Holocaust Memorial Day: Personal Memories of Difficult Truths

A black and white photograph of Renia Spiegel

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The ability of personal stories to tell difficult truths

Using the diary of Polish-Jewish teenager Renia Spiegel as inspiration, artist and author Edmund de Waal explores the ability of personal stories to tell difficult truths, joined by translators Marta Dziurosz and Anna Blasiak, and chaired by writer Lisa Appignanesi.

Renia Spiegel was born in eastern Poland in 1924. In January 1939 she began to write a diary. When war broke out she and her sister were living with her grandparents. Separated from her mother by the war, the next few years saw her living under first Soviet, then Nazi occupation, and the creation of the ghetto. In the summer of 1942, Renia was forced into hiding to escape the liquidation of the ghetto. A few days later, her hiding place was discovered and she was shot; she was just eighteen.  Her dream was to become a poet.  Renia’s secret diary was discovered after seventy years and has recently been published.

Lisa  Appignanesi OBE is a prize-winning writer, novelist, editor, cultural commentator, broadcaster, translator and Chair of the Royal Society of Literature. Her prize winning non-fiction includes Everyday Madness, Trials of Passion: Crimes in the Name of Love and Madness, All About Love: Anatomy of an Unruly Emotion, Mad Bad and Sad: A History of Women and the Mind Doctors from 1800; Freud’s Women (with John Forrester); a biographical portrait of Simone de Beauvoir and The Cabaret. She is also the author of an acclaimed family memoir, Losing the Dead and nine novels, including The Memory Man (which won a Holocaust Fiction Prize) and Paris Requiem. Her books have been translated into several languages, including French, German, Italian, Polish and Turkish.

Anna Blasiak is a poet, translator and literature co-ordinator of the European Literature Network. She has translated over 40 books from English into Polish and some fiction and poetry from Polish into English. In addition to her book-length translations, her work has been published in Best European Fiction 2015, Asymptote, The Guardian, B O D Y Literature, Modern Poetry in Translation and York Literary Review. Anna writes poetry in Polish and in English (Off_Press, Women Online Writing, Exiled Ink, The Blue Nib, Ink Sweat and Tears, The Queer Riveter and Modern Poetry in Translation). She has worked in museums and a radio station, run magazines, written on art, film and theatre.

Marta Dziurosz is a Polish literary translator and interpreter, and a literary curator. She was Free Word Centre's Translator in Residence (2015-16), is a member of the Translators Association committee and works at the publishing house Pan Macmillan. Her translations and other writing have been published in print and online by Penguin Random House, Vallentine Mitchell, Asymptote, The New Statesman, Words Without Borders and The Linguist, among others. She is a finalist of the 2019 Jasmine Awards.

Edmund de Waal is an artist who writes. Much of his work is around the contingency of memory: bringing particular histories of loss and exile into renewed life. He continually investigates themes of diaspora, memorial, materiality and the colour white with his interventions and artworks made for diverse spaces and museums worldwide. Edmund is also renowned for his bestselling memoir, The Hare with Amber Eyes (2010), which won many literary prizes including the RSL Ondaatje Prize and the Costa Biography Award and has been translated into over 30 languages.

In partnership with The Polish Cultural Institute in London


Name: Holocaust Memorial Day: Personal Memories of Difficult Truths
Where: Knowledge Centre
The British Library
96 Euston Road
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When: -
Price: Full Price: £13.00
Member: £13.00
Student: £6.50
Registered Unemployed: £6.50
Disabled: £6.50
Under 18: £6.50
Senior (60+): £11.00
Young Person (18-25): £6.50
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