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Hélène Berr (1921–1945)

Author of The Journal of Hélène Berr

Includes the names: Hélène Berr, Hélène Berr, Hélène Berr, Hélène Berr

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Hélène Berr was born in Paris to a Jewish family that had lived in France for generations. She was a brilliant English student at the Sorbonne when the Germans invaded France in World War II. As a Jew, she could not continue her studies at the university. She began to keep a diary in April 1942, at age 21. At first she wrote about her social life and ordinary events. Then the horror of the Nazi Occupation intensified. Hélène's close friends and colleagues were rounded up or just disappeared, and rumors reached her that Jews deported to the Polish border were being asphyxiated with gas. Hélène's intended the diary to be given to her fiancé, Jean Morawiecki, who had joined the Free French. As she wrote, Hélène gave batches of the loose pages to the family cook, Andrée Bardiau. Her final entry on February 15, 1944, ended: "Horror! Horror! Horror!" Three weeks later, the Gestapo arrested the family during the night. Hélène Berr and her parents were deported to Auschwitz on her 23rd birthday. Her parents were killed but Hélène survived for some time, including the death march from Auschwitz to Bergen-Belsen. There she was beaten to death because she was too sick and weak from typhus to get up from her bunk for the morning reveille. Five days later, the camp was liberated by the British Army. Hélène's diary did eventually reach her fiancé and remained private for more than 50 years. In 1992, Hélène's niece, Mariette Job, decided to track down the diary. Thanks to her persistence, it was published in 2008 in France and sold more than 100,000 copies.
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