The Un­for­got­ten

Never for­get.

Smithsonian Magazine - - Prologue -

TRANS­LATED TWO NEWLY DIARIES BY YOUNG WOMEN MUR­DERED IN THE HOLO­CAUST CRY OUT TO US ABOUT THE EVILS OF THE PAST AND THE DAN­GERS OF THE PRESENT

That has al­ways been the idea be­hind teach­ing the Holo­caust in schools and lis­ten­ing to eye­wit­ness ac­counts. But as we mark the 80th an­niver­sary of Kristall­nacht this month and the youngest Holo­caust sur­vivors en­ter their ninth decade, the world is show­ing dan­ger­ous signs of mem­ory loss.

In the United States, the num­ber of neo-Nazi groups has been ris­ing, from 99 in 2017 to 122 in 2018, ac­cord­ing to the South­ern Poverty Law Cen­ter. Fas­cist groups are brazenly gathering and scor­ing po­lit­i­cal vic­to­ries across Europe, from France and Hun­gary to Poland and, in­cred­i­bly, Italy and Ger­many. Just last year a far-right Ger­man politi­cian at­tacked the very premise of Ber­lin’s Memo­rial to the Mur­dered Jews of Europe, say­ing, “This laugh­able pol­icy of com­ing to terms with the past is crip­pling us.”

We at Smithsonian pro­foundly dis­agree. The work of com­ing to terms with the past and con­nect­ing it to the present is es­sen­tial. The five sto­ries that fol­low are about re­cov­er­ing lost his­tory and un­der­stand­ing what hap­pens when innocent young peo­ple are caught in the ma­chin­ery of ha­tred and war.

Our main story is by Re­nia Spiegel, a spir­ited Pol­ish teenager who spent her last days hid­ing from the Nazis. Her gift to us to­day is her jour­nal, an elo­quent ac­count of a young woman’s con­scious­ness blos­som­ing in the midst of unimag­ined evil. Three-quar­ters of a cen­tury later, Smithsonian has trans­lated her diary into English for the first time and drawn from the whole text to present her voice, her as­pi­ra­tions, her vivid ob­ser­va­tions, her rich emotional life. It’s a vi­tal new con­tri­bu­tion to our col­lec­tive mem­ory of the his­toric tragedy

that the world seems on the verge of for­get­ting.

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