Elsa Binder's Diary Entry on a Mass Execution, January 13, 1942

Entry from the diary of Elsa Binder from January 13, 1942, in which she reflects on a mass execution of Jews in her community.

Tuesday, January 13 [1942]

[Samek] used to say: “I want two things: revolution and Dora.” Soon after he got his revolution and right after that...death. He was twenty-three, had graduated from a high school, and was very talented. Comrade Samek left me with an amateur photo and a few letters in which he asked himself and me whether I am or would like to be “the one” for him. No! I didn’t want to be the one but I wanted to talk to him, listen to his eccentric opinions or pleasant descriptions of the color of my eyes, hair, et cetera. I was not only pleased but also grateful that someone liked my appearance. It’s so simple. Samek, a poet and a dreamer, dedicated one of his poems to me. [. . .] I don’t know whether you apprehended with some peculiar atom of your soul that you would die on such a day.  I don’t even know how you died. Were you hit with a sadist’s brick as you stood out above the crowd? Did the crowd suffocate you as you moved back to try to prolong your life a little bit? Or maybe you were swallowed by a huge, mass grave when your chest was shot through so precisely? Or maybe . . . my God, maybe you were slightly wounded and were taking your last breaths for hours over and under the corpses. Or maybe you followed your parents voluntarily like Ciporka?

Cip: this is really hurting so much. With your open arms, lightly like a bird, you flew into the grave after your family. After the shot you fluttered your arms gently and your face fell on the chest of your father, mother, or sister. Cip. A serious girl with a schoolgirl’s smile or serious eyes. Her thick braids, her figure of a healthy, hearty plant, her smile so subtle with charm and death. You loved life with so much passion. Not so long ago you were so happy and the sun was still shining and that it was so delightful to bask in its warmth. Poor little thing. Only in relation to you can I realize and understand the trivial word “never.” It’s terrible that you’ll never find out what you meant to me. You were the only one in the world who could replace Zyhava, comfort and raise my spirits when I was hurt. But you’re no more. I can hardly believe that your clear and hard-working heart is not beating and never will.[. . .]. . .

Esterka. The owner of nice hands and legs that whirled in time with the lively polka lightly and proudly. She also had a useless high school diploma and an even more useless pride. Sabra with her sister, ideal Tosia, Turka with her baby, Salka with her baby, and Gucia with her mother left with them as well. Ah! It would take volumes to describe it. The number of victims oscillates between ten and twelve thousand. Mother Earth was mourning them, wind was complaining with a moan, trees were bending their branches, and cloudy skies were crying with rain and snow. Those condemned to death were accompanied by crying, wailing, and loud cries of Shema Israel. But God was silent. What was left were orphaned children, mothers, entire homes and houses. Hearts full of pain, hate, and ...helplessness.

It’s strange but there is no hate in my heart, just immense pain, astonishment, and a pervasive question: Why? Why did mothers’ sons and children’s fathers drive old people, whimpering babies, lively young people, and pregnant women to the cemetery where fresh common graves were awaiting them? Was it in the name of the love proclaimed by their religion that they forced mothers to suffocate their children in that terrible crowd and children to trample their mothers? They say that according to international law criminals and spies condemned to death must have their eyes covered so they won’t look death in the face. It’s been like this for ages. But here little children, clinging to their mothers’ arms and asking, “Mama, put me in front of you, I don’t want to see when they kill you” (my six-year old cousin, Zenio), are not only made to face forward but get to see how one can hold a pistol in one hand and a bun or a water bottle in the other. The crowd can see how mothers are preparing their children for death. “Mama, we want to live so much,” they whine. “Children, since we can’t live, we are dying together,” she sobs. How fate rewards her! She can see a newborn’s little head right there, crushed under a sadist’s boot. And weapons aimed at the pregnant women’s bellies. The crowd is silent. Perhaps it’s praying. I can’t understand why those people, who outnumber the oppressors, didn’t attack them. It’s said that they couldn’t ignore those [remaining Jews] who are spread out all over the territory. If that’s true, how noble and...courageous it was. When the shooting stopped, those who were spared shouted “heil” and “danke.” When they fled home, the searchlights followed them. A car stopped so they wouldn’t be splashed with mud. The suffocated, wounded, unconscious, and lost were finished off the next day.1


[1] Alexandra Zapruder, ed., Salvaged Pages: Young Writers' Diaries of the Holocaust, 2nd edition (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2015) 314–16.

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