I recently read The Journal of Hélène Berr, a book I had picked up off the sale shelf not knowing what to expect. First of all, it is worth purchasing at full price and second of all...what a heartwrenching read. (I read an English translation but I'm thinking I'd like to read the original.)
If you don't know, it is a sort of French Anne Frank, though she is not in hiding. It was published only a couple of years ago, though it covers the period between 1942 to 1944. Berr was a French Jew, completely assimilated, who, living in Paris during the war, sees her world shrinking, the noose tightening around her, so to speak. She keeps a diary of events, describing the introduction of the yellow star, the Rafle du Vel D'Hiv, the increasing restrictions she and her family face (among other things, she could no longer take the courses she so loved at the Sorbonne). Her father was detained at Drancy, then released...only for the entire family to be arrested and deported, ultimately.
Berr's parents were both killed at Auschwitz and she was beaten to death at Bergen-Belsen only five days before the British liberated the camp.
A couple of things struck me: 1) Berr was, as noted, assimilated. She considered herself French first and foremost. She had no interest -- as she writes several times in her journal -- in Zionism. One wonders how those views may have changed had she survived; 2) The journal contains a number of stories about non-Jewish French people who, at great risk to themselves, tried to help their Jewish compatriots. This was a good thing for me to read, because I tend to be very cynical about the French during that period. And while there is no question they were among the worst collaborators, Berr's account makes clear some of them did not lose their decency.
Read this article about how the journal's publication came about.