Hot Best Seller

A Woman In Berlin (Virago Modern Classics Book 34)

Availability: Ready to download

Between April 20th and June 22nd of 1945 the anonymous author of A Woman in Berlin wrote about life within the falling city as it was sacked by the Russian Army. Fending off the boredom and deprivation of hiding, the author records her experiences, observations and meditations in this stark and vivid diary. Accounts of the bombing, the rapes, the rationing of food and the Between April 20th and June 22nd of 1945 the anonymous author of A Woman in Berlin wrote about life within the falling city as it was sacked by the Russian Army. Fending off the boredom and deprivation of hiding, the author records her experiences, observations and meditations in this stark and vivid diary. Accounts of the bombing, the rapes, the rationing of food and the overwhelming terror of death are rendered in the dispassionate, though determinedly optimistic prose of a woman fighting for survival amidst the horror and inhumanity of war. This diary was first published in America in 1954 in an English translation and in Britain in 1955. A German language edition was published five years later in Geneva and was met with tremendous controversy. In 2003, over forty years later, it was republished in Germany to critical acclaim - and more controversy. This diary has been unavailable since the 1960s and is now newly translated into English. A Woman in Berlin is an astonishing and deeply affecting account.


Compare

Between April 20th and June 22nd of 1945 the anonymous author of A Woman in Berlin wrote about life within the falling city as it was sacked by the Russian Army. Fending off the boredom and deprivation of hiding, the author records her experiences, observations and meditations in this stark and vivid diary. Accounts of the bombing, the rapes, the rationing of food and the Between April 20th and June 22nd of 1945 the anonymous author of A Woman in Berlin wrote about life within the falling city as it was sacked by the Russian Army. Fending off the boredom and deprivation of hiding, the author records her experiences, observations and meditations in this stark and vivid diary. Accounts of the bombing, the rapes, the rationing of food and the overwhelming terror of death are rendered in the dispassionate, though determinedly optimistic prose of a woman fighting for survival amidst the horror and inhumanity of war. This diary was first published in America in 1954 in an English translation and in Britain in 1955. A German language edition was published five years later in Geneva and was met with tremendous controversy. In 2003, over forty years later, it was republished in Germany to critical acclaim - and more controversy. This diary has been unavailable since the 1960s and is now newly translated into English. A Woman in Berlin is an astonishing and deeply affecting account.

30 review for A Woman In Berlin (Virago Modern Classics Book 34)

  1. 5 out of 5

    Lilo

    The end of World War Two was not the same all over Germany. It was quite civilized in the West, where the Americans and the British approached, fought, and eventually occupied. It was anything but civilized in the East, where the Russians came. There were significant differences between the Western occupying forces (namely, the Americans and the British) and the Russians. Yes, most of the Russians soldiers (and even officers) were primitive folks, many of which country population of the vast Rus The end of World War Two was not the same all over Germany. It was quite civilized in the West, where the Americans and the British approached, fought, and eventually occupied. It was anything but civilized in the East, where the Russians came. There were significant differences between the Western occupying forces (namely, the Americans and the British) and the Russians. Yes, most of the Russians soldiers (and even officers) were primitive folks, many of which country population of the vast Russian prairies, with their average education level far below that of the American and the British soldiers. Yes, it was also in their culture (that is, if you wish to call this “culture”) that the victors loot the conquered areas, rob the defeated, and rape their women. Yet one cannot only account the behavior of the Russians to them being uneducated, primitive, and, if you wish to say so, animal-like. One should never forget how the German soldiers, members of a nation of “poets and thinkers”, members of (what they had been made to believe) a “master race”, had acted in Russia when invading the country without any provocation. They had just simply acted like pigs. No, I’ll take this back. I don’t want to insult pigs. O.k., not all German soldiers had acted like that. But plenty of them. They had not only robbed poor peasants of their livelihood, that is, their livestock, their meager food storage, and, quite often, their last loaf of bread, leaving them to starve, they had also murdered civilians of all ages, including children, and they had brutally raped women (and killed some right after, so not to "soil" the pure German blood). So what kind of behavior would someone expect from a Russian soldier whose wife, sister, and/or daughter had been raped by invading German soldiers and/or whose whole or partial family had been murdered or left to starve? Women remaining in Berlin, left with next-to-none supplies (and with no possibility to leave the city), got the brunt of this Russian behavior. For the actual contents of this book, please read the description of this book. You might also wish to read about Marta Hillers, the assumed author of this book, which was, and still is, published with Anonymus as author. Here is the link to Wikipedia’s entry on Marta Hillers: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marta_H... After reading this book, I now understand why my grandmother, who wasn’t particularly religious, was praying every night that the Americans would arrive at our town before the Russians would get here. Again, I have no intention to vilify the Russians. (Btw, my husband is 1/4 Russian--more precisely White-Russian. [White Russia was later renamed "Belarus.] His paternal grandfather was an officer-POW in the First World War. He was assigned to slave labor on the farm where my husband’s grandmother was the farmer’s daughter.) Who are THE Russians anyway? Who are THE Germans? Who are THE Americans? THE Russians are the Berlin rapists; they are Tolstoy; they are Ivan the Terrible; they are Dostoyevsky; they are Putin; they are the fabulous dancers of the Bolshoi Ballet; they are my Russian Goodreads friends; they are my husband’s grandfather. THE Germans are Hitler and the Nazis; they are Goethe and Schiller; they are Angela Merckl; they are my nice and also my nasty previous German neighbors; they are my friend Mariele, who was one of my dying mother’s caregivers and who purchased a mistreated mountain lion from a pimp and drove some thousand miles until she could finally deliver the animal to a zoo that would take it. THE Americans are George Washington; they are Mark Twain; they are Richard Nixon; they are John Steinbeck; they are my beloved Barrack Obama; they are the first American GI I saw, who gave me the piece of chocolate he had in his pocket and my mother the fish he had just caught; they are our pious Mormon neighbors; and they are Donald Trump and the addle-brained masses who voted for him..

