"Yet, my little Diary, I don't want to die, I still want to live .. I would wait
for the end of the war in a cellar, or in the attic, or any hole, I would, my
This is part of the last diary entry of 13 year-old Eva Heyman written on May 30, 1944.
The diary was her 'best friend' and she poured her heart and soul into it.
Eva was born in Oradea in 1931 of Jewish parents. At the time that Nazi Germany invaded Hungary in early 1944 Eva was living with her grandparents as her mother Agnes (known as Agi) had divorced and remarried. Her second husband was the Jewish writer and publicist, Bela Zsolt.
Eva's diary was started in February 1944 shortly before the German forces entered Hungary and the restrictions on the Jews became even more severe. The diary covers the period where Eva is taken to the ghetto in Oradea and ends shortly before Eva is deported to Auschwitz.
Eva’s Family and friends
Agnes Zsolt Eva’s mother (nee Racz), also known as Agi. Her first husband was Bela Heyman (Eva’s father).
Aniko (Pajor) Eva’s best friend, also referred to as Anni.
Bela Heyman Eva’s father, an architect. Divorced from Agi when Eva was still quite small. Also referred to as Papa.
Bela Zsolt Agi’s second husband, a Hungarian journalist, playwright and aspiring politician. Also known as Uncle Bela.
Grandma (Racz) Eva’s grandmother, the mother of Agnes, with whom Eva lived for most of her life.
Grandpa (Racz) Eva’s grandfather, a pharmacist, the father of Agnes, with whom Eva lived for most of her life.
Grandma Lujza Eva’s grandmother, the mother of Bela Heyman, Eva's father.
Juszti Eva’s Austrian (and Christian) governess. She had previously been the governess of Eva’s mother.
Marica (Kecskemeti) Eva’s cousin and one of her two best friends. Marica’s father was Uncle Bandi, a paediatrician.
Mariska (Szabo) The Christian maid/cook who worked for Eva’s grandparents.
Marta (Munzer) A close friend of Eva, who was deported with her parents and murdered by the Germans in the early 1940s.
Pista (Vadas) The Jewish boy who Eva thought she was in love with. The son of a shopkeeper.
Uncle Sandor (Friedlander) A close friend of the family, a local politician and bank manager.
So the diary begins:
February 13, 1944
I've turned thirteen. I was born on Friday the thirteenth. Agi is terribly superstitious, though she is ashamed to admit it. This is the first time Agi didn't come for my birthday. I know that she's about to have an operation but she could still have managed to come. There are good doctors in Varad, too. She didn't come home for my thirteenth birthday. Agi is happy now, Uncle Bela is out of jail already. Agi loves Uncle Bela very much; I love him, too. Grandma says that there isn't another soul Agi loves besides Uncle Bela, not even me. But I don't believe it. It may be when I was little she didn't love me, but she loves me now. Especially since I promised to be a news photographer and to marry an Aryan Englishman. Granpa says that by the time I get married it won't matter whether my husband is Jewish or not.........
I always used to have a birthday party. But already last year only my two best friends came over - Marica Kecskemeti, my cousin, and Aniko Pajor - and Agi was there too. My grandmother said she wouldn't allow a birthday party, so that the Aryans shouldn'tsay that the Jewish children are showing off......
Granma says that I'll be even prettier than Agi, and that she's only charming but I'll have a modern figure. That's because I do a lot of athletics, swimming, skating, bicycle riding and exercise.....
February 14, 1944
Today I took my bicycle down from the attic. In two more weeks I may be able to go out riding. I like riding a bicycle, and my bicycle is a real one not a children's bicycle.
But I wish that the bicycle wouldn't remind me of Marta.
February 17, 1944
Agi told Grandma Racz that it's better not to pay any attention to the fact that I'm jealous. Every child has its faults. Agi has known children who always lied, and even stole. And I really hardly ever tell lies - mostly in school, or to my French teacher, when I haven't done my homework, and I say that I had a headache or a toothache.
February 21, 1944
I neglected you these last few days, dear diary, because I didn't have time to write. We got our mid-year report-cards. Anni Pajor and I are the best ones of the class. Juszti was here today, she was very happy about the report-card, and she gave me a present of the fourth and fifth volumes of "The Little Rebel". I love Juszti more than anyone else in the world, a little more than Agi, but right after her; Agi, then Papa, and right after Papa comes Uncle Bela and Grandpa and Grandma Racz, and then Grandma Lujza. Grandma Racz mustn't be told this, because she will get cross immediately.
