A story of the Holocaust and
of true friendship
This story is dedicated to my Jewish friend Chaim. Thank you for all the Jewish and Holocaust information that you told me that has helped in the writing of this story. It is a privilege to have you as a friend.
My story is one of happiness and sadness, of joy and tragedy, of gain and loss. My story is a Holocaust story.
January 6, 1938
My name is Daniel and I am twelve-years-old. I am Jewish and I live in Amsterdam, Holland. I have a father, a mother, and a sister whose name is Erika. Erika is younger than I am. We live in an ordinary house. My room isn't very big but it is big enough. I like my little desk. At my desk I write in my diary. It is what I'm writing in now. I like to go places with my friend, Isaac. We play soccer and sometimes we go to a movie picture at the theater. It is very exciting at the theater. My favorite thing to do though is to sit and listen the radio with my family. We listen to musicals and talk shows.
January 8, 1938
Today we celebrated my sister's birthday. She is eight-years-old. She got a doll, a notepad, and some drawing pencils. We then ate cake and some ice cream. It was fun.
My father said that he was going to give me something special for my birthday which will be soon. I am very anxious to see what it is. He said "It is something that you will be proud to own." But I guess I'll have to wait because my birthday won't be until April 8.
January 14, 1938
Tonight I am very worried. I heard my parents talking and they are saying that the Nazis will soon take over Amsterdam. I asked my parents who the Nazis were and my father said, "They are evil people trying to take over the world". They must be crazy people if they are trying to take over the world. They are foolish as well because they cannot take over the world. Or at least that's what I think. But what if the Nazis do take over Amsterdam? What if they take over the world? What will happen to us?
January 16, 1938
Yesterday my life changed forever. The Nazis took over Amsterdam. They came driving down the streets in their big army tanks, and trucks. They marched down the streets as well in their gray and depressing uniforms. My family and I stood on the sidelines, along with the other Hollanders, and watched the Nazis come in our hometown. Many of the people were waving little red flags with black Swastikas on them. They seemed happy that the Nazis were taking over Holland. How could they be!? It had to be the end of freedom for us all. For the Jews anyways, that's what my father said and he's always right.
February 4, 1938
Oh something terrible happened today! I went to the synagogue to talk with Rabbi Eli and as we were talking in the synagogue when suddenly there was a loud commotion outside. Then several Nazi soldiers barged in through the doors of the synagogue. In their hands they held lit torches. Rabbie Eli tried to stop them but they just knocked him down. They then threw the torches all over the synagogue. The fire from the torches leaped up and began to burn. I watched in horror as the synagogue began to burn. I tried to wake Rabbi Eli up but he wouldn't wake up. I saw blood dripping from the side of his head. He must have hit his head on one of the pews. The synagogue was soon filled with smoke and fire. I could barely breathe. I grabbed Rabbi Eli by the feet and dragged him out of the burning synagogue. After I had dragged him a great distance from the synagogue I fell to the ground exhausted. The smoke had filled my lungs and I could barely breathe. As I lay there I stared up at the synagogue and tears filled my eyes as I watched it burn to the ground.
February 5, 1938
Rabbi Eli died today. When the Nazi soldiers had hit him, he had hit his head against the pew. It had killed him. There could be no funeral for him because the Nazis forbid large group gatherings. But they did let his family bury him. I am very sad right now. The synagogue is gone. Rabbi Eli is gone. I just feel as if it is the end of the world. Everyday the Nazis make new rules for us Jews. We are the outcasts of the community. No one is allowed to talk to us. Jews are no longer allowed to go to public places. Jewish children are no longer allowed to go to Public school. We have to go to a Jewish school where only Jewish children attend. Also we Jews must now wear a yellow star that says in big black letters "Jew". I hate wearing it because when I walk down the streets people stare at me as if I am some sort of a disease or something. How can the Nazis humiliate us like they do!? Why do they treat us so badly? We have done nothing to them. I don't understand any of this whole thing. It doesn't make any sense.
February 16, 1938
It has been awhile since I have written in my diary. But it is because so many things have been happening. I have had to help my mother a lot while my father is at work. He now works at a Jewish factory. He doesn't get paid very much. Just enough to buy food for us. We have all had to give up some of our pleasures because we don't have enough money.
Father and mother told us something exciting today. Mother is going to have another baby. They don't know if it is going to be a boy or girl yet. Personally I hope it will be a boy. It will be awhile before the baby is born and for this I am thankful. Because hopefully by the time the baby is born the war will be over and the baby can enter a peaceful world.
