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Oh, please God. June 14, Trains carry Polish prisoners to Auschwitz—the first inmates transported to the Nazi extermination camp in Poland. This is supposed to be the best time in my life. France has capitulated. America is refusing to help. Who knows, they might even start a war with Russia?
Oh, God, why did such a horrible birthday have to come? They might cry. Why are you so far from me, so far away? July Stalin continues to deport Polish Jews to Siberia and to Birobidzhan, a Soviet town near the Chinese border that was the administrative center of a Jewish autonomous state formed in Residents were subjected to hard labor and harsh conditions throughout the war. July 6, What a terrible night! I lay there with my eyes wide open, my heart pounding, shivering like I had a fever.
I could hear the clanking of wheels again. Oh, Lord God, please help us! A truck rolled by. I could hear a car horn beeping. Was it coming for us? Or for someone else? I listened, straining so hard it felt like everything in me was about to burst.
I heard the jangling of keys, a gate being opened. They went in. I waited some more. Then they came out, taking loads of people with them, children, old people. The whole night was horrific. Some of the people were crying.
Most of the children were asking for bread. They were told the journey would take four weeks. Poor children, parents, old people. Their eyes were filled with insane fear, despair, abandon. They took whatever they were able to carry on their slender backs. They are being taken to Birobidzhan. They will travel in closed, dark carriages, 50 people in each. They will travel in airless, dirty, infested conditions.
They might even be hungry. And how many will reach their destination? How many will die on the way from illness, infestation, longing? What does it matter that they have torn lands apart, that they have divided brothers, sent children far away from their mothers? The clouds, the birds and the sun laugh at these borders, at human beings, at their guns.
They go back and forth, smuggling rain, blades of grass, rays of sunshine. And no one even thinks of banning them. The clouds, birds, and wind would follow. So would one small human soul, and plenty of my thoughts.
August 21, About a third of the residents of Horodenka, a town of about 9,, are Jews. Germans and Ukrainians will shoot most of them; only a dozen or so will escape. August 21, Daddy came to pick us up from Horodenka.
We had to ride four hours in a horse-drawn cart. August 22, I spent half the night crying. I feel so sorry for Daddy, even though he keeps whistling cheerfully.
Nora admitted she liked him, but since she knew he was my type, she let it go. Nora has cute, sweet Natek and Irka has Maciek. October 12, Germans decree that a Jewish ghetto be erected in Warsaw. Yesterday everybody left the house; I was on my own with burning candles on the table in a huge, brass candleholder. Ah, a single moment of solitude. I was able to think about all the things that get lost in the daily whirlwind. I asked myself the same question I asked last year: Mamma, when will I see you again?
I stared into those burning candles—Mamma, what are you doing there? Are you thinking about us, too, about our torn hearts? We see the boys out in town. We see Maciek almost every day. Zygus walked back from school with us today. He looked right at me. Nora is more likely to have fun than I am, since someone is in love with her.
Unless Bulus comes? October 19, We sat opposite each other at the Russian club this week. He stared at me, I stared at him. As soon as I turned my eyes away from him, I could feel his eyes on me.
Then, when he said two words to me, I felt crazy, filled with hope. I felt as if a dream was coming true, as if the goblet was right by my lips. A lot can happen before lips touch lips. So many things can happen to stop them from touching.
An additional foot of barbed wire will eventually crown the wall. November 6, I won first place in the competition! Zygus congratulated me. He was simply beautiful. All my hopes reverberated in me.
Oh, what a triumph. Then I went to that wretched party. I stood there on my own while Nora was dancing. I left. I walked through the wet streets, trying not to cry loudly. But no, I will! Shy or not, I need to win in this other arena. Even if it means my soul will lose, let life win!!! Pushkin is my new hero. He went on rendezvous with the other kids, went on moonlight walks on fragrant nights, picked white waterlilies for his lover. He pined, dreamed, loved.
One utters his name with reverence.