  2. 5 out of 5

    Agnieszka

    Poor words, you do not suffice . Indeed, words are not enough to convey that horror. We, lucky ones, born after the war, living in the time of peace, have to summon all our imagination, all human compassion and empathy to be able to catch though a glimpse of that suffering and humiliation that people then experienced. A woman in Berlin, written by anonymous German woman, spans two months of 1945, from April until the 20 of the June and is a chronicle from besieged and defeated city. And because Poor words, you do not suffice . Indeed, words are not enough to convey that horror. We, lucky ones, born after the war, living in the time of peace, have to summon all our imagination, all human compassion and empathy to be able to catch though a glimpse of that suffering and humiliation that people then experienced. A woman in Berlin, written by anonymous German woman, spans two months of 1945, from April until the 20 of the June and is a chronicle from besieged and defeated city. And because author stays unnamed throughout whole story it gives us a wider perspective and allows to raise above this particular period and extend our view. This woman, being herself, can be obscure daughter of Hecuba , unhappy sister of Cassandra, distant relative of every woman raped and mutilated through and by the war. Novel, in a form of a journal, is very well written. You feel that author is well educated and had some writing experience, her thoughts are clearly expressed and balanced. From some snippets you know she knew French and a bit of Russian, that travelled a lot before the war, oh irony to Russia too. She is sensitive and compassionate but her report is nothing but dry facts. You don’t find here any self-pity, she doesn’t make too much fuss about conditions she and her compatriots had to endure. Only unemotional report about daily food rations, never-ending ventures for water, plundering and hunting for some food, air raids and burning city. People, hiding in the basements like some parody of cave-dwellers, form close community, after all what better brings people together than mutual misery ?; but it is rather fragile bond, it can easily be broken. The real community is created by women. Because they took on themselves that first the wildest attack of Russian victors. While men were hiding, protected by their wives and lovers, women had to face repeated rapes and constant violence. It’s a grim reading though there are truly heartening moments and some humorous accents as well ( seeing some men in naval uniforms our guide to this ghost city states only Apparently they’ve taken Berlin by sea as well. We certainly have enough lakes around ) . I was trying to imagine her life after war. Did she accept her horrible past, did she find love and peace of mind ? Where did she live ? In Germany ? I could dig a bit for her but decided not to do that. Not everything is for sale and I respect her silence after that diary. She gave a testimony already.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Zinta