March 2, 1938
I have been unable to write in my diary because me and my family had to move. All Jews were ordered to move into the ghetto. The ghetto is a dark and dirty place where we Jews must live. There are rules about everything here in the ghetto and there is no way to escape. Our lives before weren't too bad except for all the rules but now that we must live in the ghetto things are worse. There is little food and we are caged in. It is has if we are in a prison. Trapped and unable to get out. It is a terrible feeling to know that you have no way out. My family and I live in a small one room apartment on the second floor of the apartment house in the ghetto. I pray that we will be set free soon so we can get back to our normal lives. Because I don't know how much more of this I can stand.
March 5, 1938
I made a new friend today. His name his Chaim and he is fourteen. He and his parents have been in the ghetto much longer than me and my family. So he knows where to find food and things. He and I have a lot in common. Except he has taken his Bar Mitzvah where as I am not of age yet. But when I turn thirteen I am going to take my Bar Mitzvah. That is if the war is over and we are all set free.
March 10, 1938
Terror has struck all Jews in the ghetto. Rumors are going around that we will soon be transported to death camps. When my mother heard this she said, "We will all surely die if we are sent to death camps!" she covered her face with her hands and cried. I pray that we will not be sent to the death camps.
March 17, 1938
Today Chaim and I sat on top of one of the apartment houses. We stared out across war-torn Amsterdam and we talked of times before the war. I asked Chaim what he was going to be when he grew up. He said, "I want to be a Rabbi. I know it doesn't sound fun but I want to dedicate my life to G-d." He then asked me what I wanted to be. I said, "I want to be a writer. I love writing stories down on paper." Our conversation was soon interrupted by the sound of approaching trucks. We watched from atop the roof as several Nazi trucks pulled inside the walls of the ghetto. We watched as Nazi soldiers climbed out of the trucks and they began herding Jewish men towards the trucks and pushing them in the backs of the trucks. My heart pounded as I saw father in the group of terrified people being pushed into the trucks. "What's happening!? Where are they taking them? That's my father," I cried out. I jumped up and climbed down from the roof hastily. Chaim tried to stop me but I pushed him away. When I was safely on the ground I ran to the trucks. I ran to the back of the truck and saw father sitting on the floor of the truck bed. "Father, where are you going!? Where are they taking you!?"I cried out. When he saw me he yelled at me angrily and said, "Daniel, go! Go away from here before they get you! Take care of your mother and sister. Promise me!" Tears streamed down my cheeks and I screamed, "Father, please don't leave us! Please! They can't take you!" Suddenly I was pulled away from the truck by Chaim. He pulled me along by the arm. When we were away from the trucks Chaim pushed me to the ground because I was fighting him. I jumped up and started to run back to the trucks but he stopped me. "Let me go! I have to go to my father," I said angrily as I tried to pull free from his grasp. But he wouldn't let me go. "Don't you realize what will happen if you go back there!?" he asked angrily. I began to sob and he placed his arms around me. As I heard the trucks start and drive away my heart was breaking. My father was gone and I knew that I would probably never see him again. But what I didn't understand was why they were taking him away.
That night my mother explained everything to me. She said some of the Jewish men from the ghetto had been chosen to go and work on some sort of building in Germany. She said that they would never return.
April 1, 1940
It has been a year since father has been gone and it is now April. I miss father so much. With him gone caring for the family has been placed on my shoulders. But I feel too young to do so. I long to be able to just be a normal kid again. Oh if only the war would come to an end! Chaim and his parents have been very helpful to us. Chaim's father had not been chosen to go and work like my father. He is kind of my new father figure I guess you'd say. He treats me like I am his own son and that helps.
April 8, 1940
Today is my birthday and I am thirteen-years-old now. I didn't have much of a celebration because on the same day we found out that all Jews were going to be transported to a camp. So none of us were in a very cheerful mood. But they all tried to be cheerful for my sake. After Chaim and his parents had left and Erika was in bed, mother took me to her bed and she pulled a box out from under the box. She turned to me and said, "Here, your father wanted to give this to you on your thirteenth birthday." She handed me the small box and I opened. I was surprised to see that it was my father's purple heart medal that he had received while fight in the first world war. Tears sprang up in my eyes and I said, "I'm very happy to own it now. Oh how I wish father could be here!" Mother put her arms around me and we both cried.
April 15, 1940
I now wear my father's medal everywhere I go. When I wear it, it is as if my father is right there beside me, helping me through these hard times. It is a great comfort to me.
Chaim turned fifteen not too long ago. He's more of a big brother to me now. He always listens to me and he's always there to comfort me in my time of sorrow. He is the best friend I've ever had and I hope that the war will end soon so we can live normal lives.
