In 1941, Helga and her parents were sent to the concentration camp of Terezin. There, Helga continued to write with astonishing insight about her daily life: the squalid living quarters, the cruel rationing of food, and the executions--as well as the moments of joy and hope that persisted in even the worst conditions.
In 1944, Helga and her family were sent to Auschwitz. Before she left, Helga's uncle, who worked in the Terezin records department, hid her diary and drawings in a brick wall. Miraculously, he was able to reclaim them for her after the war.
Of the 15,000 children brought to Terezin and later deported to Auschwitz, only 100 survived. Helga was one of them. Reconstructed from her original notebooks, the diary is presented here in its entirety. With an introduction by Francine Prose, a revealing interview between translator Neil Bermel and Helga, and the artwork Helga made during her time at Terezin, Helga's Diary stands as a vivid and utterly unique historical document.
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2013-02-25
- Reviewer: Staff
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, Terezín. 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. (Apr.)