Rutka’s Notebook—an absolute must-read!
Rutka’s Notebook: A Voice From the Holocaust isn’t the type of breezy reading you would, say, take to the beach. But it’s definitely one to add to your reading list.
Rutka Laskier was a 14-year-old Jewish girl living in Poland during the Holocaust. From January to April of 1943, she kept a diary. She knew she wouldn’t survive the war, so she asked her friend Stanislawa Sapinska to retrieve her diary from a hiding spot and look after it.
More than two years after the end of the war, Stanislawa returned to Rutka’s home, looked in the assigned spot (under the floorboards of the staircase) and there it was. Stanislawa held on to the diary for 60 years until her nephew encouraged her to make it public. The first edition was published in Poland in 2006. It will be released in the U.S. on April 28.
Rutka’s story is compelling, sad, fascinating and even a little funny at times. She deals with things all teens face—complications with boys, drama with her friends and her relationship with her parents. But her life is different, too. She lives with intense fear for the safety of herself, her family, her friends and her people.
In one moment, she writes of the horror she witnessed in seeing a German soldier kill a baby right in front of the baby’s mother. In the next moment, she is thinking about her first kiss. It’s not that she isn’t affected, but it is the reality of her life. It is moving, powerful and heartbreaking.
Six million lives were lost in the Holocaust, including Rutka and most of her family (they were all sent to Auschwitz; Rutka, her brother and mother were immediately sent to the gas chambers). Like the Diary of Anne Frank, this book offers an intimate look at the very real price of the Holocaust.
The book is peppered with essays, photos and notes to give the story context. It isn’t long or hard to read. You could probably finish it in a couple afternoons. You’ll be amazed at how well you relate to young Rutka. There are some things about being a girl that are just universal.
By Mandy Forr