April 18, 1940
The past few days have been sad ones for all us Jews in the ghetto. On April 16, 1940 all the Jews were put into cattle cars and transported to a new destination. I am in a cattle car now with my mother and sister, and Chaim and his family. It is extremely difficult to write but I want to write all this down so that in years to come it will be remember and never forgotten. The cattle cars are filled with hundreds of Jews. It is very cramped and no one can sit down hardly. I found a place in the corner and eased down just so I could write. It is extremely hot and I feel as if I am going to pass out because I can barely breathe. The smell of unwashed bodies is unbearable. We Jews were once human but now we have been taken down. We are now considered lower than animals. How can this be happening to me!? Years ago I would have never dreamed that I would be crammed in a cattle car and on my way to who knows where. That is another thing that we are all worried about. Where are we being taken? Are we going to meet our death? No one can answer these questions. We just have to wait. But wait for what? To be killed or to be set free?
April (unknown) 1940
A few days later the train finally reached its destination. As the train came to a stop and when the doors were opened I saw that it was night outside. I heard Nazis Soldiers screaming in German,"Schnell!" They ordered us out of the cattle cars. My legs were stiff and I could barely walk. As I stepped near the doorway of the cattle car I was pulled out by a Nazi soldier. I cried out as I fell to the muddy ground. But I was soon lifted up by Chaim. When all the Jews had gotten off the trains the Nazis pushed us into lines. They started putting the men and boys on one side and the women and girls on the other. They were separating us! I searched the frightened and screaming crowd for mother and Erika. Then I saw them. They stood terrified in the group of other women and girls. "Mother! Erika!" I cried out and tried to go to them but Chaim and his father held me back. I began to cry hysterically and Chaim struck me across the face. It shocked me but he only did it to keep me from drawing attention to myself. Then the women and girls were driven one way and the men were driven the other. The Nazis held short crops in their hands and they struck us to make us move faster. I glanced up and saw the sign of the camp where they had brought us. It said "Auschwitz" and when I read those words my heart sank. We had been brought to the worst death camp ever created. As we were herded through the gates of the men's section of Auschwitz it was like passing through the gates of hell. I was terrified and I clung to Chaim like a frightened child. He put a comforting arm around me. I was very glad he was there because if he hadn't been I would be all alone. The Nazis herded us into a large building. We were pushed into lines and ordered to turn over all our belongings. I reached up and clutched my father's medal that was pinned on my shirt. I wasn't going to give it to the Nazis. They would have to kill me first. Chaim and I were separated from Chaim's father. He was put with a group of older men. Chaim and I were put in a group of younger men. After we had given up all our belongings we were tattooed. A number that was to be our name was tattooed onto our arms. My name and number was 180777. As Chaim and I stood in line a guard came up to me and he grabbed me by the arm and said, "You are not very old are you!? You look to be only twelve or thirteen. How old are you? Answer me!?" I stood frozen in terror but before I could speak Chaim said, "He is sixteen. He just looks young." The guard didn't seem to believe him but finally he pushed me back in line and continued on his way. As I stood beside Chaim I asked, "Why does it matter how old I am?" Chaim answered saying, "You have to be sixteen or older and if you are younger than that. . .then you. . .are sent to wherever it is they take the children." I didn't have to time to ask him where they took the children because we were pushed further up to another room. There I watched in horror as the men were ordered to strip off their clothes and walk naked to the showers. I had never had to do such a thing in front of other people. I was terrified and I grabbed Chaim's arm and said, "Chaim, I can't do that! I just can't." "You are going to have to whether you want to or not. Just be quick about it and everything will be okay," he said. When it came our turn to strip down I slowly began to unbutton my shirt. But then I panicked because I had no where to hide my father's medal. I removed it from my shirt and held it in my hand. I prayed that I would be able to sneak it past the guards. After I was finally undressed, I walked into the shower room. I was so humiliated and I started to cry. Chaim pulled me along and we stepped underneath the pouring water. I couldn't stop crying and Chaim grabbed me by the shoulders and said, "Stop! Shut up! Get a hold of yourself. Okay?" I nodded and began to rub my hands up and down my arms. The water was lukewarm but it felt good. Suddenly the water was cut off and we were herded into a room where every hair on our bodies was shaved off. We were then herded to where a pile of striped prison clothes lay on the cement floor. Men began to grab themselves a pair. Chaim and I did likewise. I slipped on a an old prison shirt and pants. They were too big for me but I had to make do because that's all there was. I still held my fathers medal in my hand. It had not yet been noticed by the guards. After we were all dressed we had to walk past inspection guards. The guards ran their hands all over our bodies making sure we didn't have anything hidden in our clothes. I still don't know to this day how I got past all of those guards without the medal being noticed. It was a miracle without a doubt. After that we were herded out of the shower room and taken to barracks. As we were herded along to the barracks I saw other prisoners in the concentration camp. They stared at us with ghostly eyes. They seemed so. . .so. . .dead. It was as if they were the walking dead. They did not look like human beings. Their faces were pale and black circles surrounded their eyes. Some wore little clothing. I could see their bones pressing against their thin skin. They were walking skeletons. They terrified me and I tried not to look at them. We soon reached our barracks and we were pushed inside. The barracks consisted of boards built into the wall. Those boards were considered beds. A thin blanket was all that lay on the boards. Men began to claim their own beds and Chaim and I finally found one for ourselves. But we had to all share because there wasn't enough. By the time everyone got situated there was eight men on our bed. I didn't know how on earth we were all going to sleep but we had to find a way. As I sat on the blanket I noticed little bugs crawling all over the blanket. I jumped up and Chaim asked, "What is it?" "Look! There's bugs in the blankets!" I said. "Lice," a man next to me said. I finally sat back down onto the blanket. But as I sat there I prayed. I prayed and asked God to show me how to live in that place.
