Mary Berg

Mary Berg (born Miriam Wattenberg; October 10, 1924[a] – April 2013)[2] was a survivor of the Warsaw Ghetto and author of a Holocaust diary, which contains her personal journal entries written between October 10, 1939 and March 5, 1944, during the occupation of Poland in World War II.[3]

Mary Berg
The Diary of Mary Berg (cover).jpg
Front cover of The Diary of Mary Berg: Growing up in the Warsaw Ghetto by Mary Berg
Miriam Wattenberg

October 10, 1924
DiedApril 2013 (aged 88)
Spouse(s)William Pentin


Mary Berg's father was Shaya (Sruel, Stanley) Wattenberg, a local gallery owner in prewar Łódź. Her mother Lena (his lawful wife), was an American citizen residing in the Second Polish Republic. Lena Wattenberg's parents, Mr. and Mrs. Benno Zol, were the Zolotarewski (later Zol) family of Long Branch, New Jersey. Mary had a sister, Anna. The sisters qualified for American citizenship by virtue of their mother's nationality.[4]

During the invasion of Poland by Nazi Germany, the family relocated to Warsaw from Łódź. Due to their American connection, prior to the liquidation of the ghetto (Grossaktion Warsaw), the sisters and their parents were detained in prison in Pawiak in July 1942, before being transferred to an internment camp for British and American citizens.[5]

In January 1943, her family was sent to an internment camp in France, where they awaited a prisoner exchange that would allow them to flee. Their journey to freedom began March 1, 1944,[6] when they boarded a train for Lisbon. There, they boarded the ocean liner SS Gripsholm for the voyage to America. Her memoir, Warsaw Ghetto, describes her years in Pawiak.[7] She arrived in the United States in March 1944, at the age of 19. Her memoir was serialized in American newspapers in 1944, making it one of the earliest accounts of the Holocaust to be written in English.[5]


In June 1944, the publishing house Dial Press declined to publish the manuscript saying that the market was flooded with books about concentration camps and Nazi persecution.[8] The book was eventually published by L.B. Fischer in February 1945 but went out of print in the 1950s.[9] It was republished in 2006 by Oneworld Publications as The diary of Mary Berg: growing up in the Warsaw ghetto (ISBN 1851685855/ISBN 978-1851685851), and again on April 1, 2009.[10][11]

Later yearsEdit

She resolutely refused to participate publicly in any Holocaust-related events, zealously guarding her privacy. She distanced herself from her own diary, a posture she maintained even as the Holocaust became a more prominent topic of public conversation. She is believed to have lived in York, Pennsylvania for many years, where she wed William Pentin and was known as Mary Pentin. Her known relatives, descended from her sister, Anna, who married a pathologist, Leon Williams Powell Jr. and had four children,[4] have either refused to provide or have disclaimed any new or additional information about Berg, so little is known about her years in the United States.[12][13][14] Mary Berg Pentin died in York, Pennsylvania, in April 2013, aged 88.[15]

Her diary was adapted into a play titled A Bouquet of Alpine Violets by Jan Krzyzanowski. [16]


  1. ^ S.L. Shneiderman, who edited Berg’s diary, states that she was born April 20, 1924, but speculates that Berg used a false birth date because it was forbidden for her to have the same birthday as Adolf Hitler (born April 20, 1889), and that she used the pseudonym “Berg” perhaps to protect any surviving relatives in Europe, since her diary was published in the United States during World War II.[1]
  1. ^ Berg, Mary (2006). The diary of Mary Berg : growing up in the Warsaw ghetto (Newition ed.). Oneworld. p. 252. ISBN 9781851684724.
  2. ^ Death record of Mary Pentin (enter her name and surname in the appropriate fields, if necessary) Archived 2017-10-15 at the Wayback Machine,; accessed May 1, 2017.
  3. ^ Elisha Colbert, The Diary of Mary Berg: Growing up in the Warsaw Ghetto, (via ppt download)
  4. ^ a b Mary Berg profile,; accessed May 1, 2017.
  5. ^ a b Schuessler, Jennifer. "Survivor Who Hated the Spotlight". New York Times. Retrieved December 25, 2014.
  6. ^ Diary of Mary Berg, page 245.
  7. ^ "Mary Berg: July 10, 1941". Holocaust Memorial Resource and Education Center of Florida. Archived from the original on May 18, 2014. Retrieved December 25, 2014.
  8. ^ Laurence Weinbaum, "Niedoszły wydawca dziennika Mary Berg" Zagłada Żydów. Studia i Materiały VI (2010), pp. 253-255
  9. ^ Rosenberg, Amy (July 17, 2008). "What Happened to Mary Berg?". Tablet. Retrieved March 24, 2013.
  10. ^ "Catalogue record for "The diary of Mary Berg: growing up in the Warsaw ghetto"". Worldcat. Retrieved March 24, 2013.
  11. ^ Berg, Mary (2006). The Diary of Mary Berg. Oneworld. pp. title page. ISBN 978-1851684724.
  12. ^ Argento, Mike (2014-12-27). "Holocaust diary author lived in York County for years". Washington Times. Retrieved 2017-04-30.
  13. ^ Rosenberg, Amy (2008-07-17). "What Happened to Mary Berg?". Retrieved 2017-04-30.
  14. ^ The Warsaw diary of Mary Berg,; accessed April 29, 2017.
  15. ^ "Survivor who hated the spotlight",, November 11, 2014.
  16. ^ "Holocaust Theater Catalog". National Jewish Theater Foundation at the University of Miami. Retrieved 2019-04-18.