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The Journal of Hélène Berr

Updated: May 19, 2022

2008, Editions Tallandier

Like Anne Frank, Hélène Berr kept a journal during the Nazi occupation of her city; both died in the Bergen-Belsen camp shortly before its liberation in 1945 -- Hélène was 24 years old. She lived in Paris, going out regularly to help others in spite of the yellow star she had to wear, until being deported with her parents in 1944. Her journal, written to her fiancé who was engaged in the Resistance, was also meant as a testimony to events unfolding around her. Hélène recounts her love for Paris, literature, nature and other human beings; and her growing discouragement, fear, and desperation at the treatment of Jews. After the war, Hélène's fiancé kept the journal, almost like a cherished family secret, until giving it, over fifty years later, to Hélène's niece. Published in 2008, it is utterly beautiful, a must read; had Hélène Berr lived, she would certainly have been an accomplished writer and perhaps an activist.

These words from the journal (paraphrased), show Hélène's deep humanity, and remind me why I find it so important to read all the stories available:

Who will tell the story of all these individual souls? Who will ever tell of each person's suffering? The only "true" testimony, worthy of being written, would be a collection of all the stories of every person deported. (15 February, 1944)

Every life matters.

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Jun 18, 2022

Thank you for this correspondence between the two generations. It took away some stress from my own distress about the depressing state of many world matters

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