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Holocaust diary discovered

AFP, France
Oct. 19, 2004 • Wednesday October 20, 2004

THE HAGUE: A newly-discovered diary of a young Jewish woman has shed a haunting glimpse on her life in a Dutch prison camp in World War II before she was sent to her death, in an echo of the Anne Frank diaries.

“Even though everybody is very nice to me, I feel so lonely. Every day we see freedom from behind barbed wire,” Helga Deen wrote in extracts made public Tuesday by archivists in Tilburg, in the southern Netherlands. She wrote the diary in 1943, at the age of 18, after she was taken to the Vught detention centre nearby.

It recalls the document left behind by Anne Frank, another teenager living in the German-occupied Netherlands, which was published after her death and has since become a potent symbol of the Holocaust, the Nazi slaughter of millions of Jews.

Helga Deen was a pupil at a Tilburg secondary school when she was arrested and taken to Vught, which was infamous in the Netherlands as a transit camp on the way to Nazi death camps in Germany and Poland.

“This is an extraordinary find. Very few diaries have been written in the camps because of the conditions of life there,” David Barnouw of the Dutch NIOD institute for war documentation told AFP.

“If diaries were written in the camps they were rarely recovered, because people’s luggage was taken away when they were deported,” he explained. Deen’s diary is only the third so-called camp journal discovered in the Netherlands, and the first written by a woman.

In it, she wrote about how the prisoners were deloused and children put on transport.

The diary shows how desperation slowly set in. In an excerpt dated June 6, 1943, just after 1,300 children were deported to Auschwitz and Sobibor death camps in Poland, she wrote:

“Transport. It is too much. I am broken and tomorrow it will happen again. But I want to (persevere), I want to because if my happiness and willpower die, I too will die.”

Deen, who wrote the journal for her boyfriend, hoped she could escape the transports through work, but was told in early July 1943 that her family would be on the next train.

“Packing, this morning a child dying which upset me completely. Another transport and this time we will be on it,” she wrote. It was her last diary entry. Deen was deported to Sobibor, where she was recorded as having died on July 16, 1943 together with her parents and her brother.

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