The New York Times ran an obituary today for Anthony Acevedo, who was a 20-year-old American medic when he was captured during the Battle of the Bulge. He was sent to a Nazi labor camp, and when the Red Cross sent him a care package with a diary and a fountain pen, he started keeping a diary of his time. (The diaries were produced by the YMCA in Geneva — inside reads: “A WARTIME LOG FOR BRITISH PRISONERS.”) The obituary notes that “risked his life by keeping his diary” but he felt “he had an obligation to maintain it.” “He hid the diary in his pants or under hay in the barracks.”
The Times ran this single page, but The United States Holocaust Museum has the whole diary digitized and available online. In addition to the grim details of Acevedo’s experience, there are several drawings:
Even some drawings from pinups in the back:
It’s amazing how just clicking through the digitized images, you get a feel for this diary as a book, an artifact. The Times notes, “The book, with its yellowing pages, became a sort of plaything at home, with crayon scribblings by his children on the last page.” Those scribblings don’t seem to be included in the museum’s scan, unfortunately, but they reminded me of how Charles Darwin’s children doodled on the original manuscript for On the Origin of Species, and how the Hawthorne children scribbled in Sophia and Nathaniel’s marriage diary:
I should note, there are several other diaries in the Holocaust Museum’s archives. I’ve saved a search for digitized diaries in English here.
Searching for “Wartime log,” I found another (illustrated) wartime log by Wally Layne drawn in the same style of YMCA book. (I wonder how many soldiers were inspired to keep a diary just by receiving those packages from the Red Cross?) And, of course, now I’m thinking of this WWII poster, from 1942: