Smithsonian Magazine November 2018
A Polish young woman, Renia Spiegel started her diary on Jan. 31, 1939 when she was 18 years old: “… Today, my dear diary, is the beginning of our deep friendship.”
Left to right: Renia in Przemysl, 1930; Renia in 1936; Renia with her best friend, Nora, in Przemysl in 1938, the year before Germany invaded Poland. (Courtesy of Bellak family)Her last entry was on July 25, 1942:
… the worst moment is upon us. … Hear, O, Israel, save us, help us. You’ve kept me safe from bullets and bombs, from grenades. Help me survive! …
Three days later, her fiance, Zygmunt Schwarzer, found a hiding place for Renia and his parents, then he helped Renia’s younger sister escape. Renia and his parents were discovered hiding three days later on July 31 and were executed.
Zygmunt wrote the last 6 entries in Renia’s diary. He eventually was sent to as series of concentration camps and survived. Somehow Renia’s diary was returned to him in the US. In the 1950s, Zygmunt gave Renia’s diary to her mother and younger sister. They couldn’t bear to read it – they didn’t want to revisit the long-ago terrors they had lived through. In 2010, the younger sister’s daughter had the diary translated into English. In 2016, the diary was published (in Polish) in Poland.
This magazine issue is the first published English version of Renia’s diary.