The Sickness of Denial: Background information when reading Helga's Diary

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

Helga's Diary

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

by Helga Weiss

Helga's Diary by Helga Weiss
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • First Published:
    Apr 2013, 240 pages
    Feb 2014, 256 pages

  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Bob Sauerbrey

Buy This Book

About this Book

Beyond the Book:
The Sickness of Denial

Print Review

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 Britain, however, Lipstadt had to prove the truthfulness of her claim. In other words, she would have to prove that the Holocaust actually happened. In History on Trial: My Day in Court with David Irving, Deborah Lipstadt shows the importance of good scholarship to protect the past from future distortions as those involved in events begin to die away. She says, "As academicians, we must use our scholarship to support historical truth. It is our responsibility."

In the end, Justice Charles Gray found for the defendants, Deborah Lipstadt and her publisher Penguin Books. In his 300+ page judgment, he concluded,

Irving has for his own ideological reasons persistently and deliberately misrepresented and manipulated historical evidence; that for the same reasons he has portrayed Hitler in an unwarrantedly favourable light, principally in relation to his attitude towards and responsibility for the treatment of the Jews; that he is an active Holocaust denier; that he is anti-Semitic and racist, and that he associates with right-wing extremists who promote neo-Nazism. ... Therefore the defense of justification succeeds.... It follows that there must be judgment for the Defendants.

Armenian childrenThis was a victory for truth, but the struggle for the truth in the face of denial has been a reality on many fronts throughout history from the Herodotus' justifications of Greek atrocities to the Turkish official denial of the Armenian genocide of 1915 to the American government's denial of torturing civilian detainees in the Middle East.

According to Sigmund Freud, repression, a fundamental function of the ego, keeps balance in the individual by tamping down guilty or inappropriate urges, memories and wishes to the level of the unconscious, where they still affect behavior without the awareness of the individual. Even cultures can repress memories of events for which they would feel guilt or shame if brought into the light.

Germany began coming to terms with the Holocaust only recently when the generations that were victimized by or promoted the Third Reich began dying off. Germans have realized that only by facing their own shadow history will they be able to create an authentic future. Films like Der Untergang (Downfall) have had the effect of helping to heal the present by facing the past.

US soldiers search for NLFWe Americans still have many events putrefying in our past, which poison our national psyche and keep us from creating a truly healthy future. We have not honestly faced or come to terms with the following, among others:

  • the attempted genocide of Amerindian people
  • the use of nuclear weapons on civilian populations
  • the real reasons for the Vietnam War
  • our murderous appetite for firearms
  • American actions contributing to the fury witnessed in the September 11, 2001 attacks
  • an American president and vice president whose actions could fall within the definition of "crimes against humanity" as formulated at the Nuremburg Trials

While each of us is responsible for our individual lives, we are also part of ever expanding larger communities that act as extensions of our own selves. Healthy individuals require a healthy community, whether that be a neighborhood, a nation, or a world. We have a responsibility to each of these, for they will be our children's future.

Hungarian Jewish women, children and elderly just before entering the gas chambers in Auschwitz.

Armenian children being taunted by a Turkish official, 1915.

US soldiers search for NLF.

Article by Bob Sauerbrey

This article was originally published in May 2013, and has been updated for the February 2014 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.

This article is available to non-members for a limited time. You can also read these articles for free. For full access become a member today.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

One-Month Free Membership

Discover your next great read here

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket
    Ghachar Ghochar
    by Vivek Shanbhag
    The Bengaluru (aka Bangalore) that has dominated economic news headlines over the past decade is the...
  • Book Jacket: Caught in the Revolution
    Caught in the Revolution
    by Helen Rappaport
    So taken were BookBrowse's First Impression reviewers by the inside look at the start of the Russian...
  • Book Jacket: Hillbilly Elegy
    Hillbilly Elegy
    by J.D. Vance
    In this illuminating memoir, Vance recounts his trajectory from growing up a "hillbilly" in ...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
The Atomic Weight of Love
by Elizabeth J. Church

In the spirit of The Aviator's Wife, this resonant debut spans from World War II through the Vietnam War.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Our Short History
    by Lauren Grodstein

    Lauren Grodstein breaks your heart, then miraculously pieces it back together so it's stronger, than before.
    Reader Reviews

  • Book Jacket

    by Melissa Scrivner Love

    An astonishing debut crime thriller about an unforgettable woman.
    Reader Reviews

Who Said...


Click Here to find out who said this, as well as discovering other famous literary quotes!

Word Play

Solve this clue:

O My D B

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.

Modal popup -