When we think of the Holocaust and children diarists, one of the first names that comes to mind is Annelies (Anne) Marie Frank, known around the world for her brilliant mind and the terrible suffering she faced in solitude. Her story is often the only one discussed in schools in the United States. There are many other diaries, however, written by children that are just as valuable. Children diarists of the Holocaust tend to show a significant amount of intelligence and understanding of what is going on around them. A particular diary has always stood out to me, and that has been the Diary of Éva Heyman.
She was a 13-year-old diarist in today’s Oradea, Romania (in her time it was Nagyvárad, Hungary), and her diary dictates the environment that the Nazis instituted on the country. Éva was in a wealthy family, but her family suffered significant loses when the Nazis took hold of the country. Her grandfather lost his pharmacy, and this loss would cause strife and issues within the family. Éva was intuitive, and she recognized the crumbling world around her, but she remained hopeful of the future. Her diary helped memorialize her friend, Márta, who she recognized was killed by the Nazi regime. The world that these children had to survive in was denigrating, and it would tear these children apart. Hints of this inner turmoil can be seen in her diary as she worries that the Nazis would eventually kill her, too.
Éva is a significant young lady in her perspective of the world, and her words bring a sense of hope. The environment seemed bleak, and while she could recognize some of the hopelessness, she maintained a sense of future and continued to make plans. Éva maintained strength in times where many would give up, and in her diary, she notes a particular situation that shows the cruel lengths the Nazis would implement to be malicious to Jews. Nazi policemen had shown up at her house to pick up her bicycle: “‘Shame on you for taking away a bicycle from a girl! That’s robbery!’ We had saved up for a year and a half to buy the bicycle… One of the policemen was very annoyed and said: ‘All we need is for a Jewgirl to put on such a comedy when her bicycle is being taken away. No Jewkid is entitled to keep a bicycle anymore. The Jews aren’t entitled to bread, either; they shouldn’t guzzle everything, but leave the food for the soldiers.’” The hatred that the Nazis had for Jews could be felt throughout Jewish communities in Europe, and this hatred often plagued the minds of these children, which showed in their diary entries. The story becomes significant because even despite losing something she held dear, Éva still maintained hope. She was moved to a ghetto in Nagyvárad, and she would eventually be transported to Auschwitz.
According to her mother’s foreword in her diary, Josef Mengele was the man who determined the death of Éva. It states: “a good-hearted female doctor was trying to hide my child, but Mengele found her without effort. Éva’s feet were full of sore wounds. ‘Now look at you,’ Mengele shouted, ‘you frog, your feet are foul, reeking with pus! Up with you on to the truck.’” Éva would die in the gas chambers in October of 1944, but her life would forever be recorded in her diary.
There remains a common life lesson that is shown throughout diaries from children during the Holocaust: perseverance. In some of the worst conditions the world could offer, these children fought for their lives day-by-day and had hope to see tomorrow’s sun. The reality that they had to survive was abhorrent, but they maintained the best they could and held onto their dreams.
  Éva Heyman, Agnes Zsolt (Editor), Moshe M. Kohn (Translator) – The Diary of Éva Heyman: Child of the Holocaust. Published in 1988.