Books in English: Warsaw Ghetto: A Diary

by Mary Berg, edited by S. L. Shneiderman

    Warsaw Ghetto: A Diary
    by Mary Berg
    edited by S.L. Shneiderman
    ©1944 by L.B. Fischer Publishing Corp.
    L.B. Fischer
    New York, NY

 

The diary of Mary Berg was among the first eye-witness accounts of the Warsaw Ghetto tragedy. Berg, the daughter of a Polish art dealer, started her diary on her fifteenth birthday, shortly after the Germans invaded Poland in 1939. She was imprisoned in Warsaw Ghetto the next year. From the Ghetto's beginning in the winter of 1940, she recorded the Jewish struggle to continue daily life amidst ever-increasing hunger, restrictions, and Nazi sadism. She witnessed the Great Deportation in July 1942 (in which 300,000 Jews were "driven like cattle to the Umshclagplatz on Stawki Street to their death") from the windows of Pawiak Prison in which her family were confined due to the American citizenship of Berg's mother. In 1943, her family was sent to an internment camp in France, and a year later they were exchanged for German prisoners and they went to the United States. Soon after her arrival, Berg rewrote her diary from the original shorthand and prepared it for publication with the help of S.L. Shneiderman. It was first published as a Yiddish serial in 1944, and L.B. Fischer published the book in English in 1945. Since then it has been published in 10 languages.

The diary, despite its international acclaim, has never been re-printed in English since 1945. Mary Berg disassociated herself from Mr. Shneiderman in 1957 and has attempted to fade from view. She refused to accept any royalties when her diary was finally published in Poland in 1984 and when Professor Susan Pentlin of Central Missouri State University tried to contact her in 1995 she angrily replied "Instead of continuing to milk the Jewish Holocaust to its limits, do go and make a difference in all those Holocausts taking place right now in Bosnia or Chechin or have you no sympathy for Moslems being slaughtered?...Don't tell me this is different." Efforts to re-publish the diary continue. The diary is presently available on Inter-Library Loan from many university libraries, including Harvard, Yale, and the University of Virginia.

"Mary Berg's diary...records the dignity of man, his moral consciousness. Once again we are reminded that amid blazing homes, flame-swept streets and mass murders there were human beings who admitted no defeat to the possibility of a better world...Mary Berg's diary achieves, for the sensitive reader, the status of a symbol of man's dignity when every threat was made upon man's sentient being...Without qualification, this reviewer recommends Mary Berg's 'Warsaw Ghetto'" to everybody." 
                                      -New York Times Book Review, April 1945