March 14, 1944
The Agis are here. I haven't scribbled in you for a long time, dear diary. But I've been very busy. I've done a lot of studying, because Anni jumped ahead, and even though she's my best friend, I can't allow that. I love Anni a lot, and Agi thinks she has a good influence on me, but still I'm a bit jealous of her.........
Dear diary, you know something intersting? When we were alone together, two minutes hadn't passed and Agi, as though she saw right to the bottom of my soul with her eyes, asked me: So, Eva-Doll (she always calls me that), you don't happen to have some secret you want to tell me, do you? I just don't understand how Agi guessed that I'm in love with Pista Vadas. You know, dear diary, I immediately told her everything!
Even that I walk in the direction of the Vadas shop when I really have to go in another direction, and sometimes I hang around for ten minutes looking in the Vadas shop window......
Dear diary, it's so different with the Agis at home that I don't even care if the war goes on for a long time! But that's disgusting of me, because so many people are suffering. That's not what I mean. What I mean is that the most wonderful thing in the world is when the whole family is always together. For us, that's a very rare thing!
March 16, 1944
In the afternoon Papa was here too. He came to visit Agi and Uncle Bela. They had a very pleasant conversation, the way friends talk. Agi always tells me that she was never angry at Papa, and she explains that I should love my Papa the way I love her, and that even though they got divorced, I'm a child of both of them equally. Dear diary, I have a lot of homework. Ever since the Agis are here, I hardly ever study, and something unpleasant may still happen to me in school.
March 18, 1944
There are constant air raid alarms in Pest. Dear diary, I'm so afraid that here too, there will be air raids. I can hardly write, because I kept thinking about what will happen if they bomb Varad, after all. I want to live at all costs.
March 19, 1944
My little Diary you are the happiest, because you cannot feel the great misfortune that happened to us. The Germans came to take over! What only uncle Bela feared, has indeed happened...
This is the first day that Agi got out of bed for lunch, grandfather even noted that she is as weak as an autumn fly, yet she sat and ate with us. There was excellent punch cake, wine and expresso. No one turned on the radio all day long. At noon, uncle Bela wanted to listen to the news, but Agi begged him not to and said: Today, let's not worry about politics, let's live our private lives...
Somehow, word got around that uncle Bela and Agi were here and in the afternoon, Agi's girl friends came over. Uncle Bela was visited by his best friend in Oradea, uncle Sandor Friedlander. A large crowd has gathered, when uncle Bela and uncle Sandor Friedlander went out to a cafe. Less than ten minutes later, uncle Bela and uncle Sandor Friedlander came back, both of them white as the wall. I can still hear uncle Sandor's voice: We are all ruined, the Germans are in Budapest since this morning.
March 21, 1944
Agi's friends and uncle Bela's acquaintances spent all day at our house. Now everyone in the city knows they're here and everyone is seeking their advice. Uncle Bela is telling everyone that they should get false papers and cross over to Romania. But grandmother is turning her eyes in such a weird manner when she hears about escaping and it is impossible to escape with Agi, since her scar still hurts...
March 26, 1944
Since the Germans are here, I can think only of Marta. She was also a child, yet the Germans killed her. But I don't want them to kill me. I'd like to become a photo journalist and at age 24 marry an English Aryan...
March 27, 1944
Juszti came by today. She cried terribly and said that Mrs. Poroszlay would allow me to hide on their land, but Mr. Poroszlaywould not even hear of it. Yet, I could live in a pigsty, or in a stable, I'd work anywhere, I'd drive the sheep, only not to be shot by the Germans, like Marta...
March 29, 1944
Today they came from the Jewish Community and they took away nearly all the linen. The Germans request almost daily something from the Jews, one day the typewriter, another day the carpets, today the bed linen. First, grandmother tried to negotiate, then she said it was futile, and let them take it. She did not even want to make selections, she handed the keys to the linen closet to these total strangers, the same keys which in the olden days she would not easily give even to Juszti or Agi.
Juszti came by again today. Her eyes were red from crying, as if she were Jewish herself. She says she will die because she can't save me - whom she loves most in this world - from possibly what awaits me.
