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A New York Times bestseller
A USA Today bestseller
The long-hidden diary of a young Polish woman's life during the Holocaust, translated for the first time into English
Renia Spiegel was born in 1924 to an upper-middle class Jewish family living in southeastern Poland, near what was at that time the border with Romania. At the start of 1939 Renia began a diary. “I just want a friend. I want somebody to talk to about my everyday worries and joys. Somebody who would feel what I feel, who would believe me, who would never reveal my secrets. A human being can never be such a friend and that’s why I have decided to look for a confidant in the form of a diary.” And so begins an extraordinary document of an adolescent girl’s hopes and dreams. By the fall of 1939, Renia and her younger sister Elizabeth (née Ariana) were staying with their grandparents in Przemysl, a city in the south, just as the German and Soviet armies invaded Poland. Cut off from their mother, who was in Warsaw, Renia and her family were plunged into war.
Like Anne Frank, Renia’s diary became a record of her daily life as the Nazis spread throughout Europe. Renia writes of her mundane school life, her daily drama with best friends, falling in love with her boyfriend Zygmund, as well as the agony of missing her mother, separated by bombs and invading armies. Renia had aspirations to be a writer, and the diary is filled with her poignant and thoughtful poetry. When she was forced into the city’s ghetto with the other Jews, Zygmund is able to smuggle her out to hide with his parents, taking Renia out of the ghetto, but not, ultimately to safety. The diary ends in July 1942, completed by Zygmund, after Renia is murdered by the Gestapo.
Renia's Diary has been translated from the original Polish, and includes a preface, afterword, and notes by her surviving sister, Elizabeth Bellak. An extraordinary historical document, Renia Spiegel survives through the beauty of her words and the efforts of those who loved her and preserved her legacy.
This moving diary by Spiegel (1924 1942), who was killed in the Holocaust, chronicles her life in Poland from January 31, 1939, before the German-Soviet occupation, to July 25, 1942, when she went into hiding from the Nazis. Spiegel composed most of the diary while living with her grandparents in the city of Przemysl, while her parents worked elsewhere in Poland. Spiegel comes off as a typical teenager in many of these pages, concerned with friends and parties. Her entries include a mix of poetry and detailed narrative in which she writes of missing her mother and loving her boyfriend Zygmund, whom she calls "my beating heart." (Zygmund, readers later learn, kept her diary safe after the war and, in the 1950s, delivered it to her mother in New York.) As the war advances, Spiegel's anxiety becomes palpable. She writes about wearing an armband with a blue star, fearing deportation, and moving into a ghetto. "Terrible times are coming," she predicts in the diary's final entry. The book concludes with a riveting epilogue and commentary by Spiegel's younger sister, Elizabeth, about the help she and her mother received after Spiegel's death from Catholic Poles who facilitated their escape. This family's epic, layered story of survival serves as an important Holocaust document.