    When we speak of war fatalities, of those who have fallen, of those who have offered themselves up as sacrifices for the purpose of... but to what purpose? We think of fallen soldiers on the battlefield, yet far behind those front lines that so often are saluted in honor with parades and holidays -- are the women. Throughout the history of humankind, women of all ages have been treated as the prize of the conquerer. To the winner go the spoils, and the spoils are women. "A Woman in Berlin" is a When we speak of war fatalities, of those who have fallen, of those who have offered themselves up as sacrifices for the purpose of... but to what purpose? We think of fallen soldiers on the battlefield, yet far behind those front lines that so often are saluted in honor with parades and holidays -- are the women. Throughout the history of humankind, women of all ages have been treated as the prize of the conquerer. To the winner go the spoils, and the spoils are women. "A Woman in Berlin" is a journal kept over a two-month period of time in 1945, when Berlin was overtaken by the Russian (Soviet) Army. The author, dubbed simply "Anonymous," is rumored to be a German woman named Marta, well educated, perhaps a journalist who has seen much of the world... but not in this way. For eight weeks she chronicles the battle of the woman in war. Over 100,000 women are raped over this 8-week period in Berlin. Not once, but over and over again. The diarist writes of this time in a way that perhaps only a journalist could, keeping emotions in check, remaining clear-eyed, intelligence evident, apparently using her writing as a tool of survival. If the horrors of war are indescribable, the horrors of what women have had to endure as the human spoils of wars over time has had little examination, little if any punishment (arguably this behavior has even been encouraged), and even less understanding. This book is important reading to anyone wishing to understand war. Any war. Who will pin purple hearts on these women for their suffering and degradation? Who can measure the wounds that never heal and their lifelong consequences to invidividuals and to societies? These are the unsung heroes who are forced to submit, yet so often rise up first to rebuild what war has torn apart -- homes, families, lives. The first time this diary was published, it was not received as the heroic work of a survivor. The diarist was ostracized, because so often people turn away from and deny what hurts most, what reminds us of the depravity in mankind. She gave instruction to not publish these pages again until after her death, which arrived in 2001. But this is a timeless book, because women are being used and abused as the spoils of wars today. Witness Bosnia and Kosovo, Darfur, Iraq, and the list goes on to include every battle in which man has raised a weapon, himself becoming a weapon of destruction. Essential reading.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Paul Bryant

    Although this book was and still is published anonymously, in 2003 the author was identified as Marta Hillers, a journalist who had died two years previously at the age of 90. She was cultured, well-travelled, multilingual, and 34 years old when she wrote this diary, which covers only 58 days. It was first published in 1954, in English, then four years later, in German. They really hated it in Germany. Wiki quotes a German author Hans Magnus Enzensberger about the book’s reception and it’s worth Although this book was and still is published anonymously, in 2003 the author was identified as Marta Hillers, a journalist who had died two years previously at the age of 90. She was cultured, well-travelled, multilingual, and 34 years old when she wrote this diary, which covers only 58 days. It was first published in 1954, in English, then four years later, in German. They really hated it in Germany. Wiki quotes a German author Hans Magnus Enzensberger about the book’s reception and it’s worth repeating here : German readers were obviously not ready to face some uncomfortable truths... German women were not supposed to talk about the reality of rapes; and German men preferred not to be seen as impotent onlookers when the victorious Russians claimed their spoils of war. The author's attitude was an aggravating factor: devoid of self-pity, with a clear-eyed view of her compatriots' behavior before and after the Nazi regime's collapse, everything she wrote flew in the face of the reigning post-war complacency and amnesia. After that she would not allow the book to be published again. (She had been abused by a whole new bunch of people.) So it had to wait another 50 years, until her death, and a new translation, and then, only then, could people take the harsh truth she was recording. We, her present readers, have to deal with the fact that Marta Hillers worked for the Nazis throughout the war but, as Wiki says, kindly I suppose, “she was probably not a member of the Nazi Party”. In Samuel Richardson’s Pamela, in Bram Stoker’s Dracula, in Liaisons Dangereuses, and a thousand other epistolatory novels, the reader’s credulity is strained by the characters continually finding the time in their busy adventures to write a detail-crammed account of the exciting events of the day. It’s one of those literary devices that has always seemed completely unrealistic to me. But this book appears to prove it can and has been done just like that. During the longeurs between being bombed, scavenging for food and being attacked by Russian soldiers, Marta Hiller writes with pinpoint immediacy and with remarkable fluency. A TRUTH ABOUT WAR INSTEAD OF THE USUAL EVASIONS AND EUPHEMISMS Here is the truth – soldiers, all of them, from commanders down to the lowly infantry, who conquer enemy territory regard the rape of women as their right. They don’t even stop to consider the concept of rape. It’s not rape to the soldiers, it’s payback, for what the enemy did to their sisters, daughters and wives, maybe, but also, mostly, it's just because they want to. There is no such thing as military discipline in the chaos of an advancing front line. In most cases there is a deliberate policy of allowing wholesale rape, for various reasons – let the men blow off some steam, relax, take a little pleasure; and let the enemy feel our wrath. You heard about the sack of Rome, the fall of Troy, the collapse of the Third Reich, all these big yet soothingly distant words – sack, fall, collapse. But this diary gives you the hour by hour of what actually happens when an invading army fights through your city street by street, and engulfs your own street. Then what happens to the civilians? If you’re female, you are expecting to be raped. Maybe you can stash your daughter in some hideyhole. Maybe you can dress as a man. Maybe you can use make-up to make yourself look older! (That’s ironic, right?) The older ones - over 50, say - can be glad for their faded looks. All other females expect their turn will come. It usually doesn’t come by rough seizing, what happens is that a couple of soldiers just turn up at your door, push it open, and invite you to sit down for a couple of friendly drinks. They're smiling, they're happy souls, look, they have brought vodka, there's no reason to become alarmed. Or, one will turn up unannounced around ten at night, looking for a place to sleep. It’s your bed he has in mind, not the sofa. What Marta does, and what we imagine other resourceful women doing, or trying to do, is, after the first onslaught by drunken squaddies, find herself a protector, an officer type, who she will allow to rape her regularly on the understanding that he will keep others away. This works until the hurly-burly of the war drags her first Russian officer away; she has to get a new one pronto, or the squaddies will be back. And so it goes. Outside , the war is still on. And we have a new morning and evening prayer : “For all of this we thank the Fuhrer”. A line we know from the years before the war, when it was printed in praise and thanksgiving on thousands of posters, proclaimed in speeches. Today the exact same words have precisely the opposite meaning, full of scorn and derision. I believe that’s what’s called a dialectic conversion. When civil society was restored, this treatment of women as sex slaves faded away; when the German men came back to Berlin and elsewhere, and patched together their domestic life, they didn’t want to hear a single word about what had happened in their absence. The whole subject of rape was buried by mutual consent. Just, in fact, like the crime of child abuse – neither the victim nor the perp ever wants to talk about it. I can’t recommend this book, it’s beautifully written, but it’s just so grim. Men will be depressed to get so strongly the sense that the soldiers were thinking of course we will have sex with these women! What, are you crazy? You would too if you were here! This is our reward for our heroic fighting! Anyway, it’s just a bit of fun – why all this squawking? and women will be reminded why their mothers told them never to live in a war zone, in case they had forgotten that useful advice.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Trée

