Thoughts about life and people

Litzmannstadt Getto 11 XII 1943
Sometimes I think that life is a dark road. On this road among the thorns there are other, more delicate flowers. These flowers have no life, they suffer because of the thorns. Sometimes the thorns are jealous of the flowers’ beauty and hurt them more. The flowers either become thorns themselves or suffer in silence and walk through the thorns.

They don’t always succeed but if they persevere, something good will come of it. I think it happens quite rarely but in my opinion every true Jew who is pursuing a goal suffers and keeps silent. Besides, I think life is beautiful and difficult, and I think one has to know how to live. I envy people who have suffered a lot and have lived a difficult life, and yet have won the battle with life. You know, Surcia, such people (when I read or hear about them) cheer me up. I then realize that I am not the only one or the first one, that I can have hope. But I’m not writing about myself. 

You know, when I’m very upset I admire life. Then I wonder. Why at the same time are some people crying, while others are laughing or suffering? At the same time some are being born, others die or get sick. Those who are born grow up. They mature in order to live and suffer. And yet all of them want to live, desperately want to live. A living person always has hope (sometimes unconsciously). Although life is difficult, it is also beautiful. Life has its strange charm. (I will tell you the truth: I don’t feel like living, it’s too much for me, I will go to sleep soon and I don’t want to get up). Oh, Surcia, if I really couldn’t get up! 

Litzmannstadt Getto18 XII 1943
Oh, I have so much to write about … Yesterday (Friday) I went to see Surcia. She let me read some fragments from her diary and while I was reading I noticed that I had so much to write myself … She showed Miss Zelicka my letter in which I wrote about life. That’s why Miss Zelicka sent me a notice through Surcia that she’d like to talk about it on Tuesday at 11 a.m. It’s so unexpected … […] She told me to prepare myself … I’m thinking about it a great deal … Today during the assembly we discussed staging a little comedy for Chanukah. I’ll play the Interior Minister. Later I talked to Chajusia. She told me that I should try to write a lot in my diary. And that I should study a lot … generally everything … Oh, I’d love to. I do have a desire to study … My inner life is so complicated … Both Chajusia and Surcia keep saying “chin up,” but my chin is dropping … and it’s difficult to lift it … Difficulties, difficulties … difficulties go hand in hand with sadness … Oh, now I realize how much I have thought and wondered about life. […] Whenever I say the word “life” I feel I’m standing before some power, some enormity. But what are human words worth? They express so little. I have just written an entire page but I haven’t even described my feelings. It isn’t easy and when one manages to succeed, it is beautiful. Oh, difficulties and beauty … Do they fit together? Perhaps yes. It seems to me that I’m lost in nonsense. I have no time. Estusia is telling me to do something…

Litzmannstadt Getto 23 XII 1943
Honestly, I wanted to die. I tried to regain some balance, but I’m tired of life. I thought: I know that now when I want to die, I won’t die. I’ll die when I want to live, when I have a purpose in life. Who needs such a life? Isn’t it better to die when there is no purpose, and not when you want to live? Those questions were left unanswered. Suddenly, I had an urge to talk to Surcia, to tell her that I don’t know anything, can’t do anything, don’t understand anything … Now, I don’t feel that I know very little. I know nothing. I tried to catch up with my friends, but, well, they are so different … I need a school, I need to study … I repeat myself … I feel I’m tied up, I can’t move. What’s going to happen? […] Oh, I’m so far from being happy … But why am I writing all this? Can I do without it? Oh, I’m fed up … 

Litzmannstadt Getto 26 I 1944
From the letter to Surcia:

In your last letter you asked me to tell you what happiness means to me. In my opinion happy is the person who picks himself up—and at that point he is even happier, because first he fell down and now he can appreciate his good fortune! But happiness means many other things, for example, inner peace, relief, etc. But the greatest happiness is when a person is aware of it, when he can appreciate it. For example, for me warmth would be a great happiness … and even the hardest work would be [too], if only I knew that I were doing it for somebody close to me. That would be my happiness and comfort. I realized this when Mama was sick. At that time I was so much younger and did everything on my own, and yet I felt so good! … I knew that Mama was pleased and this thought gave me more strength. Nobody knew about this. It is still very personal. True, I had terrible moments, but I knew I couldn’t count on anyone. After all, I had Abramek also … oh, Surcia, I am telling you, he was so special … You can’t imagine … Together we could lift ourselves up… And now? It is not surprising, it is so hard for me … And I will tell you something else. You wrote earlier that Estusia was pleased with me and that this should be a consolation for me. I try to do things well, but it couldn’t be like that. Now that you have told me that she didn’t mean it, I felt (in the past I had only thought it), that you do understand me and … you are always here for me, you always help me! 