April 5, 1944
Grandmother Lujza was very happy to see me, she is very calm. She says she doesn't mind if she has to die. Yes, but she is 72 and I am only 13 years old. Grandmother Lujza is worried only about my father, my aunt, aunt Lilli and myself. She says that now it is of utmost importance to stay healthy, because then one can endure everything. While there, a lady came in running with the news that Emil Vaiszlovics was arrested and taken to the Elementary School on Koros Street. They broke into his hotel and the Germans and Hungarians robbed him of everything they could. Even though grandmother is not on speaking terms with Emil Vaiszlovics, she was still terrified.
Grandmother Lujza believed that they will not dare touch Emil Vaiszlovics, after having been beaten up by the Romanians because he was so pro Hungarian. Grandmother Lujza questioned if it has been worthwhile for Emil to be so 'Hungarian'...Now they even helped the Germans rob the hotel, instead of defending him.
April 7, 1944
Today they came for my bicycle. I almost caused a big drama. You know, dear diary, I was awfully afraid just by the fact that the policemen came into the house. I know that policemen bring only trouble with them, wherever they go. My bicycle had a proper license plate, and Grandpa had paid the tax for it.
That’s how the policemen found it, because it was registered at City Hall that I have a bicycle. Now that it’s all over, I’m so ashamed about how I behaved in front of the policemen. So, dear diary, I threw myself on the ground, held on to the back wheel of my bicycle, and shouted all sorts of things at the policemen: “Shame on you for taking away a bicycle from a girl! That’s robbery!”
We had sold my old bicycle, my layette and Grandpa’s old winter coat and added the money we had saved. My grandparents, Juszti, the Ágis, Grandma Lujza and Papa all had chipped in to buy my bicycle. We still didn’t have the whole sum, but Hoffmann didn’t sell the bicycle to anyone else, and he even said that I could take the bicycle home. My father would pay, or Grandpa. But I didn’t want to take the bicycle home until we had all the money. But in the meantime I hurried over to the store whenever I could and looked to see if that red bicycle was still there. How Ági laughed when I told her that when the whole sum was finally there. I went to the store and took the bicycle home, only I didn’t ride it but led it along with my hands, the way you handle a big, beautiful dog. From the outside I admired the bicycle, and even gave it a name: Friday.
I took the name from Robinson Crusoe, but it suits the bicycle. First of all, because I brought it home on a Friday, and also because Friday is the symbol of loyalty, because he was so loyal to Robinson. The “Bicycle Friday” would be loyal to “Éva Robinson”, and I was right, because for three years it never gave me any trouble, that is, it never broke down, and there were no expenses for repair. Marica and Anni also gave their bicycles names. Marica’s was called Horsie, and Anni’s was called Berci just because that’s such a funny name.
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. You can imagine, dear diary, how I felt when they were saying this to my face. I had only heard that sort of thing on the radio, or read it in a German newspaper. Still, it’s different when you read something and when it’s thrown into your face. Especially if it’s when they’re taking my bicycle away.
Actually, what does that nasty policeman think? That we stole the bicycle? We bought it from Hoffmann for cash, and Grandpa and all the others worked for this money. But you know, dear diary, I think the other policeman felt sorry for me. You should be ashamed of yourself, colleague, he said, is your heart made of stone? How can you speak that way to such a beautiful girl? Then he stroked my hair and promised to take good care of my bicycle. He gave me a receipt and told me not to cry, because when the war was over I would get my bicycle back. At worst it would need some repairs at Hoffmann’s.
Ági said that we had been lucky this time, but that next time we should let them take whatever they wanted. In any case nothing could be done about it, and we shouldn’t let those stinking scoundrels see how much we suffered. Still, I don’t understand Ági. What do I care whether they know or don’t know that we suffer. It isn’t hard to see that if everything you own is being taken away from you, and soon you won’t even have money to buy food, you suffer.
But what does is matter? Ági doesn’t have to hug the bicycle wheel and sob. Anybody looking at her can tell that not only does she suffer, but day and night she trembles over what is in store for Uncle Béla.
May 1, 1944
My little Dairy, from now on I see everything as a dream... We started to pack, taking from everything the quantity Agi has seen written on the poster. I know it is not a dream, but I can't believe it. We can also take bed linen, but we don't know when they are coming to take us, so we can't pack the bed linen just yet. Agi is making coffee all day long for uncle Bela and grandmother is drinking cognac. No one says a word. My little Diary, I was never so afraid!