    Two days after finishing, I still can't stop thinking about the haunting beauty of this rare journal, deeply saddened at the events described and equally saddened she didn't write more. This is the kind of book that sucks all the oxygen out of the air, that needs space once it is finished. The idea of starting something new is out of the question, almost sacrilege. One wants a moment of silence, to reach through time and hug the writer, which cannot be done. The prose is understated and often bri Two days after finishing, I still can't stop thinking about the haunting beauty of this rare journal, deeply saddened at the events described and equally saddened she didn't write more. This is the kind of book that sucks all the oxygen out of the air, that needs space once it is finished. The idea of starting something new is out of the question, almost sacrilege. One wants a moment of silence, to reach through time and hug the writer, which cannot be done. The prose is understated and often brilliant ("Our fate is rolling in from the east . . ."). Her skills of observation superb. I've never seen/read a victim of war describe so much personal pain with so little animosity or bitterness toward the events and perpetrators. If I could only read five books on WWII, this would be one of those five. It is, perhaps, the best example of what happens in a conquered city: rape, murder, pillage. The account is first person. No axe to grind. This version, by the author's wish, was not republished until after her death, just a few years ago. You can find her name if you google the story, but it is apparent she wanted neither fame nor money from her account. If I could give a book a rating higher than five stars, I would honor A Woman in Berlin such.

  6. 4 out of 5

    AMEERA

    I love reading about war and this book was perfect .

