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Renia's Diary: A Holocaust Journal

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The long-hidden diary of a young Polish woman's last days during the Holocaust, translated for the first time into English, with a foreword from American Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt. Renia Spiegel was a young girl from an upper-middle class Jewish family living on an estate in Stawki, Poland, near what was at that time the border with Romania. In the summer of 1939 The long-hidden diary of a young Polish woman's last days during the Holocaust, translated for the first time into English, with a foreword from American Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt. Renia Spiegel was a young girl from an upper-middle class Jewish family living on an estate in Stawki, Poland, near what was at that time the border with Romania. In the summer of 1939, Renia and her sister Elizabeth (née Ariana) were visiting their grandparents in Przemysl, right before the Germans invaded Poland. Like Anne Frank, Renia recorded her days in her beloved diary. She also filled it with beautiful original poetry. Her diary records how she grew up, fell in love, and was rounded up by the invading Nazis and forced to move to the ghetto in Przemsyl with all the other Jews. By luck, Renia's boyfriend Zygmund was able to find a tenement for Renia to hide in with his parents and took her out of the ghetto. This is all described in the Diary, as well as the tragedies that befell her family and her ultimate fate in 1942, as written in by Zygmund on the Diary's final page. Renia's Diary is a significant historical and psychological document. The raw, yet beautiful account depicts Renia's angst over the horrors going on around her. It has been translated from the original Polish, with notes included by her surviving sister, Elizabeth Bellak.


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The long-hidden diary of a young Polish woman's last days during the Holocaust, translated for the first time into English, with a foreword from American Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt. Renia Spiegel was a young girl from an upper-middle class Jewish family living on an estate in Stawki, Poland, near what was at that time the border with Romania. In the summer of 1939 The long-hidden diary of a young Polish woman's last days during the Holocaust, translated for the first time into English, with a foreword from American Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt. Renia Spiegel was a young girl from an upper-middle class Jewish family living on an estate in Stawki, Poland, near what was at that time the border with Romania. In the summer of 1939, Renia and her sister Elizabeth (née Ariana) were visiting their grandparents in Przemysl, right before the Germans invaded Poland. Like Anne Frank, Renia recorded her days in her beloved diary. She also filled it with beautiful original poetry. Her diary records how she grew up, fell in love, and was rounded up by the invading Nazis and forced to move to the ghetto in Przemsyl with all the other Jews. By luck, Renia's boyfriend Zygmund was able to find a tenement for Renia to hide in with his parents and took her out of the ghetto. This is all described in the Diary, as well as the tragedies that befell her family and her ultimate fate in 1942, as written in by Zygmund on the Diary's final page. Renia's Diary is a significant historical and psychological document. The raw, yet beautiful account depicts Renia's angst over the horrors going on around her. It has been translated from the original Polish, with notes included by her surviving sister, Elizabeth Bellak.

30 review for Renia's Diary: A Holocaust Journal

  1. 5 out of 5

    Angela M

    When I finished this, I didn’t think that it would be fair to rate it. How do you rate someone’s diary, an intimate look at someone’s inner thoughts, secrets, a diary that is not necessarily meant for anyone else to read? I ultimately decided that since I have rated Anne Frank’s diary (5 stars), I should rate this one. So it’s three stars, mainly because it was a struggle for me to read a large part of this which is focused on the day to day reflections of a teenage girl with all of its angst, s When I finished this, I didn’t think that it would be fair to rate it. How do you rate someone’s diary, an intimate look at someone’s inner thoughts, secrets, a diary that is not necessarily meant for anyone else to read? I ultimately decided that since I have rated Anne Frank’s diary (5 stars), I should rate this one. So it’s three stars, mainly because it was a struggle for me to read a large part of this which is focused on the day to day reflections of a teenage girl with all of its angst, squabbles with friends, parties and boyfriends. Nevertheless, I have to say it’s an important book. It is also interspersed with poems, some lovely, and some sad and poignant thoughts on what is happening in Poland, on missing her mother. This diary is framed by an introduction by a Holocaust scholar and an epilogue by Renia’s sister. Reading these two narratives allowed me to grasp the significance of a diary written by a teenage in occupied Poland. The introduction offers some interesting observations about diary vs memoir. The writer of a memoir knows the outcome of what happened to them, written with the memory of what happened. The writer of a diary, as is the case with Renia Spiegel, writes contemporaneously not knowing. The reader does know what happens to Renia and of course, it’s heartbreaking because we know that all, of the seemingly typical teenage concerns and her life will be upended by war, by death. Some of the saddest moments are when Renia talks about missing her mother, who she is separated from when she is visiting her grandmother and Poland’s occupation becomes split between the German and the Russians. There are a few passages dealing with some bombings and having to hide. When she is writing about these moments is when I was most captivated. Parts were moving, parts were repetitive and mundane , but Renia’s story is important for us to remember because of the loss of her life as well as millions of other Jews. The introduction and epilogue framing this book are equally important. I received an advanced copy of this book from St. Martin’s Press through NetGalley.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for a digital galley in exchange for an honest review. Well, I have been sitting on my review and rating for this book all weekend. Often my fellow reviewers of Holocaust non fiction have commented how difficult it is to rate a person's life story. In reading Renia's Diary:A Holocaust Diary I do find myself struggling to articulate my feelings on this diary. Renia Spiegel's story is important and relevant and her sister's determination to s Thanks to NetGalley and St. Martin's Press for a digital galley in exchange for an honest review. Well, I have been sitting on my review and rating for this book all weekend. Often my fellow reviewers of Holocaust non fiction have commented how difficult it is to rate a person's life story. In reading Renia's Diary:A Holocaust Diary I do find myself struggling to articulate my feelings on this diary. Renia Spiegel's story is important and relevant and her sister's determination to share her diary with the reading world is incredibly important and shows great love and courage. I truly believe that the most important parts of this book is for the reader to turn to the afterword and then read the diary. It's actually what finally made my decision to put this as a 3 star rating. The diary spans from 1939 to 1942 and tells the young Polish girl's story from adolescent crushes to the Nazi and Soviet Occupations. The most heartbreaking moments are when Renia talks about the separation from her mother and her fears as the ghetto in Przemysl is created. Like Anne Frank, Renia's young vibrant voice would be one of many silenced by the Holocaust. In fact, Renia's diary would remain unknown for many years. As a reader, I did find some of Renia's accounts about school mates and her love life a bit uninteresting. But I am a 37 year old English teacher, my students on the other hand would totally connect to Renia. So don't let that dissuade you from picking it up and giving it a chance. Goodreads review published 09/06/19 Publication Date 24/09/19

