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Overview

A New York Times bestseller

A USA Today bestseller

The long-hidden diary of a young Polish woman's life during the Holocaust, translated for the first time into English

Renia Spiegel was born in 1924 to an upper-middle class Jewish family living in southeastern Poland, near what was at that time the border with Romania. At the start of 1939 Renia began a diary. “I just want a friend. I want somebody to talk to about my everyday worries and joys. Somebody who would feel what I feel, who would believe me, who would never reveal my secrets. A human being can never be such a friend and that’s why I have decided to look for a confidant in the form of a diary.” And so begins an extraordinary document of an adolescent girl’s hopes and dreams. By the fall of 1939, Renia and her younger sister Elizabeth (née Ariana) were staying with their grandparents in Przemysl, a city in the south, just as the German and Soviet armies invaded Poland. Cut off from their mother, who was in Warsaw, Renia and her family were plunged into war.

Like Anne Frank, Renia’s diary became a record of her daily life as the Nazis spread throughout Europe. Renia writes of her mundane school life, her daily drama with best friends, falling in love with her boyfriend Zygmund, as well as the agony of missing her mother, separated by bombs and invading armies. Renia had aspirations to be a writer, and the diary is filled with her poignant and thoughtful poetry. When she was forced into the city’s ghetto with the other Jews, Zygmund is able to smuggle her out to hide with his parents, taking Renia out of the ghetto, but not, ultimately to safety. The diary ends in July 1942, completed by Zygmund, after Renia is murdered by the Gestapo.

Renia's Diary has been translated from the original Polish, and includes a preface, afterword, and notes by her surviving sister, Elizabeth Bellak. An extraordinary historical document, Renia Spiegel survives through the beauty of her words and the efforts of those who loved her and preserved her legacy.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781250244024
Publisher: St. Martin''s Publishing Group
Publication date: 09/24/2019
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 8,213
Product dimensions: 6.50(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

RENIA SPIEGEL was born to a Jewish family in Poland in 1924. She began her diary at the start of 1939, right before the invasion of Poland by the German and Soviet armies. In 1942, she was forced to move to a ghetto, but was smuggled out by her boyfriend and went into hiding with his parents. She was discovered by the Gestapo and murdered on July 30, 1942.

ELIZABETH BELLAK (née Ariana Spiegel), born in 1930, was a child actress once called “the Polish Shirley Temple.” In 1942 she and her mother fled to Warsaw, and then to Austria, finally arriving in New York City, where she lives today.

