Elsa Binder's Diary Entries on Fear, Hope, and Despair in the Stanisławów Ghetto

Entries from the diary of Elsa Binder from December 31, 1941, and January 30, 1942, in which she reflects on the fear, hope, and despair within the Stanisławów ghetto.

December 31, 1941

Today is New Year’s Eve. The last day of 1941. The end of my twenty-one years of life, so much at odds with the gods. I was endowed with a face that is basically not very impressive and rounded shoulders that charm even less. Due to the above factors I am oversensitive, weak and acrimonious (Samek used to like my biting sarcasm). In other words, I have a difficult and rather unpleasant personality. I must add that I am demanding and arbitrary toward other people. But this doesn’t mean that I consider myself a miscarriage of nature. I realize I have some positive traits and therefore I always have at least one boyfriend and one girlfriend. The durability of friendship usually depends (except for the incident with Poldi) on my will. That’s why I have a grudge against my fate (perhaps unjustified) like any beautiful and shapely girl. Maybe I should prize myself less and come down a peg, but...I neither can nor want to. Right now all Jewish girls face the same odds. Death and prison pay no attention to external features. So many of my peers, better endowed by nature than I, have followed their call. All of us are facing death but I say I’m not afraid to die, although I long for life. It may seem naive but I’m not sure whether all my dear ones who are dead might not be better off than I am today or will be tomorrow. I see them every night together, just as they perished together and together they are resting. I see them happy, smiling, and, most of all, liberated. Really liberated once and for all. [. . .]

            The winter is freezing. Frost knocks at the door with its skinny fingers. We have enough coal for a week and supplies for a month. “And what then, little man?” There is still a much deeper level of poverty than ours.[. . .]A very long winter. Under these conditions our dreams of going out into the streets to welcome the liberators are less and less realistic. What are you bringing me, long-awaited 1942?  Wasn’t that my favorite heroine Catherine who welcomed the outbreak of war with the words, “Welcome and be greeted, noble, happy year 1914? So I welcome you, 1942, may you bring salvation and defeat. I welcome you my longed-for year. Maybe you will be more propitious for our ancient, miserable race whose fate lied in the hands of the unjust one. And one more thing. Whatever you are bringing for me, life or death, bring it fast.1

Friday, [January] 30 [1942]

[. . .]When fear crawls out in the evenings from all four corners, when the winter storm raging outside tells you it is winter, and that it is difficult to live in the winter, when my soul trembles at the sight of distant fantasies, I shiver and say one word with every heartbeat, every pulse, every piece of my soul—liberation. In such moments it hardly matters where it is going to come from and who will bring it, so long as it’s faster and comes sooner. Doubts are growing in my soul. Quiet! Blessed be he who brings good news, no matter from where, no matter to . . . where. Time, go ahead. Time, which carries liberation in its unknown tomorrow; not for Cip, who was happy to live in interesting times, maybe not for me, but for people like me. The result is certain. Down with any doubts. Everything comes to an end. Spring will come.2


[1] Alexandra Zapruder, ed., Salvaged Pages: Young Writers' Diaries of the Holocaust, 2nd edition (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015) 311.

[2] Zapruder, Salvaged Pages, 319.


Search Our Global Collection

Everything you need to get started teaching your students about racism, antisemitism and prejudice.