“For the dead and the living, we must bear witness.” Elie Wiesel

Keepsakes of Holocaust survivor emerge

By Jennifer Schuessler NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE  •  Wednesday November 12, 2014 6:29 AM


Mary Berg, a Polish Jewish teenager who wrote one of the earliest firsthand accounts of the Nazi genocide to be published in English, has long been a mystery in the annals of Holocaust literature.

Her diary recounting her experiences in the Warsaw Ghetto was serialized in U.S. newspapers in 1944 and released as a book in 1945. Her account won wide praise and turned the author, who had escaped to the United States in March 1944 at age 19, into a prominent campaigner on behalf of Hitler’s Jewish victims.

Yet, by the early 1950s, the book, Warsaw Ghetto, had fallen out of print, and Berg disappeared from public view, refusing to speak to researchers and sometimes denying that she had written the diary.

Now, a trove of Berg’s albums and scrapbooks has surfaced, promising to shed light on a woman sometimes described as an Anne Frank before Anne Frank.

The material was set to be sold on Nov. 24 at Doyle New York, a Manhattan auction house, but, on Monday, Doyle canceled the auction after relatives inquired about the sale.

The cache contains photographs of Berg’s family life in Poland — including a handful of images in what seems to be the Warsaw Ghetto as well as material from her early years in the United States.

Before the sale was canceled, scholars had expressed concern that a public auction risked fueling a commercial market for Holocaust-related collectibles, compromising the mission of keeping evidence of the Nazi genocide in accessible archives.

The Berg material carried an estimated value of $4,000 to $6,000.

It came to light in the spring after a part-time antiques seller in York, Pa., where Berg died in 2013, bought it for $10 at an unidentified estate sale, according to a report in June in the online magazine Tablet.

Last week, after learning of the auction, Stephen T. Powell and another relative contacted the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington to encourage it to acquire the material, Powell said.

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