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Diary of Irene Hauser

Hauser Diary
US Holocaust Memorial Museum; Jewish Historical Institute (ŻIH), Warsaw

As Nazi policies of forced labor, deportation, and mass murder fractured families during the Holocaust, many Jewish women were forced to begin serving as their families' primary provider as well as the principal caregiver for their children. The transformation or reversal of traditional gender roles happened often amid the extraordinarily difficult living conditions of ghettos established in German-occupied Poland.1 Irene Hauser's diary from the Łódź ghetto records the challenges she and her family faced in stark detail.2 The featured entries offer a harsh account of illness, starvation, and the breakdown of her marriage and family structure.

Irene Hauser was born in 1901 near Linz, Austria. In October 1941, she was deported from her home in Vienna to the Łódź ghetto along with her husband Leo and their six-year-old son Erich (referred to in her diary as "Bubi"). Hauser's diary, which she kept from March to September 1942, describes her gradual starvation and the collapse of her family under the pressures of everyday life in the ghetto. She writes fearfully of her son's fragile health, and the diary is filled with descriptions of Leo’s inability to fulfill his traditional responsibilities as husband, provider, and father. 

Hauser wrote that her sick son had "no help from his father," who would spend the little money they had on cigarettes for himself. At one point, she wonders whether she might have been better off alone. In several diary entries from the summer of 1942, Hauser records that her husband’s behavior was growing threatening and erratic.3 While the details are unclear, it appears that Hauser sought legal separation in July 1942. When her request for a separate residence was not granted, she moved in with a friend briefly before returning to her apartment with Leo. Hauser's situation—and her frustration with her additional challenges and responsibilities—was quite common among Jewish women in Łódź.4 

In the final few entries of Hauser’s diary, dated September 2–8, 1942, she describes watching as all children in the ghetto under the age of ten were turned over for deportation to the Chełmno killing center.5 Hauser hid with her son Erich as the deportations began, and she chose to go with him when he was ultimately deported. Irene and Erich were likely murdered in gas vans at Chełmno on September 11, 1942. Leo was deported to forced labor at Skarzysko-Kamienna in 1944, and he survived a death march to Buchenwald before being liberated at the end of the war. 

The conditions of the Łódź ghetto—forced labor, mass starvation, and widespread disease—were common in the ghettos established by Nazi authorities in German-occupied Poland.6 Many families’ prewar dynamics changed or collapsed completely under the incredible strain of life under Nazi rule.7  Hauser's diary points to ways in which German policies of ghettoization and murder often led to the destabilization and destruction of traditional family structures and gender roles.

To learn more, see Michael Unger, "The Status and Plight of Women in the Łódź Ghetto" in Dalia Ofer and Lenore J. Weitzman, eds., Women in the Holocaust (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1998), 123–142.

For more on life in the Łódź Ghetto, see the Experiencing History items, "The Program of the Ghetto Newspaper," "Family Life" in the Łódź Ghetto, and Forty-two Weddings in the Lodz Ghetto.

For example, in a cryptic set of entries on July 28 and August 5, Hauser writes: "Go to the office. He will be resettled and the bloody clothing will come back. More likely he intends to destroy all 3 of us. I have to act now, as he wants to have the child and I am supposed to move out so that he can still take advantage of it. He stops at nothing, threatens incessantly, and I can't stay near him a day longer. Today—decision."

Unger, "The Status and Plight of Women," 135–136.

The selection presented here includes some of Hauser's entries for July 15 to September 8, 1942. For the full version of the diary, see the USHMM collections information available below.

In addition to the 40,000 Central European Jews to deported to the Lodz ghetto from 1941 to 1942, 5,000 Roma and Sinti  people from Austria were also imprisoned there in 1941. For more on the experiences of Roma and Sinti in the Lodz ghetto, see the related item in Experiencing History, Photo of Romani Section of the Lodz Ghetto.

To learn more, see Marion Kaplan, Between Dignity and Despair: Jewish Life in Nazi Germany (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999). 

See scans 1–4 of the diary in the source viewing window.


Jumping from bridges or buildings was a common means of taking one's own life in the ghetto.



German, Schalen mit Brennmaterial: In this diary, Schalen most often refers to potato peels or other vegetable peels; here it probably means "bowls" or "cups." Brennmaterial commonly refers in German to fuel or combustible material. Here it likely refers to scraps of tobacco from discarded cigarettes that might have been scraped together and sold. 


This entry, the first of two for July 16, appears on scan 4 in source viewer.


This entry, the second for July 16, appears on scan 5 in the source viewer.


See scans 5 and 6 in the source viewer. 

Yiddish, nile-tsayt: Time for the Neilah prayer at the end of Yom Kippur. The phrase is used in expressions like "s'iz nile-tsayt," meaning that it's closing time, locking-up time, all over.