  7. 4 out of 5

    Cheryl

    "Poor words, you do not suffice," this is what she wrote in her diary. “The truth lay in the mass of closely observed detail,” says this book's editor. “The anonymous diarist possessed an eye so consistent and authentic that even the most imaginative forger would never have been able to reproduce her vision of events.” Indeed, you sense the authenticity in these words--even if the book really was authenticated. Being alongside the author during her private moments of journaling creates space "Poor words, you do not suffice," this is what she wrote in her diary. “The truth lay in the mass of closely observed detail,” says this book's editor. “The anonymous diarist possessed an eye so consistent and authentic that even the most imaginative forger would never have been able to reproduce her vision of events.” Indeed, you sense the authenticity in these words--even if the book really was authenticated. Being alongside the author during her private moments of journaling creates spaces of intimacy that are so informative because they are so closely observed by her. This is a human experience laid bare, an experience that you read about and find difficult to forget: The day breaks gray and pink. The cold blows through the empty window sockets, filling our mouths with the taste of smoke. Once again the roosters. I have this early hour all to myself. I wipe everything down, sweep away cigarette butts, bread crumbs, fish bones, rub the brandy rings from the tabletop. Then a frugal wash in the tub, with two cups of water. This is my happiest time, between five and seven in the morning, while the widow and Herr Pauli are still asleep—if happy is the right word. It’s a relative happiness. I do some mending and then soap up my extra shirt. We know from experience that no Russians come at this early hour. I don't want to have you afraid of reading such heavy stuff written with lyrical grace but these words will slice through the page and come at you. It is a necessary read. One that the women's issues woman in me had to tackle. It is not that there is sensationalized or harsh detailing here, for this is beautiful prose written effectively with introspective reasoning. Pity is not grasped for, partly because the author does not even allow herself more than a couple short moments of self-pity. It is fact and experience blending harmoniously and when you think about it, it is so nice to know that such art was being produced during war. The close of war, I should say, because the timeframe here is during the period of Germany’s collapse, when Hitler commits suicide and the Russian army gains control of Berlin. “It began with silence, ”she writes. I read this line and try to imagine how the noisome brutality that this thirty-four-year-old German and Russian-speaking journalist had to endure, could possibly be accompanied by a silent night and silent morning: “Outside, a bright blue, cloudless sky.” Yet I’m only left with a few seconds to brood because later, the noise of Russian antiaircraft equipment pierced the German early morning quiet. Jeeps, then boots. Motorcycles. Laughter on once-deserted streets. And then the cracking of windows as Russian soldiers climbed into homes and businesses, demanding what were their spoils of war. Or so they thought. Poor words, you do not suffice. Women and pubescent girls, used and abused (the best estimates say more than 100,000 women). But I won't detail these heartrending moments. I will tell you this: “German women were not supposed to talk about the reality of rape; and German men preferred not to be seen as impotent onlookers when the Russians claimed their spoils of war.” No wonder it took more than five years to find a German publisher for this book that was “quickly relegated to obscurity.” Yet there is so much more written here. It is about survival and "herd instinct." It is a memoir set apart from others of that era, one that you read and remember. One that you should read, especially since it was practically banned, since the author was chided for even writing about her experience of being subjected to numerous assaults, since she told a friend she didn't want another publisher until after her death. Poor words, you do not suffice. A stranger’s hands expertly pulling apart my jaws. Eye to eye. Then with great deliberation he drops a gob of gathered spit into my mouth. I’m numb. Not with disgust, only cold. My spine is frozen: icy, dizzy shivers around the back of my head. I feel myself gliding and falling, down, down, through the pillows and the floorboards. So that’s what it means to sink into the ground. Once more eye to eye. The stranger’s lips open, yellow teeth, one in front half broken off. The corners of the mouth lift, tiny wrinkles radiate from the corners of his eyes. The man is smiling.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Chrissie

    I think everybody should read this book. When I began it I warned others that it is about rape in wartime. And that is true. Any subject in a good author’s hands can be worth reading. It is the ability of the author to make that subject comprehensible to readers that distinguishes a good author. We know now who the anonymous writer of these diaries was. Her name is Marta Hillers. The German writer Kurt Marek was responsible for the initial publication of the book in 1954, in the United States. T I think everybody should read this book. When I began it I warned others that it is about rape in wartime. And that is true. Any subject in a good author’s hands can be worth reading. It is the ability of the author to make that subject comprehensible to readers that distinguishes a good author. We know now who the anonymous writer of these diaries was. Her name is Marta Hillers. The German writer Kurt Marek was responsible for the initial publication of the book in 1954, in the United States. The author was anonymous. Only later was it published in Germany. Only after her death in 2003 was it revealed who the writer was. The book is based on the author’s diary accounts from the 20th of April to the 22nd of June 1945. It gives us a personal account of one woman’s experiences when the Red army occupied Berlin. Her story lets us understand what she and those around her experienced. What they lived through. When I read this book I thought: I am being shown a world that I could never, ever imagine. It was beyond belief. The horror of it! Fear. Hunger. Being alone, completely alone. And it is hard to imagine that people can act as they do. It is important to read this book. We must acknowledge how people can behave. Yes, you and I can behave so deplorably too. So then you will think, why should I read this? Why should I put myself through this? We must understand in our gut what has happened. A book like this makes us aware both in our head and in our stomach, both with clear thoughts and powerful emotions what another human being has experienced. And why is this important? It is important since it teaches us to not judge others. Before judging another you must put yourself in their shoes. This author has let us walk in her shoes. And the writing shows us how we human beings behave. Yes, this book is about rape, but it is also about survival. It is about hunger too. The book begins with hunger and ends with hunger. How many of us reading this book has any real comprehension of being HUNGRY? Can we come to understand what we might do, what choices we might make if we were hungry as she was? You will understand her choices when you read this book. I will say it outright: in an effort to survive this woman realized that she needed to find a Russian that would provide her with food and safety. One’s chances of not being raped were minimal. If you are going to be raped anyway, why not make sure you get food in the bargain? By aligning yourself with a Russian of higher rank you could perhaps have him protect you from indiscriminate raping. But to understand the world she was living in you must read her words. When this book came out it was the women who were accused of bad behavior. The author was a survivor. I respect this woman. She was a journalist. She was well educated. She had traveled through Europe. She knew Russian. All of this is evident in her diary writing. She used her head and she survived. How can you look down on such a person? How can you criticize her if you have no idea what she has experienced? You can only understand her choices by following her diary writings. And the ending…. When her boyfriend comes back he doesn’t understand her actions. He too thinks she has degraded herself. We do not know if eventually they can bridge this incomprehension of what each has experienced in the war. I was so happy before her boyfriend came back. She had survived. I was so dam proud of her. I was crushed by his incomprehension. If he had read the book, he would maybe understand what she had gone through. If you read the book you will understand what she went through. If you read the book you will not judge others too quickly. I don’t think this book is terribly sad or depressing. I am so happy she survived. Dam, she is some strong woman, this author, Marta Hillers. She has let us see what happened to her. I admire her for surviving. I am so very glad she shared her experiences with us. I thoroughly understand her wish that the book have an anonymous author while she lived. One does not read this book to find out if her boyfriend comes back. For this reason I do not think my telling you this is a “spoiler”. Only those of you wanting to understand another human being should bother to read this book. You have to want to get into their being. You have to want to become them in an effort to understand them and what they lived through. There is a little boy at the end of the book who sees an old horse pulling a cart. He turns to his mother and says, “Mutti, can we eat the horse?” Earlier in the book another horse was still moving when he was cut into by hungry Berliners. Have you ever been that hungry? Do you have any idea how their world was? Do you want to understand their world? Read the book. Be very careful before you judge another human being’s behavior. I must add this. Although the subject matter is not light, the way the author expresses herself will make you smile. She calls herself the “automatic walking machine”, as she trudges to work….. This author can write. I wish I could copy parts of the book to show you, but I cannot use both Vocatex and Zoomtex at the same time. I need Vocatex to read the book and Zoomtex to write my review. When I am writing the review, I cannot read the book – so no quotes! This is so annoying to me.