But I could never become famous like that. All I see are gray, cracked cobblestones and cracked, thirsty lips.
All I see are ashes and soot that choke, that corrode the eyes, that stifle breathing. No revolution will ever be able to fix this. Nothing will. Later that day My romance seems to be over. What a stupid, crude, arrogant idiot.
He likes playing with me. But you know what? I wrote him an offensive poem. He got annoyed. I wish I were dead! December 8, Suddenly, I love him like crazy. Just think, everything was about to go dormant and today it sprung back to life.
Nothing happened—but still so much! He played with my hood, stroked it, came closer! Wonderful Zygus, wonderful, so wonderful!!!
Something paralyzes me. Ah, that idiot, if he only knew how much I love him. It can break, but no If we could really be together, it would be wonderful and terrible at the same time! The invasion does not take place until June December 25, It was your birthday yesterday. When will this torture finally end?!
My longing gets stronger, I feel worse and worse. December 28, Zygus is going to be in the variety show! In fact, he and I are going to be in the same scene, reading from the same page. Irka says he listened admiringly when I sang couplets. I thought the opposite, but oh well! When we headed to class, he took my hand! Or it did, but it felt totally different from my other hand.
Some very nice shivers went up and down it. We put on the variety show. I got a great response from the audience. Backstage, Zygus took my cape off and untangled my hair. When I was about to leave, he ran up to me and asked if I would go to a party with him tomorrow. It was so exciting; I told Nora everything. I feel sorry for her. Today is the last day of Tomorrow is the beginning of a new year, which will bring new regrets, new laughter perhaps , new worries, new struggles.
My dearest wish is to get my poor beloved mamma back. I want this new year to be cheerful and happy. Nazis forced Jews living on the German side of Przemysl to cross the railway bridge over the San River and relocate to the Russian-occupied side. Everything was sweet. What was the best moment?
Was it when he spoke to me while we were dancing? Or when he draped his arm around me as I stumbled during a waltz? And when he touched me So sweet, so good! We sat and talked together. What an evening. My wonderful, my golden boy, my lover. I have to finish a paper to turn in tomorrow, but I just want to see Zygus.
January 9, Today a ball hit my wonderful, dear Zygus on the jaw; it was so bad he crouched down in pain. My poor darling! Let me be! February 20, I dreamed about Mamma all night long.
Zygus and I were rescuing her, looking for her in Warsaw. Today I remembered all those painful, burning things. Help me, God Almighty. Help me, my one and only true friend, my wonderful, distant and close Mamma When I shared my halvah with him, he took a piece without asking—it was so intimate. But do you know what I like thinking of the most? A sweet moment when my Zygus bought me a bagel and put a piece of it into my mouth.
Apart from the sweetness, there was something so masculine about it, so husband-like. Mamma and you, wonderful God, lead me. March 7, Today after class, he pushed me gently against a wall and brought his lips close to mine. He asked why I was so evil. I am evil? And he asked about my plans for tomorrow. I feel strange. I might go to his place. Will it all work out, at least a little bit? I pray to God and Bulus. I ask you earnestly to take care of me.
March 18, Zygus picked me up at 6 p. It felt as though there was something hanging between us, something elusive, something unspoken. I kept thinking about an unfinished symphony. Will the symphony ever be finished? I can feel something powerful swelling up inside of me. Those red lips will by my lips get ravaged.
This is disgusting, repulsive, animalistic. March 28, Today we went for a long walk. It was so good—we just talked, talked, talked. But what do I know? April The death rate of Jewish prisoners in the Warsaw ghetto exceeds 2, per month for the first time. It will peak in August at 5, deaths. You know, sometimes I find excuses for Zygus. Today, poor, dear Granny made a clumsy attempt to help me feel better, but instead she only lacerated my already bleeding heart. It will take a while for it to heal.
April Axis forces move deeper into Eastern Europe, conquering the Kingdom of Yugoslavia and dividing it among themselves. April 30, I am the unhappiest of unhappy people.
