Part of the exhibit features a display with items from the ghetto, surrounded by text from the diary.

Part of the exhibit features a display with items from the ghetto, surrounded by text from the diary.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes


Diary recovered at Auschwitz highlights new Holocaust Memorial Center exhibit

OU professor’s lecture at center to complement exhibit

By: Mary Beth Almond | C&G Newspapers | Published August 25, 2021

 A reproduction of the diary of Rywka Lipszyc is on display at the Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington Hills.

A reproduction of the diary of Rywka Lipszyc is on display at the Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington Hills.

Photo by Patricia O’Blenes

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FARMINGTON HILLS/ROCHESTER HILLS — After over 70 years in obscurity, a young woman’s diary found in the rubble of the liberated Auschwitz camp has come to the Holocaust Memorial Center in Farmington Hills for the center’s latest exhibit.

The exhibit, “The Girl in the Diary: Searching for Rywka from the Łódź Ghetto” explores the story of Rywka Lipszyc, an Orthodox Jewish teenager who wrote a 112-page memoir in a school notebook about her life in the Łódź Ghetto between October 1943 and April 1944.

When the Soviet army liberated the Auschwitz-Birkenau camp in 1945, Soviet army doctor Zinaida Berezovskaya found the diary in the rubble of the crematorium.

The Berezovskaya family preserved the diary for over 60 years, until Berezovskaya’s granddaughter, who was living in San Francisco, took it home with her in 2008. She brought it to San Francisco Jewish Children and Family Services, where Dr. Anita Friedman was one of the diary’s first readers.

The Jewish Family and Children’s Services Holocaust Center first published “The Diary of Rywka Lipszyc” in Hebrew, English and Polish in 2014, nearly 70 years after its discovery.

The diary details the life of the teen in the Łódź Ghetto — including the loss of Lipszyc’s father to a Nazi beating, her mother to illness and starvation, and two of her three younger siblings to deportation.

The exhibit describes the world in which Lipszyc lived and the establishment of the Łódź Ghetto, and it allows viewers to see reproductions of her diary with interpretations by historians, doctors, psychologists and rabbis. The show also focuses on what happened to Lipszyc after Auschwitz.

“The paper documentation suggests she did live ... and then she disappears out of the historical record, and no one knows,” said Mark Mulder, the manager of curatorial affairs for the Holocaust Memorial Center. “So it has an interesting mystery to it — what happened to Rywka?”

Mulder said he really appreciates the exhibit’s perspective of centering on women’s voices.

“What’s unique about the entire show is it really focuses on a woman’s perspective on what happened in the Holocaust,” he explained. “Even with the interpretation of her text, it really is about women’s voices. Women curated all of the perspectives, so even when it was written by a man, it was curated by a woman.”

Historical artifacts and documents from museums in Poland, the United States, Israel, Germany and Belgium are also part of the show.

To further complement the exhibit, Derek Hastings, an Oakland University associate history professor, will walk attendees through the time in history when Lipszyc penned her diary during a special lecture held at 7 p.m. Sept. 1 at the Holocaust Memorial Center. The program will also be streamed live on the Holocaust Memorial Center website, https://www.holocaustcenter.org/. To register to attend the lecture in person or virtually via Zoom, visit https://www.holocaustcenter.org/diary.
 

“The Łódź Ghetto was the longest lasting of all the Nazi ghettos, in part because they were able to make themselves financially viable. They were able to produce textiles, uniforms, clothes and all these things through the Germans as a kind of slave labor that kept them from being liquidated earlier,” Hastings explained. “So there are some special aspects of this particular ghetto that attendees may not be as aware of.”

“The Girl in the Diary: Searching for Rywka from the Łódź Ghetto,” opened at the Holocaust Memorial Center Zekelman Family Campus in Farmington Hills July 29. The exhibit runs through Dec. 30. The museum is open 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Sundays-Thursdays and 9:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Fridays.

For more information, visit www.holocaustcenter.org or call (248) 553-2400.

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