‘A lesson to be learned’: Winnipeg woman sharing her Holocaust diaries

The diaries of a young Jewish girl whose parents died in the Holocaust during the Second World War are now part of a display in the Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada.

For years, only the memories of Holocaust survivor Susan Garfield have been shared with her children and grandchildren. But now, her diary of that time will carry on to new generations.

“There’s a lesson to be learned because it should never happen again,” the now-86-year-old told CTV News.

When she was only 11 years old, Garfield, who had been living in Budapest, watched as her parents were taken away from her.

“We had to go to the courtyard and they were sorting people out, so they sorted children and old people, women and men of a certain age and they were taken,” she said. “And so I was left. I was left alone.”

More than half a million Hungarian Jews died in the Holocaust and it would be some time later before Garfield learned her parents were among them.

Garfield became a war orphan after her father was forced into a labour camp and her mother was taken by Nazi soldiers. At the time, Garfield wrote that felt she’d be killed.

The heartbreak and trauma captured in her first diary were left behind in her family home during the siege of Budapest.

“When I was going to hide and I was afraid for my life, I wasn’t taking along my diary,” she said. “The diary just turned up after. Somebody obviously had it and they didn’t throw it away.”

Today, the diary is encased in glass as part of a larger Holocaust display at the Jewish Heritage Centre of Western Canada in Winnipeg.

The diary entries also became the basis of a memoir which will be publicly released on Sunday. Garfield’s book will be available in Canadian schools.

This most recent initiative is thanks in part to the Azrieli Foundation, which seeks to help preserve the memories of Holocaust survivors and educate Canadians.

Garfield told CTV News, “I’m here to say it happened.” And although her living memories won’t last forever, her written words surely will.

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