Why did Zygus arrange to take Irka to a party? Why does he want to spite me? May 10, Long live May! We went to the movies and sat closely entwined. Zygus likes to study my poems. So much it chokes me up. May 13, My whole life is swelling up in me, all 17 years of it. All my emotions are piling up into one heap of dry leaves, and May is like fuel poured on that heap. Let the heart, brain, mind, body catch fire, let there be only conflagration and heat—and desire for burning, red-hot lips Have I lost my mind?
There are only three days left until the end of term! Such amazing lips! We climbed up high into the hills, along the paths. The San was flowing—powerful, glimmering, red in the sunset. You will help me, Bulus and God. June 11, Zygus passed his final school exam today! He was so wonderful today! Very, very tender and very darling. June 20, We had another wonderful evening. The stars started to emerge, and the moon floated up, and we sat next to each other and talked.
We got lost. It was so light, elusive, ethereal, delicate. How did it happen? No more now, I need to think and dream. June 21, I love those green eyes.
We kissed for the second time today. War again, war between Russia and Germany. The Germans were here, then they retreated. Horrible days in the basement. Dear Lord, give me my Mamma, save all of us who have stayed here and those who escaped the city this morning. Save us, save Zygus. I want to live so badly. Tonight is going to be terrible. You saved me before, save me now. God, thank you for saving me. Almost the whole city is in ruins. A piece of shrapnel fell into our house.
These have been horrific days. Why even try to describe them? Words are just words. Dear diary! How precious you are to me! How horrible were the moments when I hugged you to my heart! And where is Zygus? I believe, fervently, that no harm has come to him. Protect him, good God, from all evil. All of this started four hours after the moment he blew me the last kiss up to the balcony.
First, we heard a shot, then an alarm, and then a howl of destruction and death. God, save us all. Make it so Mamma comes and let there be no more misery.
June 30, German forces capture Lwow and its surroundings from the Soviets. Jews are ordered to wear armbands emblazoned with the Star of David. Nazis and Lithuanians together will ultimately kill 70, Jews there. All of us, Nora, Irka, Zygus, my friends, my family. I will be a Jude. It just feels so strange and sorrowful. My school vacation and my dates with Zygus are coming to an end.
No news about Mamma. God protect us all. Goodbye, dear diary. Grant me that, Lord God, I believe in you. July 3, Nothing new so far. We wear the armbands, listen to terrifying and consoling news and worry about being sealed off in a ghetto. They're not saying anything good about him, but they won't change their opinion of what they felt before the war. To them, it was the perfect time.
Maybe they saw the SS marching on the street, but basically they enjoyed themselves. Others said they couldn't believe that these wonderful people they spent such a happy time with could be capable of things like these. You have to remember England in the s suffered from a widespread depression. And then these girls go to Germany, and on the surface everything looks good. They didn't know what the regime was doing, they didn't know about the Nuremburg laws.
One of them told me about her music professor, who suddenly disappeared. He was Jewish and had to flee. It was wilful blindness. The English turned against Germany in September , after the invasion of Poland.
Most Britons had to leave Germany that summer. In some way, Unity was an extreme example of the English fascination and admiration for Hitler. They had to leave without her. Despite its subject, "Winter Games" is not an unhappy or even tragic novel. What has the response been like? It's been a quite difficult book to promote.
People still think it's a dangerous topic. I talked about it during the Jewish Book week in London. The audience was almost entirely Jewish. Special offers and product promotions The first question was: You went to Berchtesgaden, where many of the top Nazis had vacation homes, on a research trip.
What was your impression? I found it really dark. By accident, I went there on Hitler's birthday. People lit candles on the site of the Berghof, his former residence. That was quite weird. It's bizarre, isn't it? I think there are more English books published on Nazism than on any other subject.
It remains a period of great fascination, a time of great danger, but also of great English bravery. I thought it was important to try to tell this part of our past from the perspective of some young and slightly naive women.
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