  3. 5 out of 5

    Paige

    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 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, Renia was able to live more freely as a Jew for most 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. “My thoughts are so dark, it’s a sin to even think them.” She showers her diary with symbolic poems that mostly mirror her teenage angst, but sometimes reflect a war-torn society. Like most diarists, 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 of 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.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Veronica ⭐️

    *https://theburgeoningbookshelf.blogsp... 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/>Renia’s *https://theburgeoningbookshelf.blogsp... 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! I received an eCopy from the publisher to read.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Cheryl

    As more and more Holocaust survivors pass away, it’s important that people read about their experiences so that they won’t be forgotten, and hopefully, something like that will never happen again. Renia’s Diary is a written record about a young Polish girl who, unfortunately, did not survive. She was smart, kind, and full of hope for her future. She was a budding poet, and had won awards at her school for her poetry. Her diary is similar to those of many teens - reflecting the angst a As more and more Holocaust survivors pass away, it’s important that people read about their experiences so that they won’t be forgotten, and hopefully, something like that will never happen again. Renia’s Diary is a written record about a young Polish girl who, unfortunately, did not survive. She was smart, kind, and full of hope for her future. She was a budding poet, and had won awards at her school for her poetry. Her diary is similar to those of many teens - reflecting the angst about relationships and friendships, her social life, the feelings of first love, and thoughts about her family. But as the years go on, there’s a sense of fear as the Jews of her little town are persecuted more and more by the Nazis. A real sense of sadness begins to seep in. Yet she holds out hope for what still might be possible. But, for me, the most interesting part of the book was the Epilogue and Commentary written by Renia’s sister, Ariana (Elizabeth). It is here that the diary is put into context and we learn more about the lives of the sisters. Ariana explains in more detail what was happening in their world and what happened to the people that Renia wrote about in her diary. Thank you to Net Galley, Ariana (Elizabeth) Bellak, and St. Martin’s Press for giving me the opportunity to read Renia’s diary.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Lisa Leone-campbell

    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 o 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. I am so grateful to #NetGalley #St.Martin'sPress #Renia'sDiary for the advanced copy. The book will be out on September 24.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Katie