  9. 5 out of 5

    E. G.

    Introduction, by Antony Beevor Translator's Note --A Woman in Berlin: Diary 20 April 1945 to 22 June 1945 Afterword, by the German Editor Hans Magnus Enzensberger Introduction, by Antony Beevor Translator's Note --A Woman in Berlin: Diary 20 April 1945 to 22 June 1945 Afterword, by the German Editor Hans Magnus Enzensberger

  10. 4 out of 5

    Katy

    I was floored. Jaw on the floor, heart in my stomach, tears in my eyes floored. This book should be required reading for all women everywhere. It should be on high school reading lists and mandatory for all new military recruits. About what war does to women and children, about how the men go and fight and forget that if they lose it’s the women who suffer. Who are raped repeatedly and who watch their children starve to death in the rubble of their lives. But Anonymous writes her journal entries I was floored. Jaw on the floor, heart in my stomach, tears in my eyes floored. This book should be required reading for all women everywhere. It should be on high school reading lists and mandatory for all new military recruits. About what war does to women and children, about how the men go and fight and forget that if they lose it’s the women who suffer. Who are raped repeatedly and who watch their children starve to death in the rubble of their lives. But Anonymous writes her journal entries with such a lack of self-pity and with so much humor and life, that this book is more a testament to the resiliency of the human spirit than a depressing tome. I can’t recommend it enough.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Victor

    The book is a journal that covers first eight weeks of Soviet occupation of Berlin at the end of WW2. This is one of the better written journals and one of the most honest. The author was a gifted writer who didn't sugar coat the subjects of war-time rape when women became nothing more than the spoils of war. The victors were entitled, plain and simple, and no orders, or threats, or pleas could stop the daily assault of Red Army on the female civilians. The German women knew it was coming. They we The book is a journal that covers first eight weeks of Soviet occupation of Berlin at the end of WW2. This is one of the better written journals and one of the most honest. The author was a gifted writer who didn't sugar coat the subjects of war-time rape when women became nothing more than the spoils of war. The victors were entitled, plain and simple, and no orders, or threats, or pleas could stop the daily assault of Red Army on the female civilians. The German women knew it was coming. They were saying, "better to have a Russki on top than a Yank overhead," meaning the rape was a better option than daily bombings, a better chance to stay alive. This by itself is a powerful statement about how "wonderful" life of the German civilians was under the constant bombardment by the Allies that they were looking forward towards the Soviet occupation. If I could change the generic title of the book, I would rename it "Fifty shades of rape." There was a difference between a single-man rape and a gang rape, between being raped repeatedly by the same soldier or being forced to service a different one every day. None of the rapists were the same, and every day taught her something about the Soviets and herself. If me repeatedly using the word "rape" throws you off, you shouldn't read the book. I doubt any woman would enjoy the journal. However, if you can get through Marta Hillers' pain, the book is a remarkable account of courage and survival.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jill Mackin