"Dkg": Abbreviation for "decagram," the equivalent of ten grams, or about a third of an ounce. "Diakohle": Presumably a remedy for malnutrition. 

The "marks" are ghetto marks, the ghetto currency. Sometimes Hauser denotes this currency with a dash following the amount.

The entry for July 19 appears on scans 7 and 8 in the viewer, and contains fragments of ghetto songs transcribed by Hauser. The entry is presented here only in part, without text appearing on another leaf in the diary.


A fragment of a song sung in the streets of the ghetto. The ghetto's tailoring workshop was located at 14 Jakuba street, which employed some of the women and girls who remained after more than 50,000 of the ghetto's Jews were deported to the Chelmno killing center during the first half of 1942.

Yiddish: A German Jew.

Marysin was the northeastern area of the Łódź ghetto, home to fields, gardens, and cottages. A favorite of the ghetto elite, Marysin became a symbol of health and plenty to the ghetto's inhabitants. Here Hauser includes her own rendition of a popular Yiddish ghetto song:

"There goes a yekke, oy
with a briefcase.
He’s looking for
butter and margarine.
On no account,
nothing to buy.
He gets a visa
to Marysin." 

The carts referred to in the song were used to transport human excreta to Marysin for disposal in large pits.

Scan 9 captures the entries for July 21 and 22, August 3 and 6, and an undated list of Hauser's closest relatives and their birthdates:

"Irene  19 March 1901
Leopold  22 May 1898
Erich  21 April 1936
Pipsi  13 November 1909
Ernst  27 April 1903
Irma  15 September 1895
Erwin  27 November 1898
Mother 1 January 1865
Father  15 June 1864

Birthdates of the entire Hacker family and my husband and child. Hauser."

See scan 10. Text for the entry begins on the righthand page and follows onto the opposite leaf.

X-rays of the lungs permitted doctors in the ghetto a means of discovering tuberculosis infections, one of the most deadly illnesses afflicting the ghetto population.

Scan 11 presents one of two entries for July 24. The entry begins on the right page and continues on the opposite leaf. 

Scan 12 presents a fragment of Hauser's entry for July 26, appearing on the right-hand page.

The second and third of three entries for 28 July appears on scans 13 and 14.

At Fischgasse 8 was the administrative office charged with assisting those Jews "resettled" to the ghetto from the Third Reich.


See scan 9 for the diary entry of August 3. 

The text for Hauser's August 5 entry begins at the bottom right of scan 15 and continues on the opposite page.

See scan 9 for the entry of August 6.

The entries for September 1 through September 8 appear on scan 16–21.

On September 2, the Germans ordered the Jewish ghetto authorities to prepare 20,000 people for deportation: the sick, the elderly, and the children. On September 4, head of the ghetto's Judenrat, Mordechai Chaim Rumkowski, announced the order in a speech.

Following the speech by Rumkowski on September 4, a general curfew was ordered to keep Jews in their homes for eight days. Assisted by Jewish ghetto police and firemen, German SS and police authorities then assembled, inspected, and selected the elderly, the ill, and children under age 10 for deportation. More than 500 Jews were murdered during the round-up. Between 5 and 12 September 1942, more than 15,000 people were sent to their deaths at the Chełmno killing center.

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Note: Several entries from the period July 15 to September 8 are omitted from the selection below. While they are presented in sequence here, entries in Hauser's diary often do not appear in chronological order; some entries follow on the opposite page rather than on the next leaf. See citations for notes on the translation and guidelines for reading the selections alongside the original German text. 


Wednesday [15 July, 1942]1

Young woman fallen from the bridge and dead.2 In spite of something to eat for three days, [I] feel today that my strength is at an end and must now sacrifice the last to stave off starvation. For the child's sake. He gets no help from his father, who values only cigarettes and cups of burnable scraps.3 He is wasteful, and I have no power over him. We are lost with him. I'm supposed to take bread to him at the bank and I can't drag myself anymore. He's leaving us to die without batting an eye. I have sacrificed everything, money, belongings, and strength, and it's not even enough for him. He wants the last penny just for cigarettes. I can't go on, my protruding bones hurt. Washed [the] tricot dress for Frau Fuchs. It's about trading services now. Thank God, I've found people who will stand by me as much as can be possible here. I want to force myself once more to have the courage to live, God willing, for my child, the poor little thing. We are in such a bad state because there was absolutely no money sent to us. May God deliver us soon, at his will. The agony is so great, the sins are already expiated for the others. I pray for speedy release. God, let me fall asleep in peace and rest with my mother, my last wish, if I have to pass over. The child cries [from] hunger, the father [wants] cigarettes, the mother wants to die—family life in the ghetto. For now my heart still works, but it can't possibly outlast the war.

