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 Terez n, 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 Terez n 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 Terez n 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.
This was Bookdepository's book of the week last month, and because I like reading about history, especially about the Holocaust, I thought I'd give it a try. Plus, it has wonderful reviews on Amazon.
It is hard not to judge this book without comparing it to other similar themed books, especially the Diary of Anne Frank, and because both are written in the style of a diary. However, there are differences between both, with Helga Weiss being still alive to this day, while Anne Frank had perished. There is also their slight age difference as to when the diary started and ended, and that Anne was in hiding while Helga was sent to a concentration camp.
The book is harrowing, of course, and at times hopeful. But Helga remained so positive throughout the entire ordeal that the feel was less grimy and sad. The book has gone through several edits by the author herself, so that the journal reads like a daily diary when it was not originally so. I wish it had remained the way it was, although the contents would have been more innocent (because of the way it was written by a younger Helga before she knew what was actually happening, as when it was edited, she already had some knowledge about gassing and camps, so it was revised with that in mind).
There is a lack of descriptions, usually in terms of setting, some entries contained mostly just her feelings, so it was sometimes difficult to imagine what she was describing. It was only when I read the interview with Helga that I understood more.
It is hard to review this book because it is a diary of truths, not some fictional story that needs to be rated.