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Archive for Wednesday, October 20, 2004

Teen’s Holocaust-era diary revealed

October 20, 2004

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— A Holocaust-era diary and love letters written by a Jewish teen for her Dutch boyfriend while she was imprisoned in an internment camp in 1943 has been donated to a Dutch archive.

Archivists in the Dutch city of Tilburg on Tuesday announced the rare discovery with parallels to the famed diary by Anne Frank.

The journal was kept by 18-year-old Helga Deen during the final month of her detainment in a Dutch internment camp in April-July 1943. That July, she was shipped off to a Nazi concentration camp in Sobibor, Poland, with her brother, father and mother. All four died at the camp.

"She kept the secret diary for her boyfriend in order to help him understand what she was experiencing," said Yvonne Weling of the Tilburg Regional Archive.

Deen recorded some of her day-to-day experiences for her boyfriend, Kees van den Berg, but even more of her emotions, Weling said.

"Maybe this diary will be a disappointment to you because it doesn't contain facts," Deen wrote to Van den Berg. "But maybe you'll be glad that you find me in it: conflict, doubt, desperation, shyness, emptiness."

"If my will dies, I'll die too," she wrote in another journal entry.

"We are homeless, countryless and we have to adjust ourselves to that way of life. What we have seen in these last months is indescribable, and for someone who hasn't been there, unimaginable," she wrote.

Elsewhere, she recorded her relief on one occasion after her family was once not selected for deportation -- and the fear they might be chosen next time. On June 6th, 1943, 1,300 children were transported from Vught to Sobibor and Auschwitz. Deen saw them leaving and wrote:

"Transport. It's too much. I'm destroyed and tomorrow again."

Van den Berg had written back to Deen on some of the blank pages of the diary, concealed within a school notebook marked "Physics" and apparently transferred back and forth between the pair. He kept the diary after Deen was deported, and saved it along with a lock of her hair.

It is not known how the two exchanged the letters or how her diary ultimately came into Van den Berg's hands.

Weling said the family of Van den Berg, who has also died, donated the diary to the archive earlier this year.

Deen's final entry was written on July 2, 1943. It contained a partially illegible phrase ending "... between the packages, because we're leaving soon," apparently referring to an attempt to smuggle the diary out of the internment camp.

Six million Jews were killed in the Holocaust, including some 100,000 from the Netherlands.

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