Edition Room 28
Edition Room 28

 

 

Helga's Diary

The Theresienstadt Diary of Helga Pollak

Story

The book combines Helga’s authentic Theresienstadt diary and the original calendar notes and documents of her father Otto Pollak. It conveys the story of her childhood in Vienna and in the Czech town Kyjov, where she lived after Austrian's annexation to Germany on 12 March 1938.

It includes interviews with Helga about life in Room 28, art lessons with Friedl Dicker Brandeis and her recollections on musical events, such as the rehearsals of Verdi's Requiem by Rafael Schächter, which took place in the cellar of the Girls Home L 410. Readers learn about her experiences in Auschwitz-Birkenau and in the working-camp Oederan (Saxony), how she got liberated in April 1945 and reunited with her father.

Helga Pollak

Helga Pollak, around 1939

Helga Pollak-Kinsky, born on 28 May 1930 in Vienna, was 12 years old when she and her father were deported to the Theresienstadt Ghetto in January 1943. There she lived in the Girls' Home L 410, Room 28, until she was deported to Auschwitz on 23 October 1944.

In Theresienstadt, in Room 28, on a wooden bunk-bed she  entrusted her experiences, feelings and thoughts to her  diary. It became her best friend and named it: "my little brother spider".

Otto Pollak

Otto Pollak (1894-1978) around 1935

For many years Otto Pollak was the owner of Vienna's popular Caféhouse Palmhof in the Mariahilferstrasse. On January 1943 he and her daughter were deported to the Theresienstadt Ghetto. At that time both lived in the Czech town Kyjov in Moravia. Helga's mother Fried had fled to England in 1939.

The day before deportation, on 17 January 1943, father and daughter started to write down their experiences. Helga in her diary, and Otto in his calendar.

Story of father and daughter

Poster to readings from Helga's Diary

The testimonies of father and daughter reveal the closeness between the two writers, the interweaving of their experiences, hopes and fears. Together, they form a unique chronicle of the events in the Theresienstadt Ghetto and a profoundly moving portrait of an assimilated Viennese Jewish family looking back on a harrowing experience at the end of World War II.

 

Helga's watercolor

The aquerelle below was made in 1943/1944 in the Theresienstadt Ghetto during art lessons with Friedl Dicker-Brandeis. In 1996 it was the title-page of a big Calender with drawings from the Theresienstadt children published by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. The author of the drawing, it says, is: "Helga Pollak". Then the words follow: "Her fate is unknown".

 

Helga Pollak's life and fate is known. Those who read "My Theresienstädter Diary" will lknow about it.  It is Helga Pollak-Kinsky who made this sunset many years ago as a child in Theresienstadt.

Watercolor by Helga Pollak, 1943/1944, Theresienstadt

From the estate of Otto Pollak

Excerpt from a letter to Frieda Pollak

25.10.1945

Dear Frieda

 (...) There is not a single example in history of such mass murder organised by the state, of so many inventive and cumulated atrocities.

If one were to use the word ‘animal-like’ for all of this, it would be an insult to these creatures.

Because there is no word, no expression, no concept for all of these bestialities, I cannot carry on like others do.

Compared with the immense catastrophe that has befallen us, every word of hate seems to me to be too small, too profane.

I have never been able to indulge in outbursts or to air my feelings like others do, because I have always believed that this would tarnish the memory of those who died.

Or was I too resigned, my soul too deeply wounded after all that immense suffering? 

Edition Room 28 is a branch of Room 28 Projects. There is a separate website:

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