cover image The Journal of HlneBerr

The Journal of HlneBerr

Rebecca Kai Dotlich, , trans. from the French and with intro. and afterword by David Bellos, afterwor. Weinstein, $24.95 (288pp) ISBN 978-1-60286-064-3

“Iwas abruptly assailed by the feeling that I had to describe reality,” writes Berr midway through this urgent firsthand account of the devastation of Paris's Jewish community during WWII. This journal, which begins in 1942 as the record of a young woman's “intense and buzzing” inner life, becomes over time a record of human suffering: “How will the world be cleansed unless it is made to understand the full extent of the evil it is doing?” Berr, daughter of a prosperous assimilated Jewish family, was forced to quit her studies at the Sorbonne, joined an underground network to save Jewish children, saw her father arrested and beloved friends deported. But as compelling as external trials are the thoughts and feeling of this brilliant, passionate and brave young woman. As the noose tightens around Paris's Jews, Berr wonders if she still has the right to find momentary pleasure in reading; she questions herself for falling into “instinctive, primitive” hatred of Germans. Yet in one overpowering moment of rage, she rails against impassive Parisian Christians who “crucify Christ every day.” Berr died in Bergen-Belsen in 1944, five days before the camp's liberation, but her vibrant voice—full of anguish, compassion, indignation and defiance—springs from these pages—as extraordinary a document of occupied France as Irène Némirovsky's Suite Française. Photos. (Nov.)