May 10, 1944
We are here for five days, but my word of honour, it feels like five years. I don't even know how to start writing, so many horrible things have happened since I last made an entry...
I have no idea how it will be later, I always think this is the worst, then I realize on my own that everything can become even worse, actually much worse. Until now, there was food to eat, now we won't have any. On the inside of the ghetto we could visit one another, now we are not allowed to get out of the house...Agi doesn't mind anything if they only leave us alive, that is what she keeps constantly saying... Last night I dreamed of Juszti, my little Diary, and in the morning I woke up crying.
May 17, 1944
You see, my little Diary, I told you the other day that everything could be worse? You see how right I was? They started the interrogations at the Dreher beer factory. You know my little Dairy, the gendarmes don't believe the Jews that they have nothing left...
Now everyone in the house is shaking with fear, wondering when are they going to be taken in for a beating at the Dreher.
May 18, 1944
Yesterday, the same thing happened to me, my little Diary as did to Marica. I couldn't sleep and I overheard everything the grown ups were talking about. First I heard only Agi and uncle Bandi Kecskemeti, because they know everything from the hospital. They both said that in the Dreher not only do they abuse people by beating, but they also use electric shocks. Agi was relating this in such a crying voice, that had it been not said by her, I would think the whole thing is a made up horror story. Agi said that they bring people from the Dreher into the hospital, that blood is dripping from their nose and mouth, some have their teeth knocked out, and their soles are so swollen, that they can't stand. My little Diary, Agi was also saying what the gendarmes do to women, because they also take women in there, I just don't want to write it down. I simply can't write it down, although you know my little Diary, I have had no secrets from you so far. I also heard, but this was said by grandfather, in the dark, that here in the ghetto many people commit suicide. There is enough poison in the ghetto pharmacy and grandfather gives some to older people who ask for it. Grandfather added that he would be only too pleased to take some cyanide himself and give some to grandmother as well. Hearing this, Agi started to cry, and I heard her crawl to grandfather's mattress and still crying, she said: Patience daddy, this can't last for ever.
May 29, 1944
My little Diary, now it all comes to an end! The ghetto has been subdivided into districts and they are taking us all away.
May 30, 1944
My little Diary, everyone says that we will remain in Hungary, that they gather the Jews from the entire country somewhere around the Balaton region for work. But I don't believe it. It must be terrible in the freight car and now nobody is saying any longer that they are taking us, but rather that they are "deporting" us. I have not heard this word so far and Agi says to uncle Bela: Bela, don't you understand, they are deporting us! A gendarme is walking up and down in front of the house. Yesterday, he was in the Rhedey Park, because that is from where the Jews are being deported. Not from the real train station, as here the town's people can't see them - says grandfather.
Much do the town's people care. If the Aryans didn't want it, they could have stopped our ghettoization. But they were rather enjoying it and even now they don't care what will happen to us.
This gendarme, whom uncle Bela calls a friendly gendarme, because he never yells at us and doesn't address women in the familiar form, came in the backyard and told us that he will leave the police force, because it is inhuman what he has witnessed in the Rhedey Park.
They forced 80 people in freight cars and they gave them altogether only one bucket of drinking water. But it is still more awful that they are sealing the cars with padlocks. People will surely suffocate in this terrible heat! The gendarme said he truly didn't understand these Jews. Not even the children cried. They were all like sleepwalkers. They got into those cars stiff, without a word.
The friendly gendarme didn't sleep all night, while other times, he said he is fast asleep as soon as he puts his head down. This was such a horrific view, he related, that even he could not sleep. Even though he is a gendarme!
Now Agi and uncle Bela whispered something about us remaining behind in a typhus hospital. Supposedly, we will say that uncle Bela has contracted typhoid fever. This is possible, because he had it earlier while in the Ukraine. I don't know, I trust mostly nothing, I can only think of Marta and I am afraid that the same thing will happen to us as it did to her, even though everyone says that we are not going to Poland, but only to Balaton.
Yet, my little Diary, I don't want to die, I still want to live, even if it means that only I remain behind from this entire district. I would wait for the end of the war in a cellar, or in the attic, or any hole, I would, my little Diary, I would even allow that cross-eyed gendarme who took the flour from us to kiss me, only not to be killed, only to be left alive!
