In 1941, the fortress city of Terezin, outside Prague, was ostensibly converted into model ghetto, where Jews could temporarily reside before being sent to a more permanent settlement. In reality it was a way station to Auschwitz. When young Gonda Redlich was deported to Terezin in December of 1941, the elders selected him to be in charge of the youth welfare department. He kept a diary during his imprisonment, chronicling the fear and desperation of life in the ghetto, the attempts people made to create a cultural and social life, and the disease, death, rumors, and hopes that were part of daily existence. Before his own deportation to Auschwitz, with his wife and son, in 1944, he concealed his diary in an attic, where it remained until discovered by Czech workers in 1967.
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This is the diary of Egon "Gonda" Redlich, who lived in the Terezin Ghetto from 1941 to 1944. He was one of those in charge of the welfare of the ghetto's children, and worked tirelessly on their behalf. In his diary he wrote about events in the ghetto, disagreements among the inmates there, and his marriage and the birth of his baby son. Especially poignant is the short diary he wrote especially for his son to read when he got older. Redlich, his wife and child were sent to Auschwitz and gassed in 1944. This book has extensive useful footnotes, so that even those who know little about Terezin will be able to understand what's going on. The footnotes remind us of how brutal life was there (Redlich doesn't complain that much) by doing things like pointing out how many people went out on transports and how many on each transport survived. It was generally about two or three percent, or less. What struck me about the book is Redlich's frequent references to squabbling, jealousy and prejudice among the Jews themselves. Czechs vs. Germans vs. Dutch. Converted Christians vs. religious Jews. Zionists vs. assimilationists. Perhaps this bickering served to distract the inmates from their real enemy, the Nazis, about whom they could do nothing. It reminded me of The Life of Brian and all the revolutionary groups fighting with each other. ("Brothers, we should be united against the common enemy!" "The Judean People's Front?" "No, no, the Romans!" "Oh, right...") I would recommend this book in conjunction with other books on Terezin and other Holocaust ghettos. It would make a good companion to other diaries of the period.