Helga's Diary: A Young Girl's Accout of Life in a Concentration Camp

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Overview

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 ...

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

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Overview

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and Helga, and the artwork Helga made during her time at Terezín, Helga's Diary stands as a vivid and utterly unique historical document.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
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.)
Francine Prose
“What's startling, throughout, is the resilience with which her buoyant spirit keeps bobbing up past the hardships, indignities, and cruelties of her captors.”
The Telegraph
“The most moving Holocaust diary published since Anne Frank.”
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 Daily Beast
“At times the struggle of this young girl in the face of evil becomes so real that you’ll notice yourself adjusting your blanket and thermostat right along with her as she shivers in the worst of conditions.”
Malcolm Forbes - The Rumpus
“Page after page of writing that candidly, expertly, showcases humanity at its best and its worst.”
Kirkus Reviews
A young Prague girl's diary, amended after the events, chronicles her yearning for a normal life before deportation to Terezin and Auschwitz. Covering the fraught period between Czechoslovakia's mobilization for war in late 1938, when the author turned 9, to May 1945, when Weiss and her mother finally returned to Prague after the capitulation of the prison camp Mauthausen, where they were last transported, this diary offers a poignant look at the tense, precarious fate of the Jews under Nazi occupation. Weiss lived with her mother and father in a middle-class flat in Prague when the Germans invaded her homeland and anti-Jewish laws were put into place, gradually restricting every aspect of their lives. The author's school was closed down, forcing her to be home-schooled at private apartments, and her unemployed father took over the cooking and cleaning. In December 1941, Weiss and her parents were deported to Terezin, confined to the bleak, disease-ridden barracks, and under constant threat of more transports east. In October 1944, Weiss' father was sent to a labor camp, never to be seen again, while the author and her mother were sent briefly to Auschwitz, then to work in an airplane factory in Freiberg. Lying about her age, she was able to stay with her mother, and they managed to survive the cold, disease and hunger. Before transport, the diary and drawings were given to her uncle at Terezin, who worked in the records department and bricked the documents in the walls of the barracks. After the war, she subsequently edited and added the sections on the concentration camps, all carefully documented here. Weiss' moving eyewitness portrait adds a deepening to the understanding of the Jews' plight during this horrific period in history.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780393077971
  • Publisher: Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
  • Publication date: 4/22/2013
  • Pages: 256
  • Sales rank: 308,789
  • Product dimensions: 5.80 (w) x 8.30 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Helga Weiss was born in Prague in 1929. After surviving the Holocaust and the Second World War, Helga returned to Prague, studied at the Academy of Fine Arts, and became an artist. She has two children, three grandchildren, and lives to this day in the apartment where she was born.

Francine Prose is the author of sixteen books of fiction, including Blue Angel, which was a finalist for the National Book Award. Among her most recent works of nonfiction is the highly acclaimed Anne Frank: The Book, The Life, The Afterlife. A former president of PEN American Center, she lives in New York City.

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Customer Reviews

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Sort by: Showing all of 2 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 31, 2013

    i haven't read this book either, sorry.

    i haven't read this book either, sorry.

    0 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 17, 2013

    R

    How come no ones written anything? I havent read this book but Im interested. Please respond to me. Im 11. Respond to 11 year old &waiting

    0 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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