Summary and book reviews of Helga's Diary by Helga Weiss

Helga's Diary

A Young Girl's Account of Life in a Concentration Camp

By Helga Weiss

Helga's Diary
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  • Hardcover: Apr 2013,
    240 pages.
    Paperback: Feb 2014,
    256 pages.

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Book Reviewed by:
Bob Sauerbrey

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About this Book

Book Summary

The remarkable diary of a young girl who survived the Holocaust—appearing in English for the first time.

In 1939, Helga Weiss was a young Jewish schoolgirl in Prague. Along with some 45,000 Jews living in the city, Helga's family endured the first wave of the Nazi invasion: her father was denied work; she was forbidden from attending regular school. As Helga witnessed the increasing Nazi brutality, she began documenting her experiences in a diary.

In 1941, Helga and her parents were sent to the concentration camp of Terezín. 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 Terezín 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 Terezín 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and Helga, and the artwork Helga made during her time at Terezín, Helga's Diary stands as a vivid and utterly unique historical document.

1
PRAGUE

What do they mean by "mobilization"? All young men have to join up. Why? Not long ago it was all about Austria, and now it's mobilization again. People can't talk about anything else. But what is it? Why aren't Mom and Dad home today? Instead of telling me what this mobilization's about, they've gone to listen to the radio. Anyway, it's just an excuse, because they could listen to the radio at home. They must have gone to their friends' house so they could talk about the mobilization. What must they think of me? That I'm still just a little girl, with whom they can't talk about anything? I'm a big girl already, I'll be nine soon. My God, what time are the bells tolling? I have to go to school tomorrow and I'm still not asleep. This silly mobilization has made me forget about school completely.

What air raid? Into the cellar—now, at night? Why are you getting me up, Mommy? What's wrong, what's ...

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Reviews

BookBrowse

In 2011, Neil Bermel, translator of Helga's Diary: A Young Girl's Account of Life in a Concentration Camp, asked Helga Weiss, ”What would you say is the contribution of your diary? Why should we read another account of the Holocaust?”

Helga answered, ”Mostly because it is truthful.”

That is at the heart of this significant and moving contribution to the literature of the Holocaust.   (Reviewed by Bob Sauerbrey).

Full Review Members Only (1169 words).

Media Reviews
Publishers Weekly

[An] adolescent's take on such horrors—accompanied by the adult Weiss's paintings—is a chilling testament to the tragedy of the Holocaust.

Kirkus Reviews

Weiss' moving eyewitness portrait adds a deepening to the understanding of the Jews' plight during this horrific period in history.

Booklist

As the number of Holocaust survivors dwindles dramatically, the potency of first-hand accounts increases with each passing year.... Illustrated with family photographs and her own paintings and drawings, Helga’s Diary serves as a remarkable testament to her horrific journey and the ultimate resiliency of youth. Since so few of the approximately 15,000 children interred in Terezin survived, Helga’s Diary, like the collective reminiscences in Hannelore Brenner’s The Girls of Room 28 (2009), must speak for all the young voices that were prematurely stifled.

The Telegraph (UK)

The most moving Holocaust diary published since Anne Frank.

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The Sickness of Denial

Helga's Diary is an important book because it protects the truth of our human past, and truth has often been in danger. "In war, truth is the first casualty." Any great conflict brings us to the same confrontation with distortion, lies, and historical reconstruction.

Hungarian JewsIn 2000, a libel trial took place in Great Britain. David Irving, a prolific British writer on history, sued Dr. Deborah Lipstadt of Emory University for defaming his reputation. Dr. Lipstadt had identified Irving in her 1993 book, Denying the Holocaust: The Growing Assault on Truth and Memory, as a 'dangerous spokesperson' for Holocaust denial. If the trial had taken place in the United States, Irving would have needed to prove the falsity of Lipstadt's charge; in ...

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