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July 26th, 1933
Today Momma told me I could go outside to play ball with my brother and my baby sister, Evette. Thomas, my brother, was in charge; Momma’s orders. He wasn’t that much older than me, only by three years or so, but Momma always has my brother watch over me and baby Evette. Baby Evette can barely speak words yet, but she calls me “Ha”, only because she can’t say my full name, Hanna. She watches us play ball and claps her hands off beat. I always sing the rhyme that Momma taught me, and throw the blue ball to Thomas.
When I went into our tiny house, it smelled wonderful. It smelled like pasta and soup broth. I could hear the stove boiling our supper. Momma was making soup and bread for dinner, while Papa sat in the kitchen chair. I heard him mumble a few things to himself quietly. I glanced at him and noticed he was reading the paper.
After dinner, I was tucking little Evette into her crib while Papa read us the story, like he does every night. I held on to Evette’s hand while she fell asleep. I remember everyday being just like this, with my family by my side and days of playing ball with Thomas seeming endless.
August 12th, 1933
This morning I woke up to Momma singing in her pretty voice while she cooked the oatmeal on the stove. Although it was raining real bad, the sun managed to shine through the dull clouds I saw out of the kitchen window.
Papa always went to work early in the mornings, far before I was awake. Momma always tells me the same thing, every time I wake up late. “You sleep the day away, my little darling Hanna.”
I figured it must be true, because every little girl listens to what their mother and father says.
Some days, Thomas will wake before me and help Momma with the chores. The days Thomas awoke early, we got fresh milk with our meals. I noticed Momma was listening to the radio quite a bit today. As I would walk by the dining area, Momma would just sit and stare at the men’s voices coming from the dark brown radio speakers.
Many times I heard the words, “Hitler”, “Nazis”, and something else about some kind of camp created as I listened in with Momma. “It must be very important,” I thought to myself. I wonder if Mr. Hitler will be nice to our country of Germany.
December 9th, 1933
My birthday is today, and Thomas colored me a picture that says “Happy Birthday Hanna!” with a big ten written on the back of the coloring paper. I carried it around all day with me. I’m so happy to be 10.
Papa stayed home from his shop today. He said it was because of my birthday. But I wonder if that is the real reason because I heard Momma and Papa talking about change, and using some of the words I heard on the radio a while ago, when I was listening to it with Momma in the dining room.
The man’s voice on the radio seemed quite kind, but Papa’s voice was fierce and angry. The way he said those words “Nazis”, and “Hitler” made me think these things or people were nothing but evil. When I listened on the radio, those words seemed so nice to me. Momma didn’t want me to hear her, but I heard most of what she was saying. They said that Hitler wanted to take over our country. He was going around killing people because he could not get what he wanted. Hitler was especially killing all the Jewish people.
I remember hearing Momma whine and complain, but I could not understand why. We have a good life, the best life I could ever want. Our family may not have the biggest house or the most money but I like my life just the way it is.
Tonight was Momma’s turn to put baby Evette into her crib and make sure she went to sleep. I was looking out the window of the kitchen, staring at the moon. “It is so pretty,” I thought. I looked down the road, and five men were standing in suit type outfits, each one carrying what looked like a gun and some other sort of weapon like a knife or something sharp. I was scared. I wanted to cry. These new people scared me so much.
February 16th, 1934
When I asked about the guns the men were carrying a few months ago, Thomas told me they were special German police officers. “You have to listen to what they say, and follow all of their rules, or they will take our things away,” I specifically remember Thomas telling me. “What things?” I asked him. “Our house, our food, and our family,” Thomas replied. Those words hit me like a knife to my stomach. I realized that these people were not nice. I could tell he was very sad about this. I think to myself, “I need my family; it is all that I have. I must listen to those German policemen.”
Papa came home tonight, a bit earlier than usual. He came through the dining area door while I was reading one of my favorite books. I can remember with ease Papa’s exact words. “Hitler is taking away all of our rights.” Thomas asked why. Momma replied, “Because we are Jewish, that’s why.”
I really didn’t believe that just because of our religion, we were being punished. Momma, Papa, Thomas and I all agreed. When I had first heard about Hitler becoming “prime minister” (as Momma called it), I had wished that he would be nice to us. I guess my wish didn’t come true.
January 17th, 1936.
It has been such a long time since I have recorded in this journal last. I seemed to have grown up so much. A lot of changes have been made since the year 1934. I am two years older. My father still has no job, so we are not living too well, money wise. Momma is trying to teach Evette how to speak, but without a proper education that they give little girls, she will never learn the correct way to speak.
Sadly, there are no more play days. We must work all the time. Thomas and I do not get paid for what we do in the factories. Since I have gotten older, I have begun to understand more and more about this trouble in Germany. Papa is starting to tell me about the Nazis, and how they are trying to kill all the Jewish people, along with other people Hitler does not like.
Hitler doesn’t believe that the Jewish should have any rights at all, even the right to be free and to live. I don’t think it is at all fair that we should be killed for believing in a certain way. I can only hope and pray to get out of this war and Holocaust alive and safely. I hope the same for my family too.
