NEVER FORGET! ALWAYS REMEMBER!

Dr Jacques COULARDEAU
6 min readDec 8, 2023

RENIA SPIEGEL — RENIA’S DIARY, a HOLOCAUST JOURNAL — 2019

This book is surprising. It is the diary of a young woman, in fact, a teenager aged 15 to 18, starting on January 31, 1939, and ending on July 31, 1942. In the beginning, the war was looming up in Europe and it was declared when Germany and Russia changed the frontiers of Poland, and the eastern part went to the USSR and the western part went to Germany. Great Britain and France declared war on Germany on September 3, 1939. Renia was living in the eastern part of Poland at the time, her mother was in Warsaw, and her father was in another town. For them, the war would only start when Germany decided to attack the USSR on June 22, 1941.

The first aspect of the book is the story of a young woman, in fact, a late teenager confronted with schooling, with the university in perspective, meaning that we are in a rather well-off family. Jewish of course with Jewish people around, but no real ghetto, though the schools are probably segregated. Renia Spiegel never specifies such details. This by far longer part of the book, is thus entirely centered on school, activities around school, and love desires from the sole point of view of a woman for a man. The narrative is extremely feminine, even at times naïve about what love is, though there seems to be a dominant desire to BE “loved,” “taken care of,” “touched or even caressed,” and at the end, we can wonder if Renia and her boyfriend Zyguś actually have some sexual intercourse.

Then, sometime in the second half of 1941, there is a slow and light change that takes place in the tone of the story. The war is coming close and that will mean the invasion of this region by Germany, meaning Nazi Germany. Fear of ghettoization and deportation is starting to loom high. At the end of the diary, Renia speaks of boys who are deported, brought together, and taken away by what appears to be the Gestapo but with the collaboration of some Jewish police when the ghetto is imposed and closed up, under the threat of death if you try to get out without a proper pass. Renia speaks of one instance of 1,260 boys rounded up and taken away…

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Dr Jacques COULARDEAU

Dr Jacques COULARDEAU, PhD in Germanic Linguistics (University Lille III) and ESP Teaching (University Bordeaux II) has been teaching all types of ESP