A New York Times Bestseller
"A sacred reminder of what so many millions suffered, and only a few survived." —Adam Kirsch, New Republic
In 1939, Helga Weiss was a young Jewish schoolgirl in Prague. As she endured the first waves of the Nazi invasion, she began to document her experiences in a diary. During her internment at the concentration camp of Terezín, Helga’s uncle hid her diary in a brick wall. Of the 15,000 children brought to Terezín and deported to Auschwitz, there were only one hundred survivors. Helga was one of them. Miraculously, she was able to recover her diary from its hiding place after the war. These pages reveal Helga’s powerful story through her own words and illustrations. Includes a special interview with Helga by translator Neil Bermel.
Weiss begins her diary as a frightened eight-year-old in a bomb shelter, wondering what the Czechoslovakian government means by the declaration of "mobilization." The scene sets the tone of fear and confusion that will dominate her life for the next several years, the bulk of which she spends in the Jewish ghetto, Terez n. Her writings describe both the torturous physical circumstances of daily life, as well as the psychological toll wrought by ceaseless anxiety, degradation, and survivor's guilt. Although readers know Weiss will be among the approximately 1% of children who survive the camp, the section covering the eve of the war's end when the SS race around with Weiss's group of dying Jews in cattle cars to find an open extermination camp, but are blocked at every turn by advancing Allies is still a breathtaking account of the fate to which she had resigned herself. In a 2011 end-of-book interview, Weiss explains why it's worth reading another Holocaust account: "Because it's narrated in a half-childish way, it's accessible and expressive, and I think it will help people to understand those times." Indeed, an adolescent's take on such horrors accompanied by the adult Weiss's paintings is a chilling testament to the tragedy of the Holocaust. 16 color illus., photos, maps, and glossary.