After almost seventy-five years, Reina Spiegel’s diary has been published and translated into English. Reina was a Jewish girl in a trade city in Poland. She began writing her remarkable diary mere months before the start of World War II. During their persecution as a result of the Holocaust, Reina’s diary was hidden by her sister, Elizabeth Bellak, in a safety deposit box. Elizabeth kept the diary for decades in this box because she “could not bear to read it.”
In Reina’s diary, she clearly explains why she began writing. In her first journal entry on January 31st of 1939, she confides, “I want someone I can talk to about my everyday worries and joys, somebody who will feel what I feel, believe what I say and never reveal my secrets.” Reina did not know it then, but in seven months, war would come to her town. She would hide with her lover, Zygmunt Schwarzer, in an attic in a house in Przemysl in order to avoid being deported to a concentration camp. The last passage in Reina’s diary is written by Zygmunt, who later survived Auschwitz, a concentration camp built and operated by Nazi Germany in Poland.
Reina and Zygmunt loved each other and while they were in hiding, he was left in charge of looking after the diary. Sadly, the Nazis found their hide-out and they dragged Reina and Zygmunt’s parents into the street. After they were shot, Zygmunt wrote, “Three shots! Three lives lost! Fate decided to take my dearest ones away from me. My life is over. All I can hear are shots, shots … shots.” Reina had been killed mere months after her eighteenth birthday.
Reina’s journal has recently arrived in bookstores in numerous countries including Britain, Germany, Russia, and the United States.
Alexandra Garbarini is a professor at Williams College in Massachusetts who specializes in analyzing Holocaust diaries. She believes that Reina’s diary provides a rare insight into the political and social climate of her time by spanning experiences under both Soviet and Nazi rule. Garbarini states, “This is such a complete text. It shows the life of a teenager before the war, after the war breaks, until she has to move to the ghetto and is executed. It’s absolutely remarkable.”
Reina’s diary, like that of Anne Frank’s, provides readers with a poignant and powerful story. Most significantly, it is a story that communicates that instead of thinking of Reina’s life as a tragedy, readers should focus on the love she had with another and the pleasures in life she experienced before her death. This journal represents the joys of growing up and the sadness and loss of purity that took place in many towns as a result of World War II.