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Renia's Diary: A Holocaust Journal 4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 13 reviews.
Rachel_Denise01 5 months ago
Renia’s Diary, a true diary written by a young Jewish teen that lived in Poland, is a true diary of her own words. The beginning and followup pages to delve into more information, is written by her sister who’s name is now Elizabeth. This, like all other Holocaust memoirs whether survivor or victim, is a remarkable and touching tribute to a woman taken too early. This document is touching, heart-wrenching, and absolutely needed to keep these wonderful souls known to our generation and for the generations hereafter. I loved this diary. It means so much to me as a fellow Jewish woman. It means everything.
paigereadsthepage 5 months ago
This diary contains important excerpts for comparative literature in the classroom. Readers see a diary significantly different than Anne Frank’s, in that Renia Spiegal was socially living out and about as a Jew in Przemysl, Poland. When Poland was conquered and divided between Russia and Germany under the Nazi-Soviet pact, Renia and other family members were split up for many years. Renia lived in Soviet-occupied Poland, while her mother lived in German-occupied Poland on the other side of the San River. As a result, and more fortunately for Renia and her grandparents during this time, Renia was able to live more freely as a Jew for the better part of the beginning of her diary. Although under soviet occupation, we still see a young girl torn by war and desperate to be with her mother again. She showers her diary with symbolic poems that mostly mirror her teenage angst, but sometimes reflect a war-torn society. Like most diaries, Renia Spiegal could not foresee that hers would be published. So, she does regularly sift about her thoughts and mundane day to day affairs: parties, boys, gossip, dancing, crushes, and school. There is more of the day-to-day humdrum than significant events until the Nazi’s invade the Soviet territory in June of 1941 which occurs at approximately 45% of this book. With the Nazi occupation, her life takes a different turn. She must wear an arm band, her family’s possessions are taken, and they are moved to a Przemysl ghetto. Keep in mind that this book is primarily considered a source for research and education. Being a diary, it lacks most literary elements that we find entertaining in books. I would not recommend this book for a cozy read on the couch. The last 15% of the book is her sister’s account of what happened and is extremely pertinent in order to comprehend the velocity to which all that Renia encountered. Many thanks to St. Martin’s Press and NetGalley for this advanced copy in exchange for my honest review. And, thanks to Renia who continued to write with passion amidst a cruel world.
AllysonC 6 days ago
Thank you to Netgalley, the publisher and the author's sister for the opportunity to read a complimentary copy of this book in return for a review based upon my honest opinion. This was a different book for me and hard to give a rating to; after all, how can you rate the writings of an angst filled teen girl during the war, a girl with hopes and dreams not that different from girls of any era or age, the difference for this girl being that she did not survive the war, that she was brutally shot by the Nazis. Renia Spiegel's diary itself is filled with poetry and writings of her friendships, most notably with her best friend, Nora and her romance with Zygmunt, who turn out to be not only her first love, but her only love, cut down before even getting to enjoy being alive, barely reaching adulthood at 18 but what stood out for me in Renia's writings was her poetry, she told more of her story and of the war through her poetry, which was so advanced and profound for her age. The diary suddenly cuts off and then Zygmunt writes the last few entries, telling of her death and giving us a sad ending to a promising life. How hard it must have been for him to make these entries and you can see the love between them as he kept the diary throughout the rest of his war, putting it in safekeeping before he was sent to Auschwitz and then finding and taking it to Renia's mother and sister. I wonder to myself if her mother read all of it, it must have been so heartbreaking for her, Renia so missed her mother, not one entry did not touch on how much she missed her. It must have been awful to be separated from her children. Poor Renia, she would never know how much Zygmunt really did love her; in truth, he never stopped loving her. The intro to the book, and the epilogue as well as Elizabeth's writings, tell the parts of her and Renia's life that make the picture complete. These sections of the book were teary-eyed reading for sure and left me googling pictures of Renia and Zygmunt to bring the story all together and bring faces to these poignant words. In this day and age, where hatred is abundant, it is important for us to read these stories and see where hatred can lead and how it destroys everything.
Shirleymca 3 months ago
