The Journal of Hélène Berr

The Journal of Hélène Berr

Book - 2008
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Baker & Taylor
Ranging from 1942 to her family's 1944 deportation, the personal journal of the daughter of a prominent Jewish family describes two years of life in Paris under Nazi occupation.

Blackwell North Amer
The Journal of Helene Berr is the story of a heroic young woman whose indomitable spirit thrived in the face of prejudice and war.
From April 1942 to February 1944, Helene Berr, a recent graduate of the Sorbonne, kept a journal of her life in Nazi-occupied Paris, seeking refuge from the harsh realities of being a Jew under the Vichy regime. With her friends and fellow students, Helene plays the violin and escapes the everyday in what she calls the "selfish magic" of English literature and poetry. Although she comes from a privileged and sophisticated family - her father is a decorated French officer of the First World War and the distinguished director of a large chemical company - she begins to be assailed by anxieties. With difficulty, Helene keeps to what routine she can: studying, reading, enjoying the beauty of Paris, and looking after the children of arrested Jewish families.
Helene writes of literature, music, love, and the beauty of her city, striving to remain calm and rational even as tragedy closes in. But as anti-Semitic ordinances are passed and rumors of mass exterminations surface, we bear witness to the shift in Helene's world and inner life.
In 1944, Helene and her parents were arrested and sent to Drancy. On her twenty-third birthday they were taken by train to Auschwitz, where her parents died within six months. Helene was forced to march to Bergen-Belsen, where she died in April 1945, just days before British troops arrived to liberate the camp.
Entrusted by Helene to her family's longtime cook before she was taken away, Helene's journal survived as a family heirloom over the years until her niece recently decided to share it with the world. A devastatingly lucid account of one of history's darkest moments, it has become an instant classic.

& Taylor

Ranging from 1942 to her family's 1944 deportation, the personal journal of the daughter of a prominent Jewish family describes two years of life in war-time Paris under Nazi occupation, writing not only of the harsh realities of being a Jew in Vichy France but also of her love of literature and music, the beauty of Paris, and more.
The joyful but ultimately heartbreaking journal of a young Jewish woman in occupied Paris, now published for the first time, 63 years after her death. In 1942, Hâeláene Berr, a 21-year-old Jewish student at the Sorbonne, started to keep a journal, writing with verve and style about her everyday life in Paris--about her studies, her friends, her growing affection for the "boy with the grey eyes," about the sun in the dewdrops, and about the effect of the growing restrictions imposed by France's Nazi occupiers. Humiliations were to follow, which she records, now with a view to posterity. She wants the journal to go to her fiancâe, who has enrolled with the Free French Forces, as she knows she may not live much longer. She was right. The final entry is dated February 15, 1944, and we now know she died in Bergen-Belsen in April 1945, within a month of Anne Frank and just days before the liberation of the camp.--From publisher description.

Publisher: New York, N.Y. : Weinstein Books, 2008
ISBN: 9781602860643
Characteristics: 307 p. : ill., maps ; 24 cm
Additional Contributors: Bellos, David


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ChristchurchLib Apr 14, 2014

"In 1942, Hélène Berr was a student of English literature at the Sorbonne in Paris during the Nazi occupation. Berr, a member of a Jewish family, wrote her journal on individual sheets of paper, which she passed to the family's cook for safekeeping. Full of light and hope, yet tinged with anxiety and despair, Berr's writing vividly depicts Parisian life under the Nazis. Deported to Bergen-Belsen in 1944, Berr died there days before the British liberated the camp in 1945. Her journal remained with family members and was published only recently, revealing an absorbing and insightful record of the Holocaust's effects on Jews in France." Biography and Memoir April 2014 newsletter

Cdnbookworm Feb 11, 2013

The first portion of this journal, from 1942, was written as a private diary. Then there is a gap of about nine months and the second portion from later 1943 through early 1944 is written as a record of what is happening around her and for her fiancé should she not be here when he returns.
Berr is a university student at the Sorbonne, from a well-to-do family who have been settled in France for generations. She struggles with falling in love for the first time, determines to do the right thing in the face of the occupying Germans, and wanting to help those who need it.
We see her reaction to the order forcing Jews to wear yellow stars and how she reacts to those who react to that. She is open in her journal about her emotions, and her struggles with what to do in the face of increasing restrictions. Because she was involved in assisting those arrested and awaiting deportation, she was more aware of what was going on than most, but that didn't save her from her own fate.
An interesting historical account from a unique perspective.

Feb 15, 2012

I was moved from delight to despair while reading this journal, and came to better understand how "everyone is blind to those being tortured" (as Berr wrote), even those who were doomed. I also came to realize more clearly how one's mind simply cannot fathom evil; how it tries to make sense of what is irrational. A moving and tragic diary.


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