    This is a difficult book to review for a lot of reasons but I want to start by getting it out of the way that ~90% of Renia Spiegel’s nearly 700 page diary is about her infatuation with Zygmunt Schwarzer (Zygus). Yes, she’s a teenage girl and this should be expected but I think that all the news articles and marketing comparing this to Anne Frank’s diary is so misleading. Anne’s diary is unbelievably comprehensive. She is incredibly observant of those around her, what they’re doing, c This is a difficult book to review for a lot of reasons but I want to start by getting it out of the way that ~90% of Renia Spiegel’s nearly 700 page diary is about her infatuation with Zygmunt Schwarzer (Zygus). Yes, she’s a teenage girl and this should be expected but I think that all the news articles and marketing comparing this to Anne Frank’s diary is so misleading. Anne’s diary is unbelievably comprehensive. She is incredibly observant of those around her, what they’re doing, complaining about, or their verbatim conversations with her. She’s also deeply introspective for such a young girl. Anne discusses politics, current events, growing up, her hobbies and interests, the rising cost of goods, her cat going missing, and her difficult relationship with her mother (among many other topics). Upon reading the first several pages of her diary over, Anne confesses at one point that she’s embarrassed by her candor, that her descriptions are “indelicate.” That all being said, I bought a copy of Anne’s diary from the museum shop beneath her house when I was 15 and read it while in Amsterdam, so surely my perspective at that time was different. I’m now nearly 30 years old and struggled to be patient with Renia. It’s clear that her separation from her mother has caused a deep loneliness and need for affection. Her emotion and constant pleading for her mom to come back make her sadness almost palpable. The beginning of Renia’s diary is gripping because they have to flee Przemysl for Lwow during the Soviet Occupation, leaving her grandmother behind. However, I found her sister Arianka/Elizabeth’s recounting of this event at the end of the diary to be much more detailed and horrifying. They soon return to Przemysl, and for the next year, Renia records her feuds, rivalries, and crushes among her schoolmates until she meets Zygus. Nearly every entry thereafter is about her “sweet, darling, wonderful, lovely Zygus.” Renia records his name at least 167 times. I simply don’t trust anyone who claims that this isn’t tedious (and eventually mind-numbing) to read. I don’t know how a publisher could possibly work around this when printing a diary, but you should know what you’re getting yourself into.There is very little introspection, discussion of what’s going on around her (outside her group of friends), and certainly no mention of what’s happening within her household. Renia’s poetry is beautiful. It’s heartbreaking to think about the abundance of literature she could have given this world if she’d not been murdered. It’s clear that she doesn’t understand the gravity of the events around her, and I think it’s precisely because we know how the story ends that this is so frustrating. I’m grateful to Renia’s sister Elizabeth for sharing this diary with the world and for ensuring that Renia was not forgotten by time. Elizabeth’s contributions to this book are what make it at least a 3 star rating for me. She adds a lot of necessary context looking back on these events, although it’s difficult for her to recount such a painful time. Her story of survival is truly amazing, and it’s tragic that she seems to feel such guilt that she lived while her sister didn’t. Thank you Netgalley for providing me with an ARC for this book. See more of my reviews: Blog // Instagram

  8. 4 out of 5

    Janine

    I've seen a lot of other reviews mentioning that this book is hard to rate. I think mainly because people go into reading a book that is the diary of a teenage girl in Poland during WW2, and they expect more commentary and personal insight into the war. This book, or at least the actual section that is her diary, reads exactly like a teenage girl's diary, at almost any point in history. It was very clear that she was not writing with any idea that it would be published or would be looked at as a I've seen a lot of other reviews mentioning that this book is hard to rate. I think mainly because people go into reading a book that is the diary of a teenage girl in Poland during WW2, and they expect more commentary and personal insight into the war. This book, or at least the actual section that is her diary, reads exactly like a teenage girl's diary, at almost any point in history. It was very clear that she was not writing with any idea that it would be published or would be looked at as a snapshot into the life of a Holocaust victim. Her diary reminded me exactly of what my own diary was like as a teenager (which I incidentally started after reading Anne Frank's diary). She even addresses this at some point in the diary, when her friend is afraid to write about a boy she likes in case people read it and think she's some vain, stupid girl. I liked her response: "Firstly, why do you care about other people reading it? You're writing it for yourself, And secondly, is your dearest, intimate diary to be a political almanac or an almanac of your heart??? Somebody very harsh, with a stony heart, might say what you thought. Every normal human being should rather say, 'This was written by a young, 16-year old girl who loved so deeply...'" It would have given more context to some of the diary entries, however, if her sister's notes weren't saved for the end of the book. It would have been nice to see the notes follow the corresponding diary entry. For example, if Renia's May 12, 1942 entry was followed immediately by her sister's May 12, 1942 notes. Those notes make the diary so much sadder in a way. Renia glossed over so many of the terrible things that were happening. Once you read in further detail about what they were going through, it's so clear she didn't write in detail because they were horrible things she really didn't want to remember. She really tried to keep her focus on her friends and her life as a teenager. The very end of the diary was so heartbreaking. All of the entries were filled with terror. It was a very strange feeling to approach the end of the diary, and reading her say how much she wants to live, and knowing she doesn't have much time left. It was truly heartbreaking, as she was talking about having a greed for life and how little she had a chance to experience. She says in one of her poems: I got what I could out of life a lot, but still not enough.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Theediscerning

