Books

Renia Spiegel: Secret diary of Polish teenager murdered by Nazis to be published for first time

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Lauren Geall
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Renia’s Diary: A Young Girl’s Life in the Shadow of the Holocaust

Renia’s Diary: A Young Girl’s Life in the Shadow of the Holocaust is being published by her family after lying untouched for 70 years.

It’s not every day you get to hear a story as simultaneously devastating and astounding as Renia Spiegel’s – especially when it’s been kept hidden from the world for the last 70 years.

The Polish teenager’s secret diary is being published for the first time on the 19 September, nearly 80 years after her death at the hands of Nazi soldiers.

As her story heads out into the world, thanks to members of Spiegel’s family who arranged for the diary to be translated, here’s everything we know about the book and its incredible author. 

Who was Renia Spiegel?

Renia Spiegel, who lived in Przemysl, south-east Poland, began writing a diary at the age of 15 during the Second World War. The diary details her life under the threat of the Nazis: from bombing raids to the disappearance of other Jewish families from the ghetto. She aspired to be a poet.

In the diary she also describes falling in love for the first time with a boy called Zygmunt Schwarzer, who has played an essential role in getting the diary published. The pair shared their first kiss hours before the Nazis reached Spiegel’s home town.

Spiegel was shot dead in July 1942 at the age of 18 after she escaped from the ghetto and was found by German soldiers hiding in an attic – a circumstance which has seen her termed a “Polish Anne Frank”. 

How did the book come to be published?

After Spiegel’s death, Schwarzer added a moving final entry to the book, before he too was deported to the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz. After surviving his time at Auschwitz and becoming a doctor in the US army, Schwarzer attempted to track own Spiegel’s family in order to return the diary.

He found Renia’s sister Elizabeth and mother Róża in New York – the pair were the only two survivors of the Spiegel family.

After finding the book too emotional to read, the pair stored the book in a bank vault – where it ultimately stayed for 70 years – until Elizabeth’s daughter Alexandra Bellak decided to have it translated from Polish to English so she could read it. 

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What else do we know about the book?

The book will be called Renia’s Diary: A Young Girl’s Life in the Shadow of the Holocaust, and will be published on the 19 September.

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Renia’s Diary: A Young Girl’s Life in the Shadow of the Holocaust is available to pre-order now.

Image: Penguin Random House

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