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The Secret Holocaust Diary of Teenager Renia Spiegel Will Be Published After 70 Years In A Vault

It begins in January 1939, with 14-year-old Renia Spiegel living in her hometown of Przemyśl, South-East Poland, which was then under Soviet occupation.

The Polish Jewish teenager had kept a diary filling hundreds of pages until she had just turned 18 when the Nazis murdered her in 1942 after she had escaped from the ghetto.

But her 700-page diary survived. Spiegel, an aspiring poet, vividly described the first-hand horrors of the Holocaust of her daily life in Soviet- and Nazi-occupied Poland. Bombs fell, Jewish families disappeared, and the Nazis created a Jewish ghetto in 1942. Renia and her sister Elizabeth were separated from their mother, who was on the German side during the war. Almost every entry of the diary ends with "God and Bulus will save me," using the girl's pet name for her mother.

Parts of Renia’s diary are terribly bittersweet, as she cheerfully describes falling in love for the very first time for a boy named Zygmunt Schwarzer — while the reader knows how things will ultimately end. They shared their first kiss hours before the Nazis reached her hometown. On 26 June 1941, shortly after her 17th birthday, Renia wrote of being forced to wear a white armband with a blue star to signify she was a “Jew”. She was shut away in the ghetto in Przemyśl up to 15 July 1942 before being smuggled out by Zygmunt, who was working with the local resistance.

Spiegel spent the last days of her life hiding in an attic with Zygmunt’s parents and recorded her final diary entry on 28 July: “Hear O Israel, save us, help us! You have kept me safe from bullets and bombs, from grenades, help me to survive, help us!”

Two days later Renia and her boyfriend’s parents were discovered by German soldiers and the three were shot dead on the street.

Renia left the diary with her boyfriend, who wrote the chilling, heart-breaking last lines in the journal: "Three shots! Three lives lost! All I can hear are shots, shots.” He was deported to Auschwitz but left the book with someone else before he left. He managed to survive the concentration camp and retrieved the diary before migrating to the United States. In 1950, eight years after Spiegel’s execution, Schwarzer returned the diary to Spiegel’s mother Róża and sister Elisabeth, who were living in New York. Finding it too distressing to read, the family deposited it in a bank vault for 70 years before it was resurrected by Renia’s sister and her youngest daughter Alexandra who decided to have it translated it for the world to read this 'classic of holocaust literature.'

And now, after such a long time, we are be able to read her story.

Alexandra and her mother showed the diary to the film-maker Tomasz Magierski, who was so moved he decided to make a film about Renia. Magierski was also instrumental in having the book self-published in Polish.

The book titled, 'Renia’s Diary — A Young Girl’s Life in the Shadow of the Holocaust' is now being published in English for the first time.

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