    I feel a little churlish saying how little I engaged with this book, for it's obviously a labour of love and a heartfelt production from the family members who knew the author. But this diary had too little of the War for me, far too much poetry about the angst teenaged love involves, and far too much weeping for her mother. I can see a readership similar to Renia empathising more, but at the remove in age, experience and gender that I have, I didn't gel with many of the contents here. I couldn' I feel a little churlish saying how little I engaged with this book, for it's obviously a labour of love and a heartfelt production from the family members who knew the author. But this diary had too little of the War for me, far too much poetry about the angst teenaged love involves, and far too much weeping for her mother. I can see a readership similar to Renia empathising more, but at the remove in age, experience and gender that I have, I didn't gel with many of the contents here. I couldn't recommend the Holocaust expert rush to these pages – the phoney war seems to go on twice as long as previously thought, for one. So it's down to Renia's surviving younger sister to give her testimony about the life she got to lead, and background information, that partly helps the fact the diary pages needed annotation, and certainly hoiks the interest levels up.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Bev Walkling

    Many thanks to St. Martin’s Press and #NetGalley for allowing me to read an e-galley of this book. What follows is my honest review. First of all, I feel very privileged to have been able to read this book. The author, Renia Spiegel never intended it to be read by the public. It was a deeply personal look at her life and feelings from January 1939 until her death at the hands of the Nazi's just after her 18th birthday in 1942. At times while reading it I felt almost like a voyeur seei Many thanks to St. Martin’s Press and #NetGalley for allowing me to read an e-galley of this book. What follows is my honest review. First of all, I feel very privileged to have been able to read this book. The author, Renia Spiegel never intended it to be read by the public. It was a deeply personal look at her life and feelings from January 1939 until her death at the hands of the Nazi's just after her 18th birthday in 1942. At times while reading it I felt almost like a voyeur seeing her most private thoughts, especially about her developing love life. At the beginning of the book there is an excellent preface that explains that diaries differ from memoirs and biographies in that as the author is writing, he or she has no idea how the story is going to turn out. It is purely written in the moment featuring what stood out to the author at the time. Explanations of who is who are not always included because the writer had no need of them. She knew the details that would fill out the story. After the preface there is an introduction written by Renia’s sister who did survive the Holocaust. She had known of the existence of the diary for many years as she had received it from Renia’s boyfriend after the war but has only read portions of it even to this day as it is too emotionally difficult for her. Now as to Renia’s writing. She was 15 at the beginning of the journal. I don’t have personal journals from that age, but I do have some from when I was sixteen. Subject matter was similar but Renia included poems that she had written throughout her journal and they were extremely well done and really expressed her emotions and feelings well. Initially as war began her life didn’t change very much. As the part of Poland that she lived in was taken over by the Russians her life changed somewhat but her daily musings were still focused on her interactions with classmates and friends. Much of her writing then would hold little of interest to the average reader and I found it challenging to read and follow what was going on at times. She missed her mother (who was in Warsaw) terribly and had a strong faith in G_d, praying on pretty much a daily basis. When the Germans took over things changed and her focus began to include the ways that the German presence was affecting her life including the fear of the ghetto. The last words in the journal are not hers, but rather the words of her boyfriend written very shortly after her death. Life changed in an instant. The last part of the book is again told by Renia’s sister. She puts things in their historical perspective, explaining what was going on locally as the journal was actually being written and giving some substance to things that Renia had either inferred or briefly mentioned. I found this part very well written and interesting. I have seen comparisons of this book to the journal that Anne Frank kept. Each are equally important as they represent a valuable life lived and it is important that their stories speak for them. Having said that, I don’t feel this journal is quite as accessible to the average reader as Anne’s was. Anne’s was primarily written in an enclosed space with a set group of people. Renia had far more freedom of movement throughout most of the journal. I think this made it a little more difficult to follow. I have pondered and pondered over how to rate this book. I have to bear in mind that it was not written to be read by others but purely for herself and rate it more on the importance of the work and on that basis I give this a 5 star rating

  11. 5 out of 5

    Sara

    I really struggled with this one. The majority of this diary was the expected thoughts, crushes and dramas of a typical teenage girl. However I was hoping for more of a historical record of the events of World War II and the plight of the Jewish people. Honestly I got none of that until the last few pages. However the poetry she wrote is just beautiful and moving. I just had a hard time really getting drawn into her life.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl

    When reading this book, we have to remember that it is a diary of a teenaged girl. Some reviews that I have read are critical of the writing or content, but we have to remember that even while WWII and German occupation took place....the children were still growing up and still trying to be children.... and teenagers will be teenagers! I believe that it would prove helpful to read the Epilogue and Elizabeth’s Commentary at the back of the book before reading the actual book! I read them afterwar When reading this book, we have to remember that it is a diary of a teenaged girl. Some reviews that I have read are critical of the writing or content, but we have to remember that even while WWII and German occupation took place....the children were still growing up and still trying to be children.... and teenagers will be teenagers! I believe that it would prove helpful to read the Epilogue and Elizabeth’s Commentary at the back of the book before reading the actual book! I read them afterwards and some things meant more because of it. It won’t give away any spoilers, because after all we know how it will end, but it gives more insight into the young girl, her family, how she was raised and maybe even why she did some of the many things she did at such stressful times. What we read is heartwarming, heartbreaking, and eye-opening into the lives of people just trying to make it through. I did find it difficult reading in that the names were so difficult for me to keep track of because there were so many characters that were a part of Renia’s life. I’m not much of a poetry person, but Renia had a very real talent at the poetry she wrote, helping her to express her feelings. Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for allowing me to read this ARC in return for an honest review, which this has been. #NetGalley, #StMartinsPress

