Diary of 'Polish Anne Frank' sees light 80 years later

The publication is titled "Renia's Diary: A Young Girl's Life in the Shadow of the Holocaust."

September 13, 2019 14:51
2 minute read.
Holocaust victim and diarist Renia Spiegel, who was killed at age 18 in Poland.

Holocaust victim and diarist Renia Spiegel, who was killed at age 18 in Poland.. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

The diary of Renia Spiegel, a teenage Jewish girl known now as the "Polish Anne Frank," is being released for publication for the first time since she began writing it 80 years ago.

Spiegel lived in Nazi-occupied Poland in a town called Przemysl, where she saw the country break into war and was eventually shot to death by German troops in 1942. The diary begins when she is 15 years old and describes air raids, going into hiding, Jewish families' disappearances, and more.

The publication, titled Renia's Diary: A Young Girl's Life in the Shadow of the Holocaust, is coming out in the United States on September 17.

The hand-written diary, which ran 700 pages long, survived the war thanks in part to Spiegel's first love, Zygmunt Schwarzer, according to the Polish publication The First News. Schwarzer kept the diary safe after Spiegel's death, even adding one final entry himself.  He kept it throughout his incarceration in Auschwitz, and managed to retrieve it after the war.

Schwarzer tracked down Spiegel's mother and sister in the United States where they had relocated after the war and gave them the diary in 1950.

Elizabeth, Renia's sister, told the BBC that their mother was too overwhelmed emotionally to read the diary and instead she kept it in a vault.

The diary came out of concealment when Elizabeth's daughter, Alexandra, decided to use it to learn more about her family. She had it translated from Polish to English in order to be able to understand it. Alexandra described the experience of reading it as "heart-wrenching" but nevertheless encouraged her family to have it published.

"It was after reading this diary that I was able to grasp the depth and breadth and maturity of this beautiful soul," she told the BBC. "I thought, you know, I'm not just learning about Renia, for my sake, but everyone should know this story."

The diary has often been compared to that of Anne Frank due to some stark similarities between the two: two young Jewish girls during the Holocaust, telling of their experiences and falling in love during that fearful existence.

"I have read only some of it because I used to cry all the time," Elizabeth told the BBC regarding the diary. She described her sister as a "very quiet and a very pensive girl" who was "like my surrogate mother."

Elizabeth added, "She was very intelligent. She was the head of the literary program in her school. And she was very, very kind and always thoughtful."

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