I now see that the friendly gendarme let Mariska in, I can't write any further, my little Diary, I'm crying with tears and I am in a hurry to see Mariska...
Eva as a young child
Eva's mother, Agnes Zsolt, pictured above (on the right) escaped to Switzerland on a special train organised by Rezso Kasztner in December 1944.
After the end of World War II she came back to search for her daughter, but received the detail of how she had been killed:
"A good-hearted female doctor was trying to hide my child, but Mengele found
her without effort. Eva'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 the truck!' He transported his human material to the crematorium on
yellow-coloured trucks. Eyewitnesses told me that he himself had pushed her
on to the truck."
Eva Heyman, thirteen-years-old, was gassed that same day, October 17, 1944.....
Photos reproduced with the kind permission of Yad Vashem
Bela Zsolt memoirs
Bela Zsolt, a prominent Hungarian journalist and political figure, was Eva's step-father. He was an intriguing figure in his own right and the subject to close scrutiny in a number of subsequent publications. His own memoirs were serialised just after World War II and later published under the title "Nine Suitcases". In these memoirs he describes being held in the Oradea synagogue/hospital waiting with his wife Agi (Eva's mother) to be taken to Auschwitz, but he took the chance to escape to the Oradea typhus hospital with Agi and from there by train to Budapest.
He and Agi left behind, Eva, Agi's parents and Eva's father in other parts of the Oradea ghetto; all of whom perished in Auschwitz.
Ladislaus Lob (a Holocaust survivor, from Cluj), who has produced the wonderful English translation of Zsolt's memoirs, has given Tikvah permission to reproduce the following extracts from the book "Nine Suitcases" which describes Bela's efforts to save Eva from deportation:
"For the moment, the most important thing was to find a way of bringing my wife's parents and her young daughter by her first marriage to the hospital before they were taken away from the third section of the ghetto early on the day after tomorrow, when the third transport was due to leave. If we had to go, we should at least all go in the same wagon. When Dr. Nemeti looked into the ward for a few minutes in the afternoon, I asked him to try and smuggle the family into the hospital........
.....one of his patients was a gendarme who had caught gonorrhea in the town.......Dr Nemeti was treating him in secret.....Dr Nemeti would have a word with him, he might have an idea.......
.....When Dr. Nemeti had finished his story I asked him what was happening about my wife's family.
"I'm afraid the gendarme can't bring them here", he said irritably. "But maybe he'll try to move them to the fourth section. That way we would gain at least a day. And tomorrow something else could happen".
[In fact, Eva and her grandparents were taken to the cattle trucks when the third section was evacuated, but it took a few days for Agi to find out that her family had been parted from her irrevocably.]
Eva’s diary was passed by her to the family maid, Mariska Szabo, when she visited Eva in the ghetto on May 30 1944 and then given by Mariska to Agi in 1945.
Inevitably when original documents are not available for scrutiny then some researchers are nervous about making assertions about the authenticity of materials. Over the years, because it is not known if the original manuscript for Eva’s diary still exists, some people have questioned whether the diary was all Eva’s own work or whether her mother and step-father may have embellished parts of it.
This question was looked at in some depth by Dr Judah Marton when he produced the 1963 English version of the diary. He was able, following the death of Eva’s mother Agi, to reproduce the text of the letter sent to Agi by the maid, Mariska, in 1945 where she relates how Eva passed the diary to her for safe-keeping.
To what extent the diary has been edited by Agi or Bela Zsolt significantly beforepublication in 1947 is open to question. What we do know is that Eva was an extremely bright and mature 13 year-old. She was top of the class in a high attaining school. Dr Marton spoke with surviving members of the Racz family back in 1963 who confirmed that the diary reflects the Eva they had known. Tikvah has also spoken in 2012 to survivors who knew Eva and played with her. They have no doubts as to the broad authenticity. If Eva’s mother had wished to “doctor” the text, then surely she would have wished to remove a number of significant criticisms of her that her daughter records?
To a large extent any such debate is academic. We know that the events recorded in the diary actually happened, which is authenticated by other contemporary evidence. We think that Eva would be pleased to know that her diary has achieved such prominence and that her words can reach out to people, young and old, 70+ years after one of the most tragic events of Oradea’s history.
There is a listing of many diaries kept by young children caught up in the Holocaust which is maintained on the USHMM website.