  13. 4 out of 5

    Lee Husemann

    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 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.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Rachel

    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 ge 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. Thank you NetGalley and St Martin’s Press for this ARC and in return, this is my unbiased and voluntary review.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Tonstant Weader

    Renia’s Diary is a valuable historical document, the diary of a Jewish girl’s life under both Soviet and Nazi occupation She was just fourteen when she began writing in her diary where she was very frank about her feelings. Most of the diary is focused on her social life, her friend Norka and her frenemy Irka, and her great love Zigmund. Renia was a poet and her book is overflowing with poems she wrote. The vary in quality and some of it may be a matter of translation. Some are transl Renia’s Diary is a valuable historical document, the diary of a Jewish girl’s life under both Soviet and Nazi occupation She was just fourteen when she began writing in her diary where she was very frank about her feelings. Most of the diary is focused on her social life, her friend Norka and her frenemy Irka, and her great love Zigmund. Renia was a poet and her book is overflowing with poems she wrote. The vary in quality and some of it may be a matter of translation. Some are translated so they have an ABAB rhyme scheme while others are in free verse and blank verse. I found the poems that had no rhyme scheme to be far more interesting and mature. But of course, I don’t know what they were like in Polish. Perhaps the ones that rhyme in translation lost something vital in seeking rhyming words. Her diary runs from January 31, 1939 through July 30, 1942, the final entries written by Zigmund Schwarzer, recounting the murder of Renia and his parents. He survived Auschwitz, recovered her diary from where it had been in safekeeping and delivered it to her mother in the United States after the war. Renia’s sister and mother survived the war by converting to Catholicism and obtaining false papers. Her sister could not bear to read the diary until her own daughter wanted to learn more about her family and who pushed her mother to publish the diary. The commentary from Renia’s sister Arianka was, for me, the most emotionally affecting. I almost feel I have failed some moral test, but I did not love Renia’s diary. I thought she was a brilliant young woman with a real talent for writing that was rewarded and encouraged at school and at home. I think she was honest in her diary, trying not to lie to herself. She wrote about her petty fights with friends in school. She didn’t like many of her classmates and seemed a bit of a mean girl. She might dispute that and say Irka was a mean girl, but she was jealous of any girl who chatted with Zygu, her nickname for Zigmund. Everyday her mood was high or low depending on her interactions with Zygu. She wrote a bit about the occupation, particularly after the Jews were forced to move into a ghetto. However, her focus remained mostly on Zygu and missing her family as she was living with grandparents. It would be lovely if someone published a collection of her better poems. It is in her poems where she is most frank, most mature, and most powerful. I received an ARC of Renia’s Diary from the publisher through Shelf Awareness. Renia’s Diary at St. Martin’s Press | Macmillan Renia Spiegel at Wikipedia https://tonstantweaderreviews.wordpre...

  16. 4 out of 5

    Lorri

    Being a grandmother, it is difficult for me to rate the diary of a young girl, her thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. Reina's diary is an excellent book for teenagers, or young adults in their twenties. It is an important perspective of life lived through the eyes of a young girl, a young girl who perished in the Holocaust. Many individuals have compared her diary to that of Anne Frank's. In my opinion, that is not the right thing to do. Each diary is written from a personal perspec Being a grandmother, it is difficult for me to rate the diary of a young girl, her thoughts, feelings, and perceptions. Reina's diary is an excellent book for teenagers, or young adults in their twenties. It is an important perspective of life lived through the eyes of a young girl, a young girl who perished in the Holocaust. Many individuals have compared her diary to that of Anne Frank's. In my opinion, that is not the right thing to do. Each diary is written from a personal perspective, with each young girl having varied thoughts and feelings, not necessarily the same. I feel that Renia's diary should be viewed in an individualistic manner. If this was a fictionalized account, I would rate it 3-stars. Due to the fact it is factual, a diary, a work of nonfiction, I rate it 4-stars.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Schuelke

    This book was a waste of my time. All you need to know is that she loves Zygu and misses her mom. That is the entirety of the book. No way is this book even close to Anne Frank's diary.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Jean Blankenship

