The Diary of Susan Garfield

Winnipeg Holocaust survivor Susan Garfield recorded her thoughts and fears as a soon-to-be orphaned 10-year-old Jewish girl in Budapest.

By: John Longhurst

“The reason I am writing this diary is that, many years from now when my smooth face will be a map of wrinkles, I may show it to my children and grandchildren. I want to give account of the war-filled years, the strife, the persecution and many more heart-rending things.”

That’s how Winnipegger Susan Garfield’s wartime diary begins.

Garfield, 86, was nearly 11 years old when she started writing about her experiences as young Jewish girl in Budapest in June 1944.

Two years before she began the diary, when she was nine, her father was taken away to a slave labour camp in 1942. She never saw him again.

Garfield lived with her mother until fall 1944, when her mother was shipped to a concentration camp in Austria. She survived the camp but died of typhus on the way home.

Orphaned, Garfield left her home — and her diary — behind and went into hiding. Using false documents, she went from place-to-place to avoid being captured.

Caught once, she was sent to the Jewish ghetto. But she escaped, continuing to live on the run until the city was liberated by the Russians in early 1945.

Looking back, Garfield said simply: “I somehow managed.”

That included surviving the seven-week siege of Budapest.

“It was a terrible time,” she said of the shelling and bombing she experienced during the fighting between the Germans and Russians. An estimated 38,000 civilians were killed. “I was surrounded by death and horror.”

After the war, she was miraculously reunited with her diary. In 1947, she began writing in it again, catching up on her life during the war and her decision to immigrate to Canada.

Garfield’s diary, titled Too Many Goodbyes, will be launched at the Berney Theatre in the Asper Jewish Community Campus at 2 p.m. Sunday.

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