I just finished reading "Renia's Diary. First of all I have to say the poetry was wonderful. I did enjoy it. The book was , however, long and repetitive for the most part. I was expecting a diary of the Holocaust and this was not what this book was really about. The book is about Renia a Jewish teenager growing up from 14 to 18. She is heartbroken that her mother lives in one city, her father in another and she is stuck living with her grandparents. Apparently at least part of the time her grandmother makes her feel she is a burden to them. She mostly writes about her crushes on boys in school and her school friends. Then she falls in love with one particular boy for the rest of the diary and it is about him and her feelings toward him. Toward the end is a bit on the holocaust the white armband, the ghetto relocation and the hiding in the end but it touches very briefly. I had a hard time wading through the repetitive writings about her romance with this particular boy and their fights. Also it was a bit hard to follow when the names were used in variations and the same name was not used for the same person throughout the book, it made it hard to follow who was being written about. I read the book through to the end. The most interesting part was the remarks left at the end by Renia's sister and the explanations of what took place after the war to the people mentioned in the book. Again I have to mention the poetry was very good.
makeup-your-mind 3 months ago
Death is always hardest on those you leave behind. Ultimately, it was the pain of the survivors that brought me to tears. Renia did not survive, but she came alive to me as I read the pages of her diary, and I grew to care about her and wish for her happiness. Of course, I knew there would be no HEA, and that knowledge made me so sad as I read her dreams, her hopes, her wishes, and her struggles. There are some books you read despite knowing they will be difficult, almost as some sort of penance for allowing real-life characters to undergo such hardship. I admit there's a part of me that thinks I owe it to the person who suffered, to hear their story, to feel their pain. I can never erase that pain, but allowing/forcing myself to feel it reminds me of my humanity and my responsibility to ensure nothing like this happens again. Renia was a surprisingly gifted poet and I had to remind myself of her youth more than once. Even when writing prose, her poetic inclinations were readily apparent, as was her ability to elucidate the worst tendencies of humanity: All I see is gray, cracked cobblestones and cracked, thirsty lips. I don't see the sky, because the sky is just a moldy, dusty scrap of clouds. All I can see are ashes and soot that choke, that corrode the eyes, that stifle breathing. I can see people in the streets as sharp as stones steadily crushed with pickaxes and ground into sharp, stinging dust in course, rough fingers. No revolution will ever be able to fix this. Nothing will... Because those who have velvety voices and pleasant touch, those who lead silky soft, comfortable lives, they'll always remain. There's a poem she writes which begins with the phrase, "I will draw two tiny hearts." I found it to be touching and inspiring as it provided a window into Renia's romantic soul. It made me love her. When she laments the missiles falling from the sky, she says, "These have been horrific days. Why even try to describe them? Words are just words. They can't express what it feels like when your whole soul attaches itself to a whizzing bullet. When your whole will, your whole mind and all your senses cling to the flying missiles and beg, "Not this house!" You're selfish and you forget that the missile that misses you is going to hit someone else." Truly, I have to wonder how many 17 year olds have the wisdom to realize something this profound. But Renia didn't limit her insights to those affecting other people, mourning the exposure of her secrets, by her own hand (sharing her diary), thusly: "A secret stops being itself when somebody finds it out. My heart is empty, because I said it all." Just a few days later, still feeling vulnerable because she shared her innermost thoughts, she explains the dichotomy within herself that she now feels: "It's about the fact that another 'I' exists, lives. That I'm split in two, that I expelled something and that it now exists." I imagine she felt that she had expressed her feelings in her diary and now that her feelings were "out there" it didn't matter whether she still felt that way. Her words would indicate that she did, and so when her feelings changed (as they surely would), she would now be of two separate minds. I love this book! I wrote a longer review on Goodreads, but B&N won't allow space for it here. :|
xxjenadanxx 4 months ago
It's a little difficult to review this one because while it does take place during WWII and the author was Jewish, ultimately it is a teenager's diary. Which means endless entries about boys and friendship drama. I felt really bad while reading this because it was hopelessly banal and I found Renia to be *slightly* annoying and shallow and it me feel really guilty because of knowing her fate. For most of the book there is almost no mention of anything happening outside of her boyfriend and friend groups, maybe it was a form of escapism, or maybe she was just an oblivious teenager in love. I can't say if I opened my nieces diary that it would be filled with anything of substance either. And that in itself is why I continued to read this one even though it wasn't enjoyable. Because unbeknownst to Renia, these daily recaps and poems would be her only legacy and when it comes to Holocaust stories we tend to deify the person for what became of them, and to forget that they were once just ordinary people like you and I and deserve to be remembered as such. Yes many of them did extraordinary things in times of necessity, but for the most part they were mothers, daughters, fathers and sons leading regular lives until someone decided that their mere existence was affronting. These people were more than their circumstances and we owe it to them to remember that. After the abrupt ending of Renia's diary (and her life) perfectly punctuated by the shot that killed her, we get a few entries from her beloved Zygu himself. I will say I *loathed* his treatment of her over the entirety of her diary, he was selfish and insulting and just not the best person it seemed, but he proved his worth in the end. Like I said, extraordinary in the time of necessity. Renia's sister Elizabeth/Ariana's notes added a lot of depth to this book, as well as much needed background information. I wish that they would consider adding a list of names/terms to the front of the book to help clear up some confusion as to who shes referencing in her entries. Especially with her parents names, I think it would have been helpful to have that information up front because she would often say Bulus and Mommy together like they were separate people. I do wonder too how Renia would have felt knowing people would be reading her most intimate thoughts, especially after how she reacts to Zygu doing so.
Anonymous 4 months ago
Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for a digital galley in exchange for an honest review. I have struggled with my rating of this book. I was really looking forward to reading this book. I first heard about it from a friend who read a magazine article about it. I was expecting to read a diary that was about a young girl’s experience living in WWII in Poland. Unfortunately, there was very little written about the war. It was also a very slow read. The diary begins on January 31, 1939 and includes 700 pages. It would have been helpful to have an introduction written that gives the reader some basic information before starting. I found it very confusing to keep track of all of her friend’s and classmates in the beginning of the diary. Additionally, she uses different names in reference to the same people. I believe there were footnotes that helped with this, but in the advanced digital galley I was unable to click on a footnote and get directed to the footnote. The diary focuses primarily on two things. First, her relationship with her boyfriend. Second, how much she misses her mother and wishes she could confide in her. If you are expecting to read about her reflections or experience about the war, it is barely mentioned. This was a disappointment to me, but it did make me reflect that even while living through tremendous times teenage girls still dream (and obsess) about love and boys. The diary includes a lot of poetry that Renia had written. Many were quite good. The diary gives insight into what a middle to upper class girls day to day life included. I found that very interesting and really liked the focus on writing and reading poetry. The book paints the picture of a cultured education that is very different to education in the United States today. Ultimately, this diary gives you insight into how one girl coped with the war by concentrating on her friends and boys by focusing on love and relationships instead of the turmoil of the world around it. https://www.goodreads.com/review/show/2865409680?book_show_action=false&from_review_page=1
Ronnie293 4 months ago
Renia’s Diary is the journal entries of Polish born Renia Spiegel from 1939, age 15 until 1942 when she was murdered, at age 18, by the Nazi’s. Diaries are an important part of holocaust history. They allow us to hear the voice of those that did not survive. The diarist is writing in the present and has no idea what today’s events may have on things to come. Renia writes in her diary as if talking to a friend. It is filled with teenage angst; first love, first kiss and jealousies. At times the war takes a back seat to Renia’s self doubt, troubles with friends and talk about boys. Whilst at other times it is the full focus of her entries. A lot of her feelings are reflected through poetry. She really is an amazing poet! When the German and Soviet armies split Poland into two zones Renia is living in Przemysl, a small city in south-eastern Poland, with her Grandparents and the yearning for her mother is constant and heart-breaking to read. As you would expect in a young girls diary some of the entries are obscure. She sometimes uses in-jokes or code words and you need to read between the lines. As Renia ages you can feel a shift in her entries as she moves from the self-centred anguish of a young teen to a those of a mature woman in love. The diary is published by Renia’s younger sister Elizabeth who escaped due to the help of Renia’s boyfriend, Zygu, and family friends. Elizabeth fills in a lot of the blanks that are left by the diary. A must read!
Rhonda-Runner1 4 months ago
My favorite part of this book was the Commentary by Renia's younger sister, Ariana (Elizabeth) near the end of the book. Renia's diary read much like what I remember from when I was a teenager which consisted of relationships with male and female friends and acquaintances, school difficulties, parties and worrying about boyfriends. Renia was obviously a very gifted writer and her diary included a lot of poems most of which I just skimmed over because I am not into poetry. The book was good but I thought quite sad especially when she talks about her mother being gone for such long periods of time. Thank you NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for the ARC of this very interesting book.
SharSam 4 months ago
