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Salvaged Pages Background 1 - Letter from Alexandra...

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Letter from Alexandra Zapruder, Author of Salvaged Pages: In 1992, as a researcher at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, I stumbled upon a handful of diaries written by teenagers during the Holocaust. Though I had read Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl in the eighth grade, nothing prepared me for the surprise of reading these other accounts of life under the Nazi regime. Insightful, detailed, complex, and contradictory, these diaries challenged my assumptions not only about the nature of daily life during the Holocaust, but about young people and their ability to make substantial contributions to the literary and historical record of the time. Over the course of the next ten years, I gathered and researched more than sixty diaries written by young people in occupied Europe. These writings capture the experience of young people from the inside—not as the Nazis decreed it, not as observers witnessed it, not as historians made sense of it after events occurred. They are records written without knowledge of the outcome, as young people traveled through their daily lives, observing and recording as they did. We, as historians, teachers, and students, mine them for historical information and find it in the details. What did people eat? How did they communicate? What were their concerns? What were their reprieves and joys? What surprises of daily life are contained within that we might not assume or imagine from our perspective 60 years or more into the future? For many, diaries are more than paper on which to collect thoughts. Some people give their diary a name, making it a special confidant. To read somebody’s diary is to enter what is often a very private world. Some hide their diaries from their own families; others save them for years to share as a record of their own lives. In recording the events of their lives, diarists explore their own relationship to the world around them. The author Joan Didion explains, “I write entirely to find out what I’m thinking, what I’m looking at, what I see and what it means. What I
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