Mary Berg survived the Łódź ghetto, Warsaw ghetto, and Vittel internment camp. Raised in Łódź, Poland, her family fled to Warsaw when the Nazis arrived. Her diary presents a vivid picture of life and tragedy in the Warsaw ghetto. Mary, her parents, and sister were eventually incarcerated in the Pawiak prison. Berg’s mother was American-born and her family was brought to the United States in March 1944 in a prisoner-of-war exchange.
Her 12-album diary was published in the Yiddish daily Der morgen Zshurnal. The story was subsequently translated into English and published in 1945 by L.B. Fischer as Warsaw Ghetto. Her papers were acquired by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, DC in 2014.
The diary excerpt below was written on July 29, 1941 during Berg's time in the Warsaw ghetto.
Where are you, foreign correspondents? Why don’t you come here and describe the sensational scenes of the ghetto? No doubt you don’t want to spoil your appetite. Or are you satisfied with what the Nazis tell you – that they locked up the Jews in the ghetto in order to protect the Aryan population from epidemics and dirt?
Some time ago, I read in the Nazi-controlled Nowy Kurjer Warszawski just such reports on the ghetto by Spanish and Rumanian correspondents. And how surprised I was to see that an American correspondent, too- one who represented a large magazine – had let himself be deceived by the Nazi propaganda about the hygienic necessity for a ghetto in Warsaw! Is the whole world poisoned? Is there no justice anywhere? Will no one hear our cries of despair?
Komitetowa Street, near Grzybowska, is a living graveyard of children devoured by scurvy. The inhabitants of this street live in long cellar-caves into which no ray of sun ever reaches. Through the small dirty window panes one can see emaciated faces and disheveled heads. These are the older people, who have not even the strength to rise from their cots. With dying eyes they gaze at the thousands of shoes that pass by in the street. Sometimes a bony hand stretched out from one of these little windows, begging for a piece of bread. (pp.80-81)