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Their Childhood and the Holocaust

A Child’s Perspective in Polish Documentary and Autobiographical Literature


Justyna Kowalska-Leder

Children have a specific perception of the Holocaust: it did not destroy their earlier world view, but became the field of first experiences. This book focuses on the traumatic dimension of the Holocaust and how it is expressed (or left unexpressed) in children’s diaries. «Here and Now» under the German Occupation presents an analysis of diaries and school elaborations written in Polish by Jewish children during German Occupation . A Literary Return to Childhood during the Holocaust is dedicated to Polish retrospective literature, in which authors return to the experience of the Holocaust during their childhood years.
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2. Diaries of Jewish Children under the German Occupation


This part of the study shall discuss diaries kept by Jewish children in Polish, in Poland under the German Occupation. There is alas, little in this regard that has survived to this day. No doubt many such diaries perished during the tumult of war and perhaps a similar number after 1945, for at that time they were of little interest. It is only in recent years that together with the belated appreciation of importance that the voice of Holocaust victims may present, has there arisen in public discourse a channel that allows the voices of children to be heard as well.118 Significantly, and at the same time, a reflection of this very matter is the establishment as late as 1991 of the Association of Children of the Holocaust in Poland.

All of the above necessitates in far as possible, a precise and searching analysis of diaries that are extant. This becomes all the more important in the light of the fact that some have never seen the light of day and are as a consequence, not readily available. This in turn provides a case for presenting relevant fragments that – perhaps even more than similar documents penned by an adult hand, require analysis and interpretation.

A reading of surviving journals kept by children during the Holocaust often is a cause for frustration for it affords but a small fissure through which one can peer into in order to learn the author’s brush with the course...

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