Papa cannot vote anymore. He wants to have a say in something, but since we are Jewish people, we cannot have say in anything. Momma has been crying a lot lately; she doesn’t want the Nazis and Hitler to come take Thomas, Evette and me away. We are all she has in this world, and I’m not even sure what I would do without my Momma…I shouldn’t think of it. It’s not right to think about my Momma being gone, and me being in the hands of the horrible Nazi soldiers.
June 17th, 1939
Papa tells me that I must follow his orders. If the Nazis catch us doing something that we are not supposed to be, we can be arrested and put in jail, or even worse, sentenced to death. I have heard rumors that there is such thing called a “gas chamber”, which puts you in a room and the Nazis fill it with some poisonous gas which will kill you.
The other day, Papa came home and told us that we had to wear yellow stars of David to represent that we were Jewish. On his way walking home, he said he saw a bunch of women all lined up, waiting to get into this big door with nothing but their arms wrapped around their fragile bodies. The Nazis were directing them where to go. I couldn’t imagine this picture in my head; it made me so upset to think that it could possibly be me and Momma soon.
I used to think that living in a war was not that bad, until it started to affect us and around where we lived. I now hope and wish for peace and to not be taken away by those evil men. If Thomas got taken away, I don’t know what I would do without him. He is like my best friend, and I tell him everything. I love him with all of my heart.
September 8, 1940.
I am having nightmares about the Nazis taking me away and putting me in the gas chambers. In the nightmares, I am screaming and crying and kicking the military generals. I notice the way that they tell us it is a sauna or a shower room, and there is no place to change our clothes. The big dark brown door seems to be getting closer and closer to my reach. I am always waiting in line, the third in line for the gas chamber. Just waiting to be killed. I scream, “This is not fair! I have family and a home that I love! Don’t kill me, please, please, don’t kill me!” The generals feel no mercy towards a mere sixteen year old such as me. The Nazis are screaming words at me, although I cannot seem to understand them. My ears sound as if they were filled with water, and I can’t hear anything. As soon as I am pushed in through the door of the gas chamber, I feel a warm breeze and a sweet smell, and I wake up from my nightmare. Just like that.
I always have wondered if that is how it is really going to be. Would I really get taken away like that? From my family, my house, my everything? Do those cruel people have no hearts? They must not, for they do such horrible things to Jewish and Polish people. I was not sure how much different it would be. Momma and Papa have not let me leave the house, for they are scared that the military generals will take me away. My parents would rather risk their own lives than to sacrifice their children. I love Momma and Papa, so much.
March 12th, 1941.
Momma told me she was going out to get some milk and bread this morning. I remember looking out the window. I had this sick feeling to my stomach, as she was taking too long to get bread. I was getting really, really worried. When I am nervous, I brush the hair out of my face often. I seemed to have this terrible feeling in my gut that something is going wrong.
The time is going by too slowly as I write this. I am worried, too worried. “Momma should have been home by now,” I think to myself. I am not quite sure what time she left, or what time it is now, but I am praying for her to be alright and that those nasty, evil Nazis did not take her away from us. I don’t know what Papa would do without her, he really loves Momma.
As soon as Momma comes home, I will give her the biggest hug. And a kiss. Can’t forget the kiss. I miss her so much, and with the fighting going on, I’m not too sure if she actually is coming home. I wish she would, to make me not so worried anymore. Momma, please come home soon.
March 13th, 1941.
Momma didn’t come home last night. Thomas and I cried the whole night, along with Papa. Although we cry and cry and cry, we still have some hope left in our hearts for Momma to come home. Papa expected the worst from what had happened…he wanted to go look for her body in the rubble, but he wasn’t sure at all where she was or what the Nazi’s had done to her. Baby Evette kept crying for “Momma”, and wanted her back. I couldn’t find the words to explain that she was never coming back. What can you do when a little baby says things like that? There is a piece of my heart that is now gone, thanks to evil Hitler. It’s all his fault. I can’t stand him, nobody can.
I’m telling Thomas to never go out there. It is a dangerous world, with many dangerous people. He says he knows this, and he won’t go out there, at least not by himself. I worry that Papa will leave us too. I have to take care of baby Evette for now. I miss my Momma so, so much.
June 29th, 1946
It has been a year since the Holocaust has ended. I am happy that it has ended, once and for all. I didn’t expect anyone from my family to die, and I was devastated when my mother went missing. I had thought that my family would live together for a longer time than this. I am so thankful, although, that the Nazi’s did not take me away to prison, or sentence me to death.
Baby Evette is not such a little child anymore. She is now fourteen years old, and I am now twenty-two years old. Thomas has gotten married and moved to the states, where he can be free of all his worst memories. I still live in the house my father built, where I lived my entire life. My father is getting old, so I am taking care of him and Evette helps me.
The Jewish people are now free to live in peace and happiness. The Nazi’s are no more, and the leaders of the Nazis were recently tried for war crimes. If Adolf Hitler never became the prime minister of Germany, then none of this would have ever happened.
I will remember. I will remember everything I saw, everything my Papa and Momma told me. The most important thing I will remember is what it was like to feel ashamed because we were Jewish. I should not have ever been ashamed for religious matters, but I was. These memories will play over and over in my mind, every little detail I can remember, like a song stuck in my head, but instead, these disturbing visuals stuck in my mind forever.