August 7, 1940
The days at Auschwitz were long and every hour we spent working. We had to do unbearable labor and at times I didn't think I could take anymore. But it was at times like these that I would reach inside the pocket of my worn pants and clasp my father's medal and it gave me strength to keep going on. At times I would get very weak because I was so tired from all the labor. I felt like such a wimp because Chaim would do most of the work for me. But the other day something terrible happened. All of the men, including me and Chaim, were working. We were having to lift these big wooden railroad ties and carry them. Chaim and I picked one up and started carrying it to where we were supposed to lay it. The weight of the railroad tie was too much for me to carry and I suddenly collapsed to the ground. Chaim fell down because when I let go of the railroad tie he was unable to carry it by himself. Before we could stand up a guard ran over to us swinging his rod. He began to strike me with the wooden rod. I cried out in pain by each blow. I tried to roll away from the guard but I couldn't move. I was paralyzed by the blows. The guard then began to kick me and I tasted blood in my mouth. Suddenly Chaim ran over and tackled the guard. The guard wasn't prepared for this and he fell to the ground. Chaim took the rod and put it under the guards chin and he began to choke the guard. Soon Chaim had choked the guard to death. By now other soldiers and guards had run over and they grabbed Chaim and dragged him off. I lay on the ground unable to move. Some of the other men came over and helped me up.
Back at the barracks I lay on the bunk. My whole body ached and I couldn't move. But I didn't care what was happening to me. All I could think of was Chaim. What were they doing to him? Was he suffering because of me? Or was he already dead?
August 11, 1940
Today I saw a terrible thing happen. All of the men were ordered outside and we were lined up. I was moving better now but not a whole lot. I still had not seen or heard about Chaim. I prayed he was alright. As we stood outside a Nazi that was the commander over the concentration camp, came and stood in front of us. He said, "A few days ago a guard was killed by one of yours. He is too be punished greatly. The only punishment for this terrible deed is death. He deserves death! You all do! You filthy pigs! Now I want you all to watch and let this be a lesson to you to never try to kill one of my men." I watched as Chaim was drug towards a pole that stood in the center of the camp. The two Nazi soldiers made a lariat of barbed wire and placed it around his neck. I watched in horror as they pulled the barbed wire tight around his neck. The barbed wire cut into his flesh and blood began to pour from his neck. But as before the Nazi soldier could do anymore I stepped out from among the crowd and said, "Please Sir! Take my life instead!" The commander of the concentration camp looked down at me and asked, "Do you even know this boy?" I nodded and said, "He is my best friend and it is because of my that he is going to be put to death." "But you are not the one that killed the guard, therefore you do not deserved to be punished. Proceed soldier," the commander said. Before they could stop me I ran over to where Chaim stood. I grabbed his arm and said, "Chaim, I'm sorry. This is all my fault! I can't let them do this to you. I deserve to die. I have been such a burden to you ever since we arrived here." All Chaim said was, "It is an honor to die for a friend like you." Before I could say anything a guard pulled me away. By now I was sobbing and I watched as they hung Chaim with the barbed wire. I'll never forget that day. The image of Chaim hanging there dead and covered in blood will always haunt me. He died for me. There is no greater love than that of a true friend. He died because he had protected me. It didn't seem fair that he should die and I should live.
The war soon ended and Auschwitz was liberated. Daniel found out that his mother and sister had been sent to the gas chambers upon their arrival at Auschwitz. So he was left alone. But he soon met up with Chaim's father and they found a house and stayed together. But Daniel would never forget his best friend Chaim and how he died for him. He would always remember. Always. . .