16 July4

I've been eating good soup for three days, and my strength is fading by the hour. Was at the housing office, as [I] can't get up the stairs anymore and everything is very hard to reach. Just cronyism [there], as the world over; I don't even have enough pull to die, and I'm not going of my own accord, my child has to have me, God have mercy on us in this last minute, there is no other resort anymore. [Have had] ration coupons for 6 days, and [they] aren't issuing [the rations]. Leo explodes because the rations are eaten up and today is Thursday. The next, not until Monday, they give out 3 bunches of carrots per family.

16 July5

Ms. Fuchs provided my most recent lifesaver. Lord stand by me and my child, because I can't go on, a miracle has to happen otherwise we're done, we can't go on. Erich is sweating in the bed from weakness, eerie to watch, the flies are sitting on his eyes and mouth, as intrusive as the people around here, awful people. To this day we haven't received mail from anybody and 9 months here, it's exasperating.

18 July6

Can't go on. Either a doctor helps me stand up or it's all over for me,7 tomorrow I go to the hospital; Dr. Proskauer has prescribed 50 dkg of yeast and Diakohle8 for me and the child because of malnutrition, it would cost 75 marks. But in the milk shop 7 marks.9

May God grant that this helps, because I can't go on. Gave Bubi [sic] courage.

19 July10

Delivery of vegetables from 12 to 2 p.m. I come downstairs, [but it was] changed to between 7 and 8. So you go up and down the stairs for nothing, and this is the daily state of affairs. Stand in line for sausage for 5 hours in vain.

Bread at 5 a.m. Windows shatter, that's what happens, a matter of life and death. The clerks are worthless, you don’t get any information.

In Jakuba school women and girls wear pants and they complain.11

There goes a yekke12 with the blanket. He buys himself butter, margarine. He has no oven, no bread to buy, he buys himself a bonbon—a visa for Marysin.13 Ghetto songs.

My child goes hungry such a good boy and I cry quite silently and one can't be broken. The way from Marischin to the ghetto took 1 hour and the child was not wanted on the cart. 

Come along to Marischin, help us pull the cart,14 it's the greatest sport, in this climatic health resort. It would have been best if they had buried us outside on arrival, because one feels the atrocity of this life every hour.

21 July15

Bedroom changed, more cheerful, first yeast [was] eaten, mixed with roux and spread on bread.

22 July

Have severe pain. Bubi rubs me with vinegar water, nervous breakdown. Have ointment from the doctor, very good remedy. Still have 30 dkg of yeast left from Dr. Konnstein. 

23 July16

[Leo] goes and sells the child's jacket and trousers. He wants to take everything, if only it were already over. I'm lying here as if paralyzed, he's unwilling to call a doctor because he doesn't want to pay, I'm sorry for the poor child. Frau Fuchs went 2x to Dr. Konnstein with me. Was examined and prescribed medicine, also yeast, Bubi ate up my 20 dkg because he was hungry and there was no bread. Today [I'm] going to the hospital for an X-ray17 and then I'm supposed to work to get the coupon. Because of my severe undernourishment I have awful pains in my back and am hungry.

24 July18 

Today it's 9 months that we are here, also a Friday. 2 executions because of holdup murder. 1/2 bread and 60 Mark. 18-year-old lads are falling over. My neighbors, woman 46 daughter 17 daughter under me 2 year old child dead from starvation and so on. Soon there has to come rescue for us otherwise we are all destroyed, god help us. Mr. and Ms. Fuchs are helping me in every manner to ease this terrible situation and Bubi gets a bite, he is so hungry. These people are my saviors. Leo is going out today on an apartment matter, I wasn't, thought we should stay at home alone.

26 July19

....Leo has managed ineptly. All 3 of us have been ruined by it, last resort Herr and Frau Fuchs and Dr. Konnstein. There are lots of vegetables and no fat and flour, more than 100 people die every day from feebleness. Many young men. Must have a lung X-ray on 31 July.

28 July20

Can't go, as I'm afraid to lose anything because I'm so thin. Today we have 3 butter, 2 farmer cheese, no saccharine for the day. Bubi gets in line for vegetables at 3:30. Nevertheless he's starved and looks bad. I've been praying since early morning for my child to stay healthy and not get as debilitated as I am. Leo tells me to fight against a shadow. He's on the wrong side to play the good one. He always promises to share but then leaves me no money. No power in the world can change him, if I live through this, I'll move somewhere else with the child. I'll gladly work for us and the child. Fischgasse21 has threatened him.

The rich sell bowls of vegetables to the poor or trade them for clothes of people who have been resettled here. Hunger drives the price of food sky-high, especially bread, flour, fruit and soup from the workshops. If no rations are given out.

