Not since The Diary of Anne Frank has there been such a book as this: The joyful but ultimately heartbreaking journal of a young Jewish woman in occupied Paris, now being published for the first time, 63 years after her death in a Nazi concentration camp.
On April 7, 1942, Hélène Berr, a 21-year-old Jewish student of English literature, started to keep a journal about her life in Paris - about her studies, her friends, her growing affection for the "boy with the grey eyes", and about the growing restrictions imposed by France's Nazi occupiers. Berr brought a keen literary sensibility to her writing, a talent that renders the story it relates all the more rich, all the more heartbreaking.
The first day Berr has to wear the yellow star, she writes, "I held my head high and looked people so straight in the eye they turned away. But it's hard." Many more humiliations were to follow, which she records, now with a view to posterity. She wants the journal to go to her fiancé, who has enrolled with the Free French Forces, as she knows she may not live much longer. She was right. The final entry ends with the chilling words: "Horror! Horror! Horror!" Berr and her family were arrested three weeks later. She went on the death march from Auschwitz to Bergen-Belsen, where she died of typhus in April 1945, just days before the liberation of the camp.
The Journal was found by Mariette Job, niece of Hélène Berr, in 1992 at Jean Morawiecki's place, Hélène's fiançé. In 2002, Mariette Job gave the manuscript to the Memorial. Before it was first published in France in January 2008, translation rights had already been sold for 26 languages.
The French actress Guila Clara Kessous continued this book's miraculous narrative by bringing it to life in audio with her nuanced, polished performance.
The story of Hélène Berr has been adapted by Jérome Prieur in a TV documentary and has been dubbed in English by Guila Clara Kessous.
"A voice to remember." (Elie Wiesel, author of Night)
"Her vibrant voice - full of anguish, compassion, indignation and defiance - springs from these pages…as extraordinary a document of occupied France as Irene Nemirovsky's Suite Francaise." (Publishers Weekly)
"A worthy addition to Holocaust literature, evoking the sweetness of one life lost and reminding us with urgent clarity how inexorably it was swept under those tragic times." (Kirkus Reviews)
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We should never forget
- T. Kohenskey