    Renia’s Diary by Elizabeth Bellak Such a sad feeling after finishing this story. I would have liked to have read Elizabeth Bellak’s Commentary first, so that I could have understood Renia’s Diary better. The Diary was written by a young girl starting at the age of 14. Sometime it was hard to follow and only understood it at the end of the book. Renia’s Diary tells of her longing for her Mother and how much she misses her, her love for Zygmunt, who she loved very much, her friends and how th Renia’s Diary by Elizabeth Bellak Such a sad feeling after finishing this story. I would have liked to have read Elizabeth Bellak’s Commentary first, so that I could have understood Renia’s Diary better. The Diary was written by a young girl starting at the age of 14. Sometime it was hard to follow and only understood it at the end of the book. Renia’s Diary tells of her longing for her Mother and how much she misses her, her love for Zygmunt, who she loved very much, her friends and how the war affected her until she could no longer finish her diary and was finished by Zygmunt, who saved her diary and made this story possible. He loved her till the end of his life. Her sister Elizabeth Bellak has kept her story alive and learned and grew from her past. Thank you to NetGalley and St. Martin’s Press for allowing me to read this ARC in return for an honest review, which this has been. #NetGalley, #StMartinsPress

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jenny

    I would never want someone to give a star rating to my diary so it’s hard to do so to Renia. This was a sweet look into a teenage girl’s life. Much of it was typical teenage writing but she really was amazingly adult at times. Her poetry was beautiful. The ending, written by her younger sister decades later, was so sad.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Lizzie

    ~~An advanced copy of this book was provided by St. Martin's Press and Goodreads with no promise of a review~~ I believe my review will reiterate the feelings of most of the people who have had the pleasure of reading this book. Renia Spiegel‘s diary takes place over four years in 1939-1942 - which makes it extremely difficult to review. This is someone's immediate recollection of their own life events. I find it to be unnecessary to try to analyze this book from a pure writing perspective. Reni ~~An advanced copy of this book was provided by St. Martin's Press and Goodreads with no promise of a review~~ I believe my review will reiterate the feelings of most of the people who have had the pleasure of reading this book. Renia Spiegel‘s diary takes place over four years in 1939-1942 - which makes it extremely difficult to review. This is someone's immediate recollection of their own life events. I find it to be unnecessary to try to analyze this book from a pure writing perspective. Renia is a teen girl so a lot of her musings are focused on crushes, friendship issues, and her day to day life. Which quite frankly gets a bit tedious at times but it's a teen girl's diary. I think this gives you a better picture of Renia as a whole and that's what this book is primarily intended to do: give you Renia's account of the last 4 years of her life. I am no longer a teen girl but I do believe that most teenagers/middle/high schoolers would be able to related to this content making it easier to read and absorb as opposed to other WWII non-fiction accounts. Her poetry is amazing and she paints beautiful images with her words; her ability to be introspective is one that most don't expect from a teenager which comes as a pleasant burst of beauty within her day to day observations. She was an extremely talented and well rounded young woman whose pain was clearly depicted when she wrote about missing her mother and later about trying to protect her sister while fleeing with her grandparents. Reina uses her diary to give her some semblance of normalcy in her ever changing traumatic situation. This is an amazing feat of strength in my opinion. To strive and work to give yourself something to hold on to when everything is falling apart. The afterword is equally as heartbreaking if not more with the additional traumatic details provided by Elizabeth. Elizabeth's details provided some much needed perspective and information that was missed in the diary. I think it could be a good resource to read prior to the diary especially if the intention is to use this book in a classroom/book club setting.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Emily

    This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. A haunting narrative especially when you learn the fate of Renia. This sticks with you for a very long time, and you may have some trouble sleeping. As opposed to Anne Frank, Renia's narrative is one of a girl living through the horrors of the war, ghettos, and Nazi occupation. Anne Frank may have heard of the outside horrors of Nazi occupation as well, but Renia felt them at full force. We also get to hear of the impact of her death of Zygmunt. We learn Anne's fate as well as her family, but we A haunting narrative especially when you learn the fate of Renia. This sticks with you for a very long time, and you may have some trouble sleeping. As opposed to Anne Frank, Renia's narrative is one of a girl living through the horrors of the war, ghettos, and Nazi occupation. Anne Frank may have heard of the outside horrors of Nazi occupation as well, but Renia felt them at full force. We also get to hear of the impact of her death of Zygmunt. We learn Anne's fate as well as her family, but we do not hear it straight after the fact. We also don't hear Otto's personal account of the sorrow of having to live without his family. Although I don't care very much to read about the common emotional problems of a teenage girl, it is not my job to lower her narrative when it is not meant for my eyes. This book gives an unabridged glimpse into the lives of common Jewish people living in Poland during World War II. Although her life was cut tragically short, her haunting narrative gives incredible insight into the lives of the victims of the Holocaust.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Michele

    Sorry to say I didn’t really enjoy this book. It is more of a young adult love story of a girl’s diary. There really wasn’t anything about the the war until 3/4 of the way through and it really didn’t touch on it that much. I enjoyed the information that was written after the diary ended but that is about it. I don’t think I would recommend this book. Thank you netgalley for letting me give an honest review of this book.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Dave Wheeler