    A difficult read. A harrowing account of what war does to women.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Nicole

    Since writing the reaction below, I have come to think that the strength of this book is the empathy and intelligence of its author. And yet, I also still feel that the anger is appropriate. Maybe she is simply a different kind of person than I am: better equipped to practice tolerance and empathy and understanding. Also, more practical: a virtue I know that I lack. ______________________________________________ I was prepared for the rapes. Here is what I was not prepared for: the words of the m Since writing the reaction below, I have come to think that the strength of this book is the empathy and intelligence of its author. And yet, I also still feel that the anger is appropriate. Maybe she is simply a different kind of person than I am: better equipped to practice tolerance and empathy and understanding. Also, more practical: a virtue I know that I lack. ______________________________________________ I was prepared for the rapes. Here is what I was not prepared for: the words of the men doing the raping. I love you, do you love you me, you're a whore, I haven't had sex in so long, oh god poor poor me. Here is what I responded in my head to the comparatively gentle officer who asks her to "love" him, who tells her how much he has suffered without access to sex. "In the past days, I have been repeatedly and violently raped by a myriad of your comrades, so much so that I now have to beg you to be gentle because I am physically injured. Of course I don't want to have sex with you. I never want to have sex with anyone again. I will have sex with you because it is the lesser of two evils, because you will hurt me less than the others, because you might keep the others off me. But this is not love, and it is obscene for you to talk as though it is, as though it could be. If you truly loved me, as an individual or even just as a fellow human being, you would keep your disgusting dogs off me and not ask for payment in the form of sexual favors. You would not force me to be a whore out of self-preservation and then denounce me for it. You would not confuse this transaction born in violence and slavery with a free choice. And you would never have have the unmitigated gall to suggest that you have suffered. You and all of your ilk, you're barely human. Someone should put you the fuck down, like the rabid animals that you are. You don't deserve my love, or access to my body. How dare you even ask?" Of course that's not what she says, not even to herself. But I'll be good god damned if I give up one inch of the freedoms that I enjoy as a free woman in a free state, I don't give a fuck who's asking me to, or why, or what they may or may not have suffered. Anybody who says anything else, anything at all, isn't a real feminist, no matter what half-assed theory they cite. Put that in your pipe and smoke it. Or, you know, shove it. Either way.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Caroline

