The Diary of Eva Heyman: Child of the Holocaust (Yomanah Shel Evah Hayman)

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Diary by Eva Heyman, 1964

Eva Heyman began her diary in the city of Nagyvárad in northern Transylvania (the modern Oradea, Romania) on 13 February 1944. Her notes cover a period of just under three months, during which time she witnessed and experienced all aspects of the German occupation of the city and the repression of the Jews there. One of a very few diaries written by young people in this region of Europe during the war, Eva's diary offers a close-up contemporaneous view of the decimation of a fragment of Hungary's Jewish community. It was originally published in Hungarian in 1947, as Yomanah shel Evah Hayman in 1964, and in English translation first as The Diary of Eva Heyman in 1974 then as The Diary of Eva Heyman: Child of the Holocaust in 1988.

The only child of divorced parents, and surrounded by highly educated, liberal adults, Eva reported on many historical events that might have normally passed over the head of such a young girl. Though she confessed that she often "didn't understand" the exact implications of the events she mentioned, she nevertheless touched on major historical currents as they affected her immediate family and friends. In particular, she remembered when her hometown of Nagyvárad (part of Romania since 1919) was given to Hungary in 1940, and its humiliating consequences for her grandfather, whose pharmacy was expropriated. She also described her stepfather Bela Zsolt's entry into the Hungarian Labor Service, which was comprised of Jews who were forcibly drafted and sent to aid the Hungarian army on the Eastern Front. And, she returned again and again to the memory of her friend Marta Munzer, whose family was among 16,000 people deported by the Hungarians from Nagyvárad to Kamanetz-Podolsk, where they were turned over to the SS and brutally slaughtered.

Above all, however, Eva's diary captures the German onslaught and the daily events that culminated in ghettoization and deportation. In this part of the diary, Eva was not remembering the past and filling in its details, but reporting on events as they unfolded. Unlike diaries written in many other parts of Europe, in which the escalation of repression against the Jews unfolded over a period of years, Eva's diary vividly reflects the sudden and swift attack on the Jews of Hungary. From the moment she announced that the Germans had taken power in Hungary, Eva's diary is filled with the whirlwind of laws, decrees, and events that affected the Jews of Nagyvárad. She witnessed the eviction of Jews from their homes, and poured out her own experiences of oppression, including the imposition of the Star of David, the rapid confiscation of personal property, the departure of the family's Christian cook and friend Mariska Szabo, and the arrest of her father.

In May 1944 the family was crowded with the Jews of their community into the Nagyvárad ghetto. Eva wrote at length about the humiliating and traumatic move from home and its affect on her family. Once in the ghetto, Eva aptly captured the dramatic change in their circumstances. She wrote, "Every-thing is forbidden, but the most awful thing of all is that punishment for everything is death… No standing in the corner, no spankings, no taking away food, no writing down the declension of irregular verbs one hundred times … Not at all: the lightest and heaviest punishment—death."

The family remained in the ghetto for one month. Eva continued to write during this period, confiding in her diary her growing terror that she would share the fate of her murdered friend Marta. When the ghetto was liquidated at the end of May, Eva and her family (except her mother and stepfather) were deported from the ghetto to Auschwitz and murdered. Her notes stand not only as a record of the life of one little girl but as a powerful and moving account of the German attack and annihilation that engulfed the vast majority of Hungarian Jewry.

—Alexandra Zapruder

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The Diary of Eva Heyman: Child of the Holocaust (Yomanah Shel Evah Hayman)

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The Diary of Eva Heyman: Child of the Holocaust (Yomanah Shel Evah Hayman)