On March 24, 1941, David stood at the window and watched soldiers pass.
"My head was awhirl with so many vehicles and cavalry. Heavy artillery was also on the move. It was fun...We hardly ever see soldiers in our parts."
The fun did not last long. A few months later David was home by himself when German militiamen entered the house, searched "every corner," and announced that his father was to report to the militia. Both parents went.
Someone told him that his father had been taken into "temporary custody," and David "raced home with this bad news." At the time, his uncle, aunt, and grandmother were living with them. "All were alarmed. Uncle went to the militia right away, and Auntie as well. We children stayed behind on our own, except for Grandma. We had no supper at all; at twelve o'clock I went to bed."
Josek and Tauba had been taken to jail and were released the next day.
On June 17, 1941, the day after Josek and Tauba were taken into "temporary custody," the Rubinowiczes scurried to hide their valuables, linen, and clothing.
To the Rubinowiczes every German was a whip poised to strike, for a German could do anything-rob, beat, kill- and no questions would be asked. On November 1, 1941, notices went up in Kielce announcing the death penalty for any Jew who entered or left the ghetto without permission. The edict soon covered all the ghettos of the Government General, as the area that used to be Poland had been renamed. Shortly thereafter, David saw a sudden increase in murders, and his fear grew.
In March 1942, the Rubinowiczes were forced to move to the nearby town of Bodzentyn.
The biggest change in David's life was announced in January of 1942. Sitting at his window "watching the wind blowing across the fields," he spotted the village crier and "went to see what was the news." What he heard sent him dashing home: "All Jews were to be evacuated from the villages."
"Evacuation" of Jews had been going on practically since the German invasion almost two and a half years earlier, but till then the Rubinowiczes had been spared. "Now it's our turn to suffer," realized David. "How long, God only knows." Five days after learning that the seven Jewish families of Krajno were to be "evacuated," Krajno's mayor showed up at the house. "Father fetched some vodka and they finished it off together because he was a bit chilled." The mayor "said all Jews would have to be shot because they were enemies," and other things that took David's breath away. "If I could only write down a part of all he said at our house, but I simply can't." Josek spent the final months in Krajno in a frantic, but doomed, effort to convince the regional Jewish council to postpone their "resettlement." The Jewish council administered the affairs of the Jewish community; it was created by the Nazis and answered to them. "We've put ourselves in God's hands and are ready for anything," wrote David at the end of this period.
The Rubinowiczes sold off items that were no longer needed; they retrieved the iron stove they had lent out; they hauled wood and ran errands; they laid in half a hundredweight of potatoes ("It's always cheaper to buy things in a village than in a town"), and David "took down the extension to the cowshed-it'll provide wood for a few days."
When the day of "relocation" arrived, it became clear just how well Josek and his wife, Tauba, were thought of in the village. The neighbors remembered their readiness to offer assistance to anyone, Jew and non-Jew alike. "There's hardly anyone in our village who's not sorry for us," David recorded in his diary on March 10 1942. "Many don't even want to come and see us-they say they don't want to witness other people's misfortune." But others cam anyway and wished them well.
David's neighbors did not behave like the Jew-hating Poles of legend. His diary is filled with instances of Poles going out of their way to help Jews. Poles repeatedly tipped off Jews when Germans were out for blood, and just as often David ducked into peasant homes to stay out of the Germans' clutches. This was true in Bodzentyn as well as in Krajno. In the tension-filled days of the following May, for example, when the German militia, the Polish police, and even the Jewish police were rounding up Jews for labor camps, David constantly relied on the help of non-Jews to avoid being captured.
The next morning a man came with a cart and the Rubinowiczes loaded their things. "When the carter had gone, it was as empty at home as a tunnel." David said good-bye to the uncle and aunt who had been staying with them- they were going to Bieliny-and he helped them load their stuff as well.
After the house had been turned into an empty shell, David wished he was already gone. March 12 was the day. Early in the morning, David and his father went to get a cart. An hour later a peasant showed up with a horse. David walked the six and a half miles between Krajno and Bodzentyn in a daze, choking on emotions.
The last entry in David's diary is dated June 1, 1942, the entry breaks off in mid-sentence. Whether he continued to write in his diary during the three and a half months the Rubinowiczes managed to hold out before being gassed, we do not know.
Between September 15 and 21, the Jews of Bodzentyn and those brought there from neighboring towns-5,000 in all-were made to walk the fifteen miles that lay between Bodzentyn and Suchedniow. On Monday, September 21, Yom Kippur, 4,500 of them were crammed into the cattle cars that would take them to Treblinka, the death camp located thirty-five miles no rtheast of Warsaw.
A document added to the Polish edition of the diary lists the train schedules for the final weeks of September. Schedule 587 informed railroad employees about the number of "special trains" available to transport the "settlers" from the district of Radom, the district in which the town of Suchedniow was located. The train that carried David left Suchedniow at 4:18 p.m. on the 21st, a Monday, and arrived at Treblinka at 11:42 a.m. the next day. In a little over a year, from July 1942 to September 1943, Treblinka swallowed 850,000 Jews.
Fewer than forty survived.