The Artifacts Collection
Artifacts in the Holocaust History Museum
The Diaries of the Bruckmann Children
The diaries document the first chapter of the lives of the children of Gerta and Sally (Samuel) Bruckmann from Nabburg in Bavaria. The diaries were written and illustrated by Gerta for her children: Friedl (Siegfried) born in 1925, Guenter, born in 1928 and daughter Waltraut, born in 1930.
After an upsurge of anti-Semitism in their hometown, the Bruckmann family went to live with Gerta’s sister in Leipzig. Before they left, they packed their belongings and books, including the three diaries, and gave them to Christian friends of the family. The eldest son, Werner (Abraham), was sent to Eretz Israel with the “Youth Aliya” immigration program in 1934.
During the war, Werner Bruckmann enlisted in the Jewish Brigade, returning to Germany as a soldier. When the war ended he went to the home of his family’s friends, who returned their property to him—the diaries, family photographs and many letters. From the diaries and letters, Werner learned of his family’s hardships from the time of their deportation until contact with them was lost.
From Friedl’s diary, 18 March 1934, written by his mother:
“My dear son Friedl
…This book has been left lying quiet for a long time, for such a bad time has now befallen the Jewish people. What a lot we have to go through; our lives have become so difficult. How sunny were those days of your childhood, my beloved Friedl!
You are only in your third year in school, and you have to suffer so much upheaval in these difficult times…”
At a certain point in time, the family was moved to the “Jewish House” in Leipzig, and in 1942 they were deported to the village of Belzyce in Poland. They continued to write to non-Jewish friends in Heidelberg, Germany through a Christian intermediary living in Belzyce, until the fall of 1942, when all contact with the Bruckmanns was lost.
On 19 November 1941, Gerta Bruckmann wrote to her good friends:
“Carpe diem… “Seize the day” – this saying is most fitting for our situation. Seize the day that lies between the verdict and its actualization. That is how it is for us today. We have been condemned for some time, condemned to live our lives somewhere under abnormal conditions... Our lives exist under the shadow of the coming evacuation; maybe it is good to think everyday that it could happen tomorrow...so we slowly get used to something inevitable, unless a miracle occurs at the last moment…
We will take with us into exile the comfort that we have been given a gift that not everyone has – a friendship that has proven itself in the most difficult times. When a person has friends in good times, he does not know if the friendship will last in times of trouble. But we have friends on whom we can rely in every situation. This is also a comfort. Thank you so much for your friendship. And friendship carries with it an obligation: we will go into exile with our heads held high, and when we take our final steps, we will do so with dignity…”
On 20 June 1942, a letter was received from the Bruckmann family describing the conditions in Poland:
“Although it is June, the nights are very cold. We only have two blankets to cover the five of us and we are freezing. We lost our three backpacks…you must keep sending us things as long as the post office accepts packages. We could survive three days just from the profits of a dress...
When it rains, and it rains often, it is cold and there is terrible mud. We need rubber boots for Waltraut… you would not recognize the little girl. She is quiet and sad. It hurts to see her small pale face. She often lies down because of the hunger, weakness and cold. There is just not enough food…”
Sally and Gerta Bruckmann and their three children Friedl, Guenther and Waltraut were murdered in Poland.
Yad Vashem Artifacts Collection, Gift of Gila Bruckmann, Kfar Saba, Israel