    The story of the Jews is the Holocaust and their treatment from the Nazis is well know even though a number of deniers seem to continue in there own ignorance here is a eye witness account of Renia through her very own Diary. From the age of 14 till just after her 18th birthday the thoughts and life of Renia a human a young girl to a lady and yes also A Jew is separated from her Mum who lived a separate love from her Husband so with her sister she lived with her Mum's Mum and Dad as i The story of the Jews is the Holocaust and their treatment from the Nazis is well know even though a number of deniers seem to continue in there own ignorance here is a eye witness account of Renia through her very own Diary. From the age of 14 till just after her 18th birthday the thoughts and life of Renia a human a young girl to a lady and yes also A Jew is separated from her Mum who lived a separate love from her Husband so with her sister she lived with her Mum's Mum and Dad as in her Grandparents. When the Germans then the Russians invaded Poland they where in the area that the Russians to whilst her Mum was in the balance held by the Germans so a reunion looked bleak and post was rare between the two halves of Poland. Being a Jew was like being A Polish person but once the Germans decided they wanted all of Poland and Europe with it the difference from the stand off the Evil Nazi's meant that any hope of unity was gone along with education and jobs for those providers. A fear that i can not fully imagine took over and life was lived day by day. But for Renia as with I'm guessing any young Lady even more had other to be dealt with those hormones that wait for no war so will not be controlled the longing for the one your eye can not leave alone nor a single minute of everyday. This made worse because the nature of this occupation meant no school so plenty of spare time and long evenings and nights to ring or dream. The outcome you know from the beginning and reviews is not a good one for Renia which makes the pain of teenage love the hopes and dreams heart breaking to read. The reality of the second world war does need to be kept alive not because of morbid fascination but to remind us that some things are with fighting for and many have their lives so that all can live in a free Europe., Yes it was further afield but her we have had a peace because others died others fought but were never the same their lives have been shaped for us to live. The Jews are a people with the same rights and desires that we have and the price they have paid is totally unacceptable then, now or ever and the personal accounts like this one must be read to be available to be read for the rest of time that even now in this age of so called equality those voice that rise must never be allowed to repeat what history has witnessed since the times before Moses. Yes it's been that long. Renia was a Poet a well educated girl who was forced to leave school because of her birth family she fell in love as did her friends. Like life she was fancied by those she didn't want and unsure of the one that she couldn't stop dreaming of. I believe this is a book that needs to be read and i do recommend it for more that just that. It is well written and the end notes and epilogue may blow your mind or just hit you in a way that can live with you for a very long time and i think that's the least you should expect from this book.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Carolyn

    This is a difficult book for me to review as given that it is the diary of a young girl who was murdered because she was Jewish, it doesn't seem right to judge it on the same level as a work of fiction. However, I received an advance copy to review so that is what I must do. The diary portion itself is not what I anticipated. Maybe I expected too much as one of my most read books is The Diary of Anne Frank, which is a remarkable document that gives incredible insight into the suffering of Jews u This is a difficult book for me to review as given that it is the diary of a young girl who was murdered because she was Jewish, it doesn't seem right to judge it on the same level as a work of fiction. However, I received an advance copy to review so that is what I must do. The diary portion itself is not what I anticipated. Maybe I expected too much as one of my most read books is The Diary of Anne Frank, which is a remarkable document that gives incredible insight into the suffering of Jews under Nazi occupation. Unfortunately, Renia's diary doesn't fall into the same category, it is basically the diary of a teenage girl who misses her mum, has numerous teenage crushes and argues with her friends. It is only the latter part of the diary that briefly addresses her situation, and her sister's Epilogue and footnotes that really fills in the gaps and gives the true history of the family's plight. This part was fascinating. I also found the organisation of the book itself very disjointed. The diary is at the front, with references to footnotes which are actually in the back of the book, so if you want clarification on these points you have to flick to the back each time, and there are a lot of footnotes. In between these is the Epilogue, written by Renia's sister. So, all in all, I found the overall layout difficult, and the diary part of the book very disappointing, so much so that I found myself starting to skip it, but the information in the other parts was good. My reviews are my opinions and thoughts on my reading experience, not book reports, so if you want to know more details about the storyline, please read the blurb, or the long reviews that break down the storyline. I hate spoilers myself so aim to make my reviews spoiler free zones as much as possible. I received an eArc from the publisher via Netgalley, but this review is entirely unbiased and the words are my own.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Brenda A