28 July 

33 marks and no food. Vegetables 7.50, butter 1 dkg farmer cheese 14.50 + 5 dkg + 2 d. to stew for 3 people. Only bread for lunch. 1 ½ bu. … [illegible]

Days without food: 6 February 1942. 27 April 1942. 9 February 1942. 2 May 1942. 15 February (etc. etc. up to 18 April 1942)

August 322

Leo’s summons [to] Fischgasse regarding separation.

August 523

Go to the office. [Leo] will be resettled and the bloody clothing will come back. More likely he intends to destroy all 3 of us. I have to act now, as he wants to have the child and I am supposed to move out so that he can still take advantage of it. He stops at nothing, threatens incessantly, and I can't stay near him a day longer. Today—decision.

August 624

Agreed to dissolve the [marital] union. Moved in with Mrs. Hofrat, Wilhelm St, first floor, no. 28.

1 September25 

I am lying down today with diarrhea from bad bread. Frau Lilly cooks the potatoes for us. Have no grain flakes and need them badly. At the pharmacy, still no strychnine. Leo has 8 days of sick leave and already on the 3rd day nothing to eat. We can't give him anything, potatoes are missing from my rations every day.

2 September

Today they take all the hospitals, send them all away. Children from the apartments, if Erich has to go, I'll go too. Sudden drop in temperature and cold. Alarm. 2 September. No rain in weeks. Have diarrhea today 16 times. Frau Lukin brings Bubi potato soup with bread at 1:30 p.m., as Leo has let us down. I have my little piece of bread with water. 

3 September

Fuchs supplies yeast, eat with bread and 4 potatoes each by evening. Very hot day. Flies a nuisance. 

September 4

At embroidery workshop with Frau Lilly and Benedikt on trial. Will let me know in 2 days about acceptance. Rumkowky [sic] spoke 4 p.m.26 They want to steal 13,000 children from us within 6 days. God help us. All the mothers are crying, and I don't want to believe it. 10:45 p.m. alarm. 11:15 light bomb on Gestapo next to us. 1:30 a.m. second alarm, rocket flares along the periphery.

5 September

Saturday. Children picked up at 6 a.m., Judengasse. Kirchgasse, awful yelling. Pull them down off the trucks and keep the police in check. Bread came 1 day early, 20 dkg too little per person. Have eaten it up in 4 meals, now I have none for 2 days.

Now 3 trucks are in front of building no. 3-5 and they don't know what to do because all the mothers ran away with their children. We did too. Stayed with Bubi until 2:30 in a shed, then posting of notice about 5 p.m. curfew. Everyone has to go home. At 3:30 a truck full of 65-year-olds and children up to age 10 drives away. Now a quiet night will follow, after this terror.

September 6

Wonderful Sunday rest. We have nothing to eat and drink. Thank God, Frau Lilly sends me 3 marks. In exchange for that, Frau Lukin gives me stalks and beet-greens. Make soup and greens. Was quite good but it gave Bubi and me diarrhea. The truck has been standing for hours at no. 5. Leo is downstairs at the front entrance. People are standing around nervously in the courtyards, the children in the rooms, and we're awaiting our fate. The truck left at 3:30 with the children, some mothers went too, and old people. Now it won't start again until 5 a.m. In the evening Bubi has diarrhea and is vomiting, caused by the soup.  I [have] diarrhea 5 times. We are all worn out. 3 days no bread and in addition the curfew,

September 7

No workshop is operating this week. Only police and firemen are allowed on the streets. Yesterday evening the biggest storm, dry from 7 to 10 p.m. and then 2 hours of rain with thunder and lightning. Thank God. Now it's 7:30 in the morning and I'm waiting to see if I will have soup for the child. Leo gets a second pair of shoes and lets the child go hungry. At 10 a.m. Bubi has jaundice. Face swollen. At no. 13 the truck drives away with children, maybe it would be better to go along. Bubi doesn't want to go voluntarily. Now it's 12:30 and nobody is fond of us, we have nothing in our stomachs.

Now the hardest days are coming, no money and not a morsel of bread, my poor child is already low-spirited from hunger, my heart bleeds, dear God what shall I do, jaundice on top of everything else. Leo is completely swollen, one eye almost closed, clubfooted from hunger. We live on cold, bitter tea.

September 8

At 4 a.m. the Kinderaktion27 continues with the help of the military, as it was taking too much time. We continue to fear. Bubi doesn't want to go with me voluntarily, I thought that we might get soup sooner, let's just rely on God, humans can't help us because there are none. Since 6 a.m. they have been standing, staying and waiting for bread, despite the curfew and closed shops, no one has work and we are 100,000 cowardly people and don't move a muscle.

Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
US Holocaust Memorial Museum
Jewish Historical Institute (ŻIH), Warsaw
RG Number 2.208M
Accession Number 1995.A.0867
Date Created
July 12, 1942 to September 8, 1942
Author / Creator
Irene Hauser
Łódź, Poland
Document Type Diary
How to Cite Museum Materials

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