Lecturer’s secret war diary inspires documentary

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A chilling insight into everyday life in Nazi-occupied France during World War II is set to emerge in a new documentary - based on a newly-discovered diary kept by a former Sheffield University lecturer.

The diary was kept by Madeleine Blaess, who taught in the city from 1948 until her retirement in 1983.

She began her journal in October 1940 and missed barely a day until October 1944.

The film project is being led by Dr Wendy Michallat, who said: “The diary contains unprecedented detail about everyday life in wartime Paris and its crushing isolation, desperate shortages, horrific repression and persecution.

“It also details Madeleine’s resistance activities and her friendship with fellow student Hélène Berr, who was deported and murdered by the Nazis.”

The diary is a desperate record of her struggle to survive isolation and depression as well as chronic food shortages, malnutrition and bombing raids.

The arrest of British, American and Canadian and, later, French Jewish friends made her fear for her own fate.

In 2003 she died, bequeathing her books and papers to the university. Her Occupation diary was found hidden under her bed.