Renia's Diary is written by a young girl very intelligent, gifted writer, experiencing war, family hardship, young love, and sadly eventually she's taken during the war and never heard from again. Her family found her diary and published it years later. It's sad, funny, endearing and full of heart. Renia started her Diary calling it her friend, of which I found very sweet. Her diary was her best friend that she shared secrets, deep thoughts, and daily challenges about everything from school to missing her mother enormously. The diary spans from 1939 to 1942, her last birthday June 18, 1942, she turned 18 years old, that entry was my favorite, but then again sad because I knew this beautiful young lady wouldn't have a chance to live long. The book made me realize how delicate life is, how wonderful we have it now, how devastating war can be. Books like this are so important to keep as a reminder of what war does to you, your community, and family. Most of the days Renia kept a log, she included a poem, and everyone of them I simply loved. What an amazing talented young lady. Here is a quote from a poem that spoke to me, "The moon swims out in silence, To shine in the sky, to shimmer for dreamers, While below a street rumbles, shrilly, Crunching with labor, hot and weary" This is a book to buy, and keep on your shelf forever.
Anonymous 4 months ago
In 1939, a fourteen year old girl began to keep a dairy. Her diary was her friend, a way to share her private thoughts, secret and dreams. This book presents many of her diary entries. She writes about school, parties and activities, and the ups and downs of girl friends, boyfriends and family. The diary is where she also shares her lovely poetry. What makes this diary a treasure is that the girl was a Jewish girl living in Poland. Her diary entries end on July 30, 1942. In the introduction to the book, Deborah E. Lipstadt, a professor of Holocaust history notes a diary is different from a memoir, in that a diary is immediate and day-to-day. A diary writer shares current events in the moment, not filtered through the passage of time, and reflection. So Renia, who lives through the first years of World War II, writes about what matters to her. And what matters to her is fixing problems with her girl friends, and longing for a boyfriend, and doing well on a math test. Of course, for readers 80 years later, that is what makes this diary so wrenching and heart-breaking, as we know what this young girl will face. Renia’s younger sister Elizabeth Bellak adds an epilogue and commentary which gives some context about the history of the times. She also tells how Renia’s diary came to be given to her, which is amazing that she now has the diary. Elizabeth’s story is also incredible and I hope she shares more about her own life. I sincerely thank St Martin’s Press for this book. Never forget. Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press forma digital review copy. This is my honest review.
TJReads 4 months ago
This is a diary written by Renia Spiegel as a young girl in the midst of the beginnings of WWII, please keep that in mind when you make your decision to read this one. I felt the bulk of the book was really a YA read, but the introduction, prologue and Elizabeth’s commentary made this one worth my while. Renia describes her life day by day as a young girl would, most of the writings were not particularly about the trials and tribulations of the war, but of her school, her friends, missing her mother and her infatuation with a certain young man. As Renia dreamed of a future life, the story does bear witness to the tragedy that befell so many during the horrific events of the Holocaust. I am glad to have been given the opportunity to receive this book from St. Martin’s Press through NetGalley. The opinions expressed in this review are completely my own. This one gets 3 stars.
3900980 4 months ago
Renia Spiegel was born in Poland and at the age of 18 died by a gunshot to the head for being Jewish. She died a victim of the Holocaust. Between the ages of 15 to 18, Renia kept a diary. It took over 50 years for her 700 pages of diary to find its way to her sister Ariana (Elizabeth as she is now known as). And now it has found its way to us. In her diary Renia not only chronicles her struggles, but the helplessness of her family and friends who endured as well. Renia kept a record of her daily activities, going to school, arguments with friends, parties, types of stories written by any teenager, but she also kept her deepest secrets, her thoughts, her prayers, her loves, her fears and her dreams for the future in there as well. She called her diary her best friend. She chronicles the beginning of the German's and Russian's taking over Poland. She writes about her mother who is in Warsaw and is unable to be with her. She heartbreakingly to ends her passages with words to her mother. She desperately held on to thoughts of seeing her again and hoping she was still alive. She writes about her one and only love Zygmund. In one passage she dreams of having children with her future husband and how God has been so good to her. She is such an old soul who witnessed horror no one. let alone a child should see and hear. Renia writes about hearing gunshots outside and knowing someone has died, of hearing bombs, of her house being raided by the Nazi's and her grandfather paying them off to give them a little more time... Her diary is also filled with beautiful poems. She wrote incredible prose for such a young age they could rival any adult author's compositions of today. Her words are so profound and meaningful. One can only wonder who Renia would have become if she had lived. I must say I was honored to read this diary which I believe is an incredible historical document.