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The fascinating story behind the publication of Sylvia Gotmanova’s diary

Many diaries have been uncovered over the years documenting the difficult experiences of children and adults during the Holocaust. One of these diaries was written by Sylvia Gotmanova, who was only nine years old when Czechoslovakia’s Sudetenland region was annexed by Germany, and only 10 years old when the Nazis occupied the entire country.
Sylvia wrote the diary from 1941 to 1942 and dedicated most of it to the world of a growing young girl, the boys she fell in love with, her looks, and the time she spent with her friends.
The diary was donated to the Ghetto Fighters’ House museum in the Western Galilee by a Swedish woman, whose mother was Zuzana’s classmate, through the mediation of Inbar Yasur.
 
Anat Bratman-Elhalel, who is in charge of the archive at the Ghetto Fighters’ House museum, defines the diary as an emotionally moving document. “It mostly demonstrates how the girl tries to maintain the old order, to keep up with her routine social life on the backdrop of the difficult events taking place around her, which barely infiltrate the world she is describing.”
The Ghetto Fighters’ House museum collected the details about Sylvia and her fate from the donor’s stories and from information found at Yad Vashem and Beit Theresienstadt.

One day after the publication of this article, the GFH Archives received an email from Alec Mahrer. His father Jerry and his uncle Peter are first cousins of Sylvia, the author of the diary. Peter is one of the two boys by that name who are mentioned in Sylvia's diary. They both live in the US and were deeply moved to read the story about the diary. Peter subsequently also contacted the archives and introduced himself. The family sent us photos of Sylvia and her family from the happy days before the war and even silent videos filmed with a home movie camera. These videos show the family on vacations in various places just before the outbreak of war. For the viewers and readers, the diary, the photos and the videos bring Sylvia, her sister Zuzana and their parents, Simon and Stefanka, back to life, if only for a few short moments.

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