Renata Liselotte Margarethe Laqueur was born in Brzeg or Brieg, Germany (now Poland), to a Jewish family that converted to Christianity. Her father Ernst Laqueur was a well-known physician and researcher. She and her siblings grew up in Amsterdam. She dreamed of becoming a fashion designer or journalist, but at her father's request attended an international secretarial school where she learned German, English, and French along with typing and shorthand. During this time, she wrote articles for a Dutch women's magazine. After the start of World War II, her father volunteered a medical research officer for the German Army. In 1941, she married Paul Goldschmidt, a speech therapist, with whom she joined the Dutch underground resistance. Two years later, they were arrested as Jews, sent to the Westerbork transit camp and then deported to the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp. There Renata began secretly to keep a diary. Five days before British and Canadian troops entered the camp, they were among the group of prisoners put on a train sent east, and were liberated by the Red Army at Tröbitz. She contracted typhus but recovered. Her husband also survived and they returned to Amsterdam in 1945. She met Dezső Weiss, a Hungarian-born doctor with whom she emigrated to the USA in 1953, settling in New York City. She worked as a secretary at the Sloan-Kettering Cancer Institute. In 1960 she enrolled at New York University to study English and Spanish language and literature, and later switched to comparative literature. In 1971, she earned a doctoral degree with a dissertation entitled, "Writing in Defiance: Concentration Camp Diaries in Dutch, French and German, 1940-1945." Her own diary, Dagboek uit Bergen-Belsen, Maart 1944-April 1945, was published in 1965 in the Netherlands and was later translated and published in other countries.