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.
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