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Diary of 'Polish Anne Frank' Emerges After 70 Years in Vault

Heartbreaking journal from Jewish teen Renia Spiegel will be published on Sept. 24
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Sep 13, 2019 1:56 PM CDT
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/Alexandrum79)

(Newser) – When Renia Spiegel was 15, she started keeping a diary. Now, 70 years later, the journal from the girl some call the "Polish Anne Frank" is set to be published. Per NBC News, Renia's Diary: a Holocaust Journal will be out Sept. 24 after decades stashed in a New York vault. It details Renia's life as a Jewish teen in Poland during the Nazi and Russian occupations, from 1939 until 1942, when she was shot dead at 18 by the Germans. Over 700 pages, Renia—who got stuck in the Russian-controlled part of Poland with her sister, Elizabeth, while their mom was on the German side, per Smithsonian—describes not only the more routine aspects of life, such as schoolwork and falling in love, but also the "bloodshed" of that terrible time. "I live here now; the world is separated from me, and I'm separated from the world," she wrote in June 1942 after being forced into a ghetto.

It's astounding the diary made it out of the war at all. When Renia was murdered, her boyfriend, Zygmunt Schwarzer—who also wrote the last anguished entry in the journal after Renia and his own parents were discovered in hiding and killed—got the journal to a safe place before he himself was sent to Auschwitz. Schwarzer survived the war, retrieved his lost love's diary, and sent it to her sister, who'd ended up in New York City. Elizabeth and her mother, who'd also survived the Holocaust, couldn't bear to read Renia's words, though, and locked the diary up at a local bank, where it remained until 2012. That's when Renia's niece found out about its existence and had it translated. "It is an extraordinary testament to both the horrors of war, and to the life that can exist even in the darkest times," reads a release from the journal's UK publisher. Much more on Renia's life here. (Read more diary stories.)

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