Personality and hope abound in this diary by a teenage Polish Jewish girl who was murdered by the Nazis in 1942.
Presented by her younger sister, Elizabeth (b. 1930), the diary freezes the life of Renia (b. 1924), who began writing in 1939, in a specific moment in time. “In the end,” writes Elizabeth, “I know my words are the legacy of the life my sister didn’t get to have, while Renia’s are the memories of a youth trapped forever in war.” Much like the better-known diaries of Anne Frank and Hélène Berr, Renia’s entries are filled with day-to-day schoolgirl details, but the war consistently looms in the background. Stuck in a small city in southeastern Poland, Renia and her sister were shunted off to live with their grandparents while her mother was separated from them in German-occupied Warsaw. Bomb raids, sirens, attacks, and rumors about her town; food in short supply; worry about when she will see her mother again—these pepper her entries. “I still live in fear of searches, of violence,” she writes in January 1940; by June, when her birthday arrives, she is writing miserably of France’s capitulation and how “Hitler’s army is flooding Europe. America is refusing to help. Who knows, they might even start a war with Russia.” A new boyfriend fills many of her subsequent entries and poems, and her young love often disguises what is really going on, namely the herding of her community into a Jewish ghetto and the subsequent roundups. In an epilogue, Elizabeth explains her attempts to hide and eventual exposure to the Germans. Renowned Holocaust scholar Deborah Lipstadt provides the introduction.
A terribly poignant work that conveys the brutal reality of the time through intimate connection with a young person.