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Helga's Diary: A Young Girl's Account of Life in a Concentration Campby Helga Weiss
Synopses & Reviews
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and Helga, and the artwork Helga made during her time at Terezín, Helga's Diary stands as a vivid and utterly unique historical document.
"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, TerezÃn. 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." Publishers Weekly Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved.
The remarkable diary of a young girl who survived the Holocaust—appearing in English for the first time.
In 1939, Helga Weiss was an eleven-year-old Jewish schoolgirl in Prague, enduring the first wave of the Nazi invasion. As Helga witnessed Nazi brutality toward her friends and neighbors--and eventually her own family--she began documenting her experiences in a diary. In 1941, Helga and her parents were sent to the concentration camp of Terezín, where she continued to write with astonishing insight about her daily life. Before she was sent to Auschwitz in 1944, 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 it for her after the war. Of the 15,000 children brought to Terezín and deported to Auschwitz, Helga was one of only 100 survivors. Written in school exercise books and translated here for the first time, Helga's Diary is a strikingly immediate and exceptional firsthand account of the Holocaust.
About the Author
Helga Weiss was born in 1929. After the war, she studied at the Academy of Fine Arts in Prague and became an artist. She lives to this day in the house where she was born.Born in Brooklyn, Francine Prose has published fourteen novels. The Washington Post has called her work a "sheer delight."
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