18 June 1924
|Died||30 July 1942 (aged 18)|
Renia Spiegel (18 June 1924 – 30 July 1942) was a Polish-born Jewish diarist who was killed in the Holocaust in Poland. Spiegel's diary, kept between the ages of 15 and 18, documents her experience as a teenager living in Przemyśl, Poland during World War II as conditions for Jews deteriorated. Spiegel wrote about ordinary topics such as school, friendships, and romance, as well as about her fear of the growing war and about being forced to move into the Przemyśl ghetto. Though it was in the possession of Spiegel's family for decades, the diary was not read by others until 2012.
Renia Spiegel was born on June 18, 1924 in Poland to Jewish parents Bernard Spiegel and Róza Maria Leszczynska. She grew up on her father's estate on the Dniester River near the Romanian border, along with a sister eight years younger than her, Ariana, who was a child film star in Poland.
Spiegel and Ariana were staying at their grandparents' small apartment in Przemyśl, Poland when the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact in August 1939 and the subsequent Nazi invasion of Poland caused them to be separated from their mother in Warsaw. Spiegel's grandmother owned a stationery store and her grandfather was a construction contractor. As the war continued on, Spiegel attended school and socialized in Przemyśl, and in 1940 began to develop a romantic relationship with Zygmunt Schwarzer, the son of a prominent Jewish physician.
When the Przemyśl ghetto was established July 1942, Spiegel moved in along with 24,000 other Jews. After about two weeks, Schwarzer secretly removed Spiegel from the ghetto and hid her and his own parents in the attic of his uncle's house in order to help them avoid deportation to concentration camps. An informant told Nazi police about the hiding place, who executed the eighteen-year-old Spiegel along with Schwarzer's parents in the street on July 30, 1942.
Spiegel began to keep her diary on January 31, 1939 when she was fifteen years old. The nearly 700-page diary was mostly kept in secret, and was made of seven school exercise books sewn together. The diary largely discusses Spiegel's everyday school, social, and family life in Przemyśl, touching in particular on her distress at being separated from her mother, her romantic relationship with Zygmunt Schwarzer, fear around the growing war, and the terror of moving into the ghetto. In addition to handwritten entries, the diary contains drawings and poems authored by Spiegel. In her final entry, Spiegel wrote:
My dear diary, my good, beloved friend! We’ve gone through such terrible times together and now the worst moment is upon us. I could be afraid now. But the One who didn’t leave us then will help us today too. He’ll save us. Hear, O, Israel, save us, help us. You’ve kept me safe from bullets and bombs, from grenades. Help me survive! And you, my dear mamma, pray for us today, pray hard. Think about us and may your thoughts be blessed.
In July 1942, Schwarzer took possession of the diary and wrote the final entries about hiding Spiegel outside the ghetto and about her death: "Three shots! Three lives lost! All I can hear are shots, shots." Schwarzer brought the diary to the United States after the war, and gave it to Spiegel's mother in the 1950s or 1960s. Spiegel's sister Ariana came into possession of the diary in 1969.
Journalists have compared and contrasted Spiegel's diary with that of Anne Frank, with Smithsonian noting that "Renia was a little older and more sophisticated...She was also living out in the world instead of in seclusion."
Though it was in the possession of Spiegel's family for decades, the diary was not read by others until 2012, when Ariana's daughter, Alexandra Renata Bellak, had it translated to English for the first time by translators Anna Blasiak and Marta Dziurosz. The diary was published in Polish in 2016 and has inspired a Polish stage play. Excerpts were published in English in Smithsonian magazine in 2018, and its first full 90,000-word English publication will be by Ebury Publishing on September 17, 2019, titled Renia’s Diary: A Young Girl’s Life in the Shadow of the Holocaust.
The diary is also the subject of a documentary film directed by Tomasz Magierski titled Broken Dreams. The film premiered at the United Nations in New York City as part of its Holocaust remembrance program.
- Shulman, Robin (November 2018). "How an Astonishing Holocaust Diary Resurfaced in America". Smithsonian Magazine. Retrieved 2019-01-04.
- Flood, Alison (2018-11-08). "'Terrible times are coming': the Holocaust diary that lay unread for 70 years". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 2019-01-04.
- Lebovic, Matt (2018-04-12). "The lost diary of Poland's 'Anne Frank': An untold testament of a truncated life". The Times of Israel. Retrieved 2019-01-04.
- Ulam, Alex (2018-02-12). "Why Renia Spiegel Is Being Called 'The Polish Anne Frank'". The Forward. Retrieved 2019-01-04.
- Spiegel, Renia (November 2018). "Hear, O Israel, Save Us". Smithsonian. Translated by Anna Blasiak and Marta Dziurosz. Retrieved 2019-02-03.
- Wood, Heloise (2019-01-22). "Ebury pre-empts WW2 diary of Polish teenager". The Bookseller. Retrieved 2019-01-24.
- "United Nations Department of Global Communications to Screen Premiere of 'Broken Dreams' at New York Headquarters, 2 May". www.un.org. 2019-04-25. Retrieved 2019-07-07.