A Jewish girl's life in Nazi Europe
Ruth Maier’s Diary is one of the most moving testimonies to emerge from this dark period of European history
Ruth Maier was born into a middle-class Jewish family in interwar Vienna. Following the Anschluss of Austria in March 1938, the world of the substantial Viennese Jewish community crumbled. In early 1939, her sister having left for England, Ruth emigrated to Norway and lived with a family in Lillestrøm, about thirty miles from Oslo. Although she loved many things about her new country and its people, Ruth’s relationship with her hosts soon turned stale, then sour. Ruth became increasingly isolated in Norway until she met a soul mate, Gunvor Hofmo, who was to become a celebrated poet. Norway itself became a Nazi conquest in April 1940, and Ruth’s attempts to join the rest of her family – now in Britain – became ever more urgent. She never left Norway, and in November 1942 she was deported to Auschwitz where she was exterminated on arrival. She had just turned twenty-two.
Ruth Maier kept a diary from 1934 until just before she was murdered. Despite being only in her teens she shows a sophisticated understanding of the political forces shaping central Europe as well as extraordinary prescience. The book is much more than just historical documentation, however. In a lucid yet highly lyrical style, with an incisive talent for narrative and a sharp wit, Ruth explores universal themes of isolation, identity, friendship, love, sexuality, desire, morality, justice and sacrifice. Most of all, however, she seeks what it means to be a human being. Published only recently for the first time in Norway, Ruth Maier’s Diary is one of the most moving testimonies to emerge from this dark period of European history.
“It sounds like a cliché to maintain that a new Anne Frank has been found. But the newly published diary by Ruth Maier has the same magic strength as Anne Frank's diary.”
Berlingske Tidende (Denmark)
“The final volume of her diary, completed two days after her 22nd birthday, carried the inscription: "Do Not Burn!" For the sake of posterity and as a human chronicle, we can be grateful that it was not turned to ash.”
Ian Thompson, Independent