    While I’d still argue this is still an important addition to an important part of history, this diary didn’t cultivate a new awareness of the holocaust. Most of the diary (and really I just feel like an asshole rating it) is a teenage girl’s ramblings about boys. It’s very typical and guaranteed this teenage girl would cringe knowing millions of people are reading her diary entries. There’s not much substance in terms of describing the situations around her. There’s a passing line every once in While I’d still argue this is still an important addition to an important part of history, this diary didn’t cultivate a new awareness of the holocaust. Most of the diary (and really I just feel like an asshole rating it) is a teenage girl’s ramblings about boys. It’s very typical and guaranteed this teenage girl would cringe knowing millions of people are reading her diary entries. There’s not much substance in terms of describing the situations around her. There’s a passing line every once in a while but no follow up. Like, “it’s the Fuhrer’s birthday today,” and then more boy musings.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Kate Grace

    This is an incredibly difficult text to review - probably for a number of reasons, but at least two I want to articulate. First, it’s necessary to remind myself that this is a story, a narrative, but NOT a fiction. How can I evaluate the reality of people’s joy and despair, love and grief? Second, I don’t know, with certainty, the purpose of publication. Who is the audience? Scholars? A more general audience? If Renia’s Diary is meant to be viewed through the lens of scholarship ONLY, This is an incredibly difficult text to review - probably for a number of reasons, but at least two I want to articulate. First, it’s necessary to remind myself that this is a story, a narrative, but NOT a fiction. How can I evaluate the reality of people’s joy and despair, love and grief? Second, I don’t know, with certainty, the purpose of publication. Who is the audience? Scholars? A more general audience? If Renia’s Diary is meant to be viewed through the lens of scholarship ONLY, I would say without hesitation that it’s successful. It’s a life (his)story and a document of witness reclaimed; it’s also powerfully contextualized through Elizabeth Bellak’s thoughts. If, however, the diary is meant to resonate with a wider audience, I think there are some concerns. In particular, the diary could benefit from abridgment. Where do romance-centric entries become repetitive - distract from Renia’s sense of herself as a writer, her engagement with/avoidance of the war, etc.? I recognize editing in this way has its problems; there’s the worry of silencing Renia’s voice, after years of being lost. But structurally, condensing the diary could be an important move. It’s also worth considering what interweaving Elizabeth’s commentary WITHIN the diary would do for readers. Ultimately I am grateful we have Renia’s voice, her words. It’s the “literariness” of her diary that is so powerful, to me. She uses the vehicle of poetry to navigate everything from first love to the shadow of the Gestapo. Thank you to St. Martin’s Press and Goodreads Giveaways for my advance reader copy.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jenna

    It was such a privilege to be able to read this Diary. Not only do I thank the amazing people at St Martins Press for granting me access to an early copy but I must also thank Renias Family. Reading and ultimately publishing this Diary was not easy but in doing so I believe they will touch many people. Renia was a beautiful young girl with hopes and dreams and fears. You get to read all about them in her diary. She was just a young adolescent when the war broke out. She was being raised by her g It was such a privilege to be able to read this Diary. Not only do I thank the amazing people at St Martins Press for granting me access to an early copy but I must also thank Renias Family. Reading and ultimately publishing this Diary was not easy but in doing so I believe they will touch many people. Renia was a beautiful young girl with hopes and dreams and fears. You get to read all about them in her diary. She was just a young adolescent when the war broke out. She was being raised by her grandparents for the duration of this account. Separated from her mother and sister who she missed dearly. Her father is mentioned but it seems that his arrangement was sort of commonplace for the time and part of the world where Renia grew up. I don’t want to spoil anything for anyone who may be reading this review. Just know that this book is important. It really put things into perspective for me. I have never had to live through a war. I am so very thankful to live in a country where I feel safe and free to be who I am and live the life I want to live. I felt a connection with Renia as I was reading her diary. She was very much a person that I felt like I knew personally by the end and it was heartbreaking to know that her life was cut short. I will be purchasing a copy of this Diary for my shelves and urging others to read it. Upon doing further research I have found that people are calling Renia the Polish Anne Frank. I see similarities between the two girls but there deserves to be a separation. I can say however that Anne Frank changed my life as a child and Renia Spiegel has changed my life as an adult.

  28. 4 out of 5

    Teri

    Do you remember what it was like to be a teenager? The drama, the emotions, love, friendship, family! Now layer war over all of that. Renia’s Diary chronicles the ups and downs of a Jewish teenager in Poland during WWII. This is an important book. **I received an ARC from NetGalley in exchange for a fair and unbiased review of this book.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Pam

    This is a heart wrenching journal of what life was like for Renia and countless others during the WWII Holocaust. To say that "I loved this book" seems wrong somehow. My thanks to Netgalley and St Martin's Press for this advanced readers copy. Release date for this one is scheduled for September 2019.

  30. 4 out of 5

    Julie Privett

    Yes I understand this was a teenage girl's diary. But was really disappointed in this. 80% just talks about her going to school, her friend ships and her love life. The epilogue from her sister was more interesting than the diary itself.

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