The letters I write to Surcia could be my diary.

Litzmannstadt Getto 17 II 1944
I do want reciprocity! Only reciprocity! Once you give something to me, then I give something to you … and so on … That’s the way it should be, but it isn’t, or rather it is extremely rare. At least we should want it (I’m lacking a word), we shouldn’t demand this reciprocity from others, but from ourselves, from ourselves! As much as we possibly can, we should try to repay those who deserve it. At the same time we can learn a lot and find out more about ourselves. In my opinion true reciprocity is not like this: I have to repay you immediately, because you’ve done something for me—if I do something for you, it’s only because I expect you to repay me. No! In my opinion reciprocity should be selfless! I’m not going to keep accounts and I’ll reciprocate or better, repay, when I’m able to, when it’s from the bottom of my heart. This is the kind of reciprocity I have in mind! Like with Surcia … reciprocally, reciprocally! 

Litzmannstadt Getto 27 II 1944
When I was out in the street earlier I wondered why a human being is always unhappy and always wants more and more. He makes demands all the time. For example, when he’s at a lower level, he wants to be at a higher level. It has its positive and negative aspects … if he climbs higher and higher, and wants to learn more and achieve a higher level, then it’s positive … but … there are limits! (I don’t know whether it’s suitable for a diary.) For example, when you show one finger to a dog, he’ll grab the whole hand. There are people who want more and more, if they are allowed to do something. (Oh, I don’t know if this is what I mean.) A human being, in the full meaning of the word, should always remember that but he’s so narrow-minded! Out of spite, he doesn’t remember what he should. Eh, I can’t write it, because I’m getting more fresh and chaotic thoughts. Oh, if I could only shape it somehow!

(…)What can I do, I, one of the smallest pieces of dust on earth. What do I matter at all? What do I matter (I won’t say: before God), but before all the people living on this planet. What do I matter at all? What does my life matter? Oh, these questions! I know that I can’t do much for those who are far away, but for those who are near I can do a little. I have to … I can’t just sit on my hands and do nothing. Oh, if I could only do as much as I want! God! I’m sad, I’m full of sorrow. I’m full of longing! … and I can’t breathe! Oh, God, help me! Help me! I’m sleepy. I’m in a stupor. Oh, I don’t know … I don’t know anything. […]

Litzmannstadt Getto 29 III 1944
When I’m overcome by this feeling, I’d like things to be all well and for it to be warm. When I think about it I’m overtaken by such affection that … I feel like crying! (Unfortunately it’s suppressed, because I don’t cry, I suppress my crying.) At this moment I’d like to embrace the entire world, hug it, warm it. At this moment I’m not jealous that others are doing better, but I feel sorry for those who suffer. Oh, at this moment I totally forget about myself, as if I didn’t exist. At this moment I’d like to do so much for the world. I see many, many defects and I feel so sorry that I can’t find a place for myself. And when I realize that I don’t matter in the world, that I’m just a speck of dust, that I can’t do anything, at this moment I feel much worse, I’m suffocating and I’m helpless …

In order to screw up my courage I tell myself, “After all, I’m still young, very young, what else can happen?” But time is passing by. It’s the fifth year of the war. Sometimes I ask myself, “What do I care? Why am I so interested in all this? I don’t do anything after all.” But there is always a little voice whispering, “But you do!” And it always wins. […] The only thing that’s encouraging me (as I’ve mentioned before) is the hope that it won’t always be like this and that I’m still young. Maybe I’ll grow up to be somebody and then I’ll be able to do something. Because I am Jewish, I believe and hope. I hope that this “hope” has some strong foundation. God, make the time go faster. (What time?) …