Cover image for The beautiful days of my youth : my six months in Auschwitz and Plaszow
The beautiful days of my youth : my six months in Auschwitz and Plaszow
Novac, Ana.
Personal Author:
Uniform Title:
Beaux jours de ma jeunesse. English
First American edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Henry Holt, 1997.
Physical Description:
xix, 314 pages : illustrations, maps ; 22 cm
Personal Subject:
Corporate Subject:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
D805.P7 Z8713 1997 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area
D805.P7 Z8713 1997 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



The journal of a fourteen-year-old offers testimony to the nightmare conditions at Auschwitz and the ways its victims survived.

Reviews 2

Publisher's Weekly Review

This memoir of the Holocaust is remarkable on at least two counts: the high caliber of its prose, and its extraordinary provenance as a document originally drafted in Auschwitz and other concentration camps. Acerbic and absorbing, the observations here have a rare and chilling potency. The author, from a Jewish family in Northern Transylvania, was arrested in May, 1944, when she was almost 15; what she describes in her foreword as a "benign amnesia" has erased her memories of arrival in Auschwitz. Once there, however, she miraculously found a pencil stub and devised writing paper, and began recording her experiences. (Endnotes document other diaries and manuscripts by concentration camp prisoners.) She preserved what remains of her diary by various means: she hid scraps of it in her shoes and those of her friends, and at one point, in the Plaszow work camp, she arranged to have a portion of it smuggled out by a freed Polish prisoner. Novac, who recently retranslated her diary from its Hungarian original to French, writes with a shrewd and practiced eye, aiming to create a chronicle of use to others even as she avoids self-consciousness or stiffness in her role as journalist. She girds herself in irony, and her caustic tones seem both to reflect the extreme harshness of her surroundings and to represent the detachment she needed in order to survive. Describing the general reaction to the announcement that girls who volunteer for a "selection" will be brought to a rest camp, she observes, "Here, someone has always seen everything (with her own eyes), and there's always someone to swear to it. Someone already saw the white bread, the new clothes waiting for us, and the toothbrushes..." She sketches prisoners and kapos with merciless clarity, characterizing them with a few vigorous sentences, and unforgettably capturing the current of tensions that continually sweep through the barracks. There are no special concessions here to YA readers (beyond, perhaps, the inclusion of a glossary and explanatory endnotes), nor anything particularly "young" about the material. It would be a shame for the YA classification to limit this book's audience‘it deserves the attention of any reader who wishes to understand life, death and survival in Hitler's camps. Ages 12-up. (Sept.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

School Library Journal Review

Gr 7 Up‘A brilliant, literary memoir. At the age of 15, Ana Novac (nee Zimra Harsanyi) recorded these impressions during six harrowing months in Auschwitz and Plaszow concentration camps, from June to November 1944. Of the eight camps Ana passed through, she remembers only these two. She wrote on strips of German propaganda posters torn from the walls and on sheets of toilet paper. She hid the pages in her shoes and memorized them when they grew too bulky, summarizing them with a few key phrases. In each camp, she angled to get the top sleeping platform to take advantage of the dim ceiling light. Sophie, her camp "sister," thought she was crazy, but nevertheless helped her conceal the scraps of paper. Ana wrote about the horrors, the narrow escapes from death, the ludicrousness of the situation. She described her camp "family" in hilariously on target, if "sick," metaphors. She wrote about the "angel-makers," the women who saved pregnant women from the gas by aborting their fetuses or by delivering their babies and then disposing of them. She observed, she thought, she wrote, she existed. Like Gerty Spies, an older woman who also found her salvation in writing (My Years in Theresienstadt [Prometheus, 1997]), Novac's will to write was stronger than her body's will to die and so she survived. We are gifted with this work of art, this word tribute to the human spirit.‘Marcia W. Posner, Holocaust Memorial and Educational Center of Nassau County, Glen Cove, NY (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.