, and people were brought to the Hasag Skarżysko-Kamienna slave labour camp in June 1942. There were still some months left until the liquidation. The diary breaks off abruptly with one final entry on 1 June 1942, leaving many questions never to be answered. We cannot know for sure what Dawid’s last months and days were like.

The ghetto's liquidation took place on 21/22 September*. The German gendarmerie motored into town, doors were banged on, and all Jewish men and women and children were rushed to the lower market square. From there, the entire Jewish community was taken to Suchedniów and loaded on trains that took them to the extermination camp at Treblinka.

"... and then I saw [my father] on the last lorry; his eyes were red with weeping. I kept on looking at him until he disappeared round the corner, then I had a sudden fit of crying..."

The diary of Dawid Rubinowicz (6 May 1942)

Discovery of the diary

The diary seems to have been forgotten or left in at least five school exercise books with Dawid Rubinowicz's Polish next-door neighbour, the Waciński family.

Later on, the diary was passed on, together with other school belongings, to Antoni Waciński. The diary remained at his house for 15 years, stored in the attic. Krystyna and Stefan Rachtan rented the house from the school's headmaster.

"There were many documents at home that were collected by director Antoni Waciński," says the regionalist Stefan Rachtan. His father-in-law and mother-in-law, Helena and Artemiusz Wołczyk, who lived nearby, often paid the family visits. In 1957, when the owner came to clean the attic, they found the diary of Dawid Rubinowicz.

"At first, when I found the diaries of Dawid, I was not aware of their importance," says Stefan Rachan. "My father-in-law, Artemiusz Wołczyk, offered to read them in the municipal radio station."

Coming into possession of the journal, Artemiusz and Helena started to read it out over the local radio broadcasting system. From 1 October 1957, they were read to the public in 24 episodes, once a week.

In March 1959, a journalist named Maria Jarochowska came to Bodzentyn to collect material for an article on crimes committed during the occupation that was partly antisemitic. Shortly after the article was published, she was introduced to the diary by Artemiusz Wołczyk.

Through Maria Jarochowska, the prominent writer Jaroslaw Iwaszkieicz got interested in the diary and published it in the literary journal Tworczosc. In 1960 the diary was printed in Polish as well as many other languages.

Helena and Artemiusz Wołczyk, at the house where the diary of Dawid Rubinowicz was discovered.

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Resources

The Diary of Dawid Rubinowicz is known to be one of the most touching testimonies of the fate of Jewish children during the Holocaust. Since the first edition of the Diary was published in 1960, it has been translated into a number of languages: View various versions | View the most recent Persian translation, made in 2020

In the Polish version published in 2010, a comparative study was included. By selecting and focusing on particular themes from the Diary and in showing how these had been endured and are still remembered by survivors, the comparative study aims to broaden our understanding of Dawid’splight and to shed more light on details of the every-daylife and hardships imposed on Jews, especially in relation to the following topics: Childhood; Antisemitism; The Outbreak of War; GermanOccupation; Refugees fromPłock; Life in the Ghetto and Deportation to the Camp.

A play based on the Diary

In cooperation with Dorota Anyż and Artur Anyż, Krystyna Nowakowska directed the process to set up a play based on the Diary of Dawid Rubinowicz. It was performed for the first time on 28 September 2008. Read on about the project on the diary that Krystyna Nowakowska initiated.

Krystyna Nowakowska
The Diary used for Holocaust Education

Read and reflect on the complexity of daily life under German occupation in Poland in one 50-minute class period lesson—based on Dawid Rubinowicz's Diary—created by Facing History and Ourselves.

Educational resource

Useful information

Sources

  • Rubinowicz, D., Rutkowski A. & Jarochowska M. (1960). Pamiętnik Dawida Rubinowicza. Warszawa: Książka i Wiedza.
  • Rubinowicz, D. (1982). The diary of Dawid Rubinowicz. Translation by Derek Bowman. Edmonds, Wash., U.S.A.: Creative Options Pub. (Editor's note: The quotes from the Diary on this page derives from this translation.)
  • Rubinowicz, D., Janicki J., Wiernik B, Pałysiewicz E., Pałysiewicz J., & Wymark E. (2010). Pamiętnik Dawida Rubinowicza. Reszta nie jest milczeniem. Bodzentyn: Towarzystwo Dawida Rubinowicza.
  • Mularczyk A., Rywanowicz R, Kąkolewsk K. (1960). Wyjście z Bodzentyna [Coming out from Bodzentyn]. Nowa Kultura, Nr 19 (528), p 3, 9.
  • Editor's interviews with Stefan Rachtan and Krystyna Rachtan in 2010.
  • Recollections of the Rubinowicz family: "Posłowie" in Rubinowicz, D., Rutkowski A. & Jarochowska M. (1960). Pamiętnik Dawida Rubinowicza. Warszawa: Książka i Wiedza, pp. 116—117.
  • Date of the liquidation of the ghetto: The so-called Fahrplananordnung Nr 587 was sealed and dated in Krakow September 15 1942, concerning the liquidation of the ghetto in Bodzentyn 21/22 September. The timetable Nr. 587 stated that the train from Suchedniów would arrive at Treblinka on September 22 and return empty some hours later. A photo reproduction was published in the first Polish version of Dawid Rubinowicz' Diary: Rubinowicz, D., Rutkowski A. & Jarochowska M. (1960). Pamiętnik Dawida Rubinowicza. Warszawa: Książka i Wiedza, pp. 26—28. Another date—October 3, 1942—is mentioned by the eyewitness in Kalib Szachter, G., Wachsberger, K., & Kalib S. (1991). The Last Selection: a Child's Journey Through the Holocaust. Massachusetts: University of Massachusetts Press, p. 145. A letter of 30-09-1942 from Rózia in Bodzentyn to Józek Frydman in Warsaw ghetto may support the latter date (source: Ring. II/275/3).
  • In the photo at the top of the page, Dawid is captured in a photo taken during an outing with his class on Łysica Mount, sometime in the mid-1930s. Photo reproduction by the Editor. Source: "Czytelnicy rozpoznali Dawidka Rubinowicza na fotografii z roku 1937" (Readers recognized Dawid Rubinowicz in the photo from 1937). The printed article was made available to the Editor by Krystyna Rachtan.