Helga’s Diary

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Having read only a small amount about Terezin, a ghetto/concentration camp where many Jews spent time during the war, I was intrigued to pick up this memoir of young Helga’s internment. Written during the time she spent within its confines and saved by an uncle who escaped deportment, the diary details a daily life where families were separated, hunger abounded, and anxiety over what lay ahead were constant concerns. Yet Terezin was not the worst camp for Jews, and its inhabitants strove to make it as normal as possible, with plays, concerts, and worship. During her stay, Helga not only kept her diary, she drew detailed pictures of what she lived, and these are included within the book.

With lots of footnotes included by the translator, Neil Bermel, we follow Helga during her years as an inmate of Terezin; the portion that describes what happens to she and her mother after they are deported to Auschwitz was added after the war. The entries are often choppy and the footnotes, while adding some illumination, can be distracting as the translator spends a lot of time pointing out what is wrong or has been changed. Despite its minor flaws, Helga’s Diary serves as a poignant reminder that the echoes of the Holocaust continue to exist even today.

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