Diaries documenting the first chapter of the lives of the children of Greta and Sally (Samuel) Bruckmann from Nabburg in Bavaria. The diaries were written and illustrated by Greta for her children: Friedel, born in 1925, Gunter, born in 1928 and Waltraut, born in 1930.
After an upsurge of antisemitism in their hometown, the Bruckmann family went to live with Greta’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 Palestine 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 was over he went to the home of his family’s friends, who gave back 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 Friedel’s diary, 18 March 1934, written by his mother:
My dear son Friedel
…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 Friedel!
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 their non-Jewish friends in Heidelberg, Germany through a Christian intermediary in Belzyce, until the fall of 1942, when all contact with them was lost. The Bruckmann couple and their three children were murdered in Poland.
On 19 November 1941, Greta 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 proved itself in the most difficult time. 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…”
Yad Vashem Artifacts Collection
Gift of Gila Bruckmann, Kfar Saba, Israel