    . This review contains spoilers This is the story – told over a couple of months – about the Russian invasion of Berlin at the end of the Second World War. It is the story seen through the eyes of one woman, a well-travelled journalist, who now finds herself, like millions of other Germans, struggling to survive at the end of the war. She writes without self-pity, suggesting a steely robustness that carried her through the innumerable challenges she had to face. The book was written anonymously, . This review contains spoilers This is the story – told over a couple of months – about the Russian invasion of Berlin at the end of the Second World War. It is the story seen through the eyes of one woman, a well-travelled journalist, who now finds herself, like millions of other Germans, struggling to survive at the end of the war. She writes without self-pity, suggesting a steely robustness that carried her through the innumerable challenges she had to face. The book was written anonymously, though speculation suggests the author was called Marta Hiller. I have always had a fearsome picture of what the Germans had to face at the end of the war and to an extent the book substantiated my fears, but in other instances I was surprised. Most of all I was surprised by the fantastic ingenuity of the German people in coping in these terribly difficult times. I was also surprised by the levels of organisation the Russians brought with them. They did not just leave chaos and mayhem in their wake as they took over Berlin. They turned the water back on, they brought back electricity, they organised food rations, they even got part of the tramway system running again. The main points of this book for me *Hunger Most people were almost starving. A lot of women had stopped menstruating as a result. The author often talks about augmenting her paltry meals with things like nettles. ”My sole concern as I write these lines is my stomach. All thinking and feeling, all wishes and hopes begin with food” The Russians introduce rations, and these are given out to people grouped into five different categories, with widely differing levels of calories. At the top are the heavy labourers, but the author is in the lowest category, and for the most part eats less than half the amount that the heavy labourers are allocated. Highest category versus lowest category - the weekly ration. 600 grams of bread v 300 grams of bread 400 grams of potatoes/400 grams of potato 100 grams of meat v 20 grams of meat 30 grams of fat v 7 grams of fat 60 grams of semolina, barley oats etc v 7 grams of semolina etc. ”Eating just made me hungrier than ever. I’m sure there’s some scientific explanation. Something about food stimulating the digestive juices and making them crave more. No sooner do they get going than the limited supply is already digested, and they start to rumble.” "Strangers have broken off whole branches of the cherry tree, picking the cherries just barely turned gold. Nothing will ripen here; hungry people will harvest everything before its time.” *Rape This happened to nearly all the women, over and over again. One woman described being raped by twenty soldiers, one after the other. As a result she was badly wounded. Another woman was raped by three soldiers. They then went into her kitchen, found some jam and smeared it in her hair, then they poured coffee substitute over her head. Some women who were raped committed suicide, but most of them coped. It became a common topic of conversation, something that women could talk about and support one another with. It also happened in a fairly short period – as the soldiers invaded Berlin. As they moved on to fight in other areas far fewer soldiers were seen, and the deluge of raping stopped. The author felt the rapes were very much fired by the alcohol that the soldiers found and looted. She didn’t feel that these men were naturally aggressive. She also mentions another phenomenon – “sleeping up”, or sleeping with a Russian to get access to food. * The filth, the rubble, the lack of sanitary arrangements. The author mentions first the squalor to be found all over Berlin. The rubble and the stench. Then later she mentions the joy when the water started being pumped to the buildings again, and brown and then clear water starts coming out of the taps, and proper cleaning can commence. *Jewish atrocities made public Twice the author mentioned concentration camps, and what had gone on there, being discussed on the radio. Her response is understated, and we don’t hear about people are talking about it amongst themselves. I was quite surprised that to book didn’t discuss this more. The Berlin station is broadcasting on the radio, generally news reports and disclosures that reek of blood, corpses and atrocities. They say that millions of people – mostly Jews – were cremated in huge camps in the east and that their ashes were used as fertilizer. On top of that everything was supposedly carefully recorded in thick ledgers – a scrupulous accounting of death. We really are an orderly nation. Late in the evening they played Beethoven, and that brought tears. I turned it off. Who can bear that at the moment? *The dismantling of East German factories for relocation in Russia I had read about this elsewhere – the way that Russia took back to its homeland much of the industrial wealth of East Germany. This book conveys this with alarming intensity. Factories being dismantled. Germans employed by the Russians to work ferociously hard, from eight in the morning until eight at night, to strip their factories of machinery and any metals that might be valuable to the Russians. Everything being packed up, and freighted off to the USSR. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~ This was a fascinating and evocative book. I had often wondered about the situation in East Germany at the end of the war, and it was hugely interesting to read this account. Highly recommended.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Ally

    This blew me away. What it might be like to live in a city that's subject to invasion, occupation and destruction by an enemy whose force you cannot hope to match -- that's what it offers us a glimpse of. The fact that it's from a German perspective only underlines the reach of this diary. It's an anonymous woman's account of the 20 or so days during which the Russians took Berlin in April 1945. When a city's unarmed citizens (especially the women) become spoils for the victors, and we see humani This blew me away. What it might be like to live in a city that's subject to invasion, occupation and destruction by an enemy whose force you cannot hope to match -- that's what it offers us a glimpse of. The fact that it's from a German perspective only underlines the reach of this diary. It's an anonymous woman's account of the 20 or so days during which the Russians took Berlin in April 1945. When a city's unarmed citizens (especially the women) become spoils for the victors, and we see humanity reduced to its absolute bare bones at the attacker's whim, then we also see that it doesn't matter whether or not one was on the aggressor's side in the first place. The experience detailed here is universally applicable. Baghdad 2003, Sudan 2007-8, Gaza 2009, etc. It's painful -- painfully sad. But then there are moments whose power to uplift sticks with me two years after reading. Another thing that changed (just one example) -- after reading this, I stopped throwing away food. I used to do it, but even now I 'see' the diarist scrabbling for nettles amidst the concrete and I save my scraps.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Elizabeth

    This is one of those books where I empathize so deeply with the narrator that it makes my heart ache I can’t meet her and talk to her. Though – what would I say? What could I possibly say? A Woman in Berlin was written as a diary – a way for the diarist to keep herself sane during incomprehensibly insane days – during and following Germany’s surrender at the end of World War II. First published in English translation in 1954, it wasn’t published in Germany until 2003, after the anonymous diarist’ This is one of those books where I empathize so deeply with the narrator that it makes my heart ache I can’t meet her and talk to her. Though – what would I say? What could I possibly say? A Woman in Berlin was written as a diary – a way for the diarist to keep herself sane during incomprehensibly insane days – during and following Germany’s surrender at the end of World War II. First published in English translation in 1954, it wasn’t published in Germany until 2003, after the anonymous diarist’s death. (Her anonymity was respected until her death. Funny how it is possible to do that sometimes.) I believe she was 34 at the time of writing; an intelligent, