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Renia's Diary: A Holocaust Journal (2016)Description / Buy at Amazon

Renia Spiegel
Renia Spiegel was born June 18, 1924 in Uhrynkowce to Polish-Jewish parents Roza Maria Leszczynska. She grew up on her dad’s huge estate located on the Dniester River close to the border between Romania and Poland, along with a sister that was six years younger than her, named Ariana (who is now named Elizabeth Bellak) and who was once a child film star in Poland.

In the year 1938, Renia’s mom sent her off to live with her grandparents in the town of Przemysl, as she herself moved to Warsaw in order to promote Ariana’s acting career, who was later sent on to join Renia in Przemysl that same summer.

Renia’s grandma owned a stationery store while her grandpa was a construction contractor. In August of 1939, the Molotov-Ribbentrop Pact and later Nazi Invasion of Poland made it impossible for them and their mom to reach one another. Renia’s dad, named Bernard, stayed on the family estate and later vanished during the ensuing war. Ariana, having been separated from their parents, said later that Renia was like a mom to her.

While the war continued, she went to school and socialized in Przemysl, and in the year 1940, she started to develop a romantic relationship with a boy named Zygmunt Schwarzer, the son of one prominent Jewish physician that was two years older than her. She referred to him with the nickname of “Zygu”.

At the age of fourteen, Renia started keeping her diary on January 31, 1939. She kept this nearly seven hundred page diary primarily in secret, and was made of seven school exercise books that were sewn together. This diary discusses Spiegel’s everyday social, family, and school life in Przemysl, and touches on her distress from being separated from her mom, fear around the building war, the romantic relationship she had with Zygmunt Schwarzer (whom she had her first kiss with just four hours before the Nazis invaded Poland), and the horror about moving into the ghetto.

Besides handwritten entries, the diary contains some original poems and drawings. A few of her poems had been featured in the school paper. She made her final entry on July 25, 1942. Renia mentions being afraid and prays to be protected from further harm and to survive.

In July of 1942, the Przemysl ghetto was established, and Renia moved into it with the 24,000 other Jewish people. After two weeks or so, Scwarzer, who worked with the local resistance, moved Renia secretly from the ghetto and hid her as well as his own parents in the attic of his uncle’s home since they hadn’t gotten work permits that they’d need in order to avoid getting deported to concentration camps.

One unknown informant told the Nazi police about where Speigel was hiding, who then executed then eighteen year old Spiegel along with Schwarzer’s parents in the street on July 30, 1942, just over one month after turning eighteen. Renia’s mom, Schwarzer, and Renia’s sister all survived through the war and later emigrated to America.

Schwarzer took possession of this diary at the end of July, and wrote the last entries about hiding Spiegel outside of the ghetto and on her death. He left the diary with somebody else before he was sent off to the Auschwitz concentration camp. Schwarzer survived the camp, and brought the diary to America, and handed it off to Renia’s mom in the year 1950. Elizabeth, Renia’s sister gained possession of the diary in 1969 and, until the year 2012, stored it in a bank vault.

It wasn’t until 2012 that other people read the diary, and it took until 2019 for it to be published in English, called “Renia’s Diary: A Young Girl’s Life in the Shadow of the Holocaust”. It was distributed by Penguin Books and published by Ebury Publishing in the United Kingdom, and in America was published by St. Martin’s Press and distributed by Macmillan Publishers.

The book contains an epilogue and prologue penned by Elizabeth Bellak, whose daughter, Alexandra Renata Bellak (a realtor in Manhattan) had it translated into English. It was published in the year 2016 in Polish and inspired a Polish stage play to be made.

It’s also been the subject of a documentary film called “Broken Dreams”, which was directed by Tomasz Magierski and was released in the year 2019.

“Renia’s Diary” is a diary that was released in the year 2019. Renia was a young girl that came from an upper-middle class Jewish family that lived on an estate in Stawski, Poland, close to what was during that time the border with Romania. During the summer of 1939, she and her sister were visiting their grandparents in Przemysl, not too long before the Germans invaded Poland.

Renia, just like Anne Frank, wrote about her days in her beloved diary. She filled it up with some gorgeous original poetry. Her diary records how she fell in love, grew up, and was rounded up by those invading Nazis and forced into the Przemysl ghetto. It is all described in the Diary, as are the tragedies that befell her family and her ultimate fate in the year 1942, which is written in by Zygmund on the very last page of the diary.

She writes about hearing gunshots outside and knowing that somebody’s died, about hearing bombs going off, about her home being raided by Nazis and her grandpa paying them off in order to give them just a little bit more time.

This is a significant psychological and historical document, as well as serving as a true and outstanding piece of literature.. The beautiful yet raw account portrays Renia’s angst about the horrors going on everywhere. It includes notes made by Elizabeth, her surviving sister. Through her poems, Renia showcases her tremendous abilities as a poet, as her prose writing is rather incredible for somebody of such a young age.

There’s incredible maturity in her insights and observations. Her accounting of her personal life is heartbreaking, poignant, and often amusing with her expression of adolescent infatuation exposing the raw emotions of a teen.

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