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Renia's Diary: Book summary and reviews of Renia's Diary by Renia Spiegel

Renia's Diary

A Holocaust Journal

by Renia Spiegel

Renia's Diary by Renia Spiegel X
Renia's Diary by Renia Spiegel
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  • Published in USA  Sep 2019
    336 pages
    Genre: Biography/Memoir

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Book Summary

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 An extraordinary historical document, Renia Spiegel survives through the beauty of her words and the efforts of those who loved her and preserved her legacy.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"A terribly poignant work that conveys the brutal reality of the time through intimate connection with a young person." - Kirkus Reviews

"This family's epic, layered story of survival serves as an important Holocaust document." - Publishers Weekly

"Readers will naturally contrast Renia's diary with Anne Frank's. Renia was a little older and more sophisticated, writing frequently in poetry as well as in prose...Reading such different firsthand accounts reminds us that each of the Holocaust's millions of victims had a unique and dramatic experience. At a time when the Holocaust has receded so far into the past that even the youngest survivors are elderly, it's especially powerful to discover a youthful voice like Renia's, describing the events in real time." - Robin Shulman, Smithsonian magazine

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Author Information

Renia Spiegel

Renia Spiegel was born to a Jewish family in Poland in 1924. She began her diary at the start of 1939, right before the invasion of Poland by the German and Soviet armies. In 1942, she was forced to move to a ghetto, but was smuggled out by her boyfriend and went into hiding with his parents. She was discovered by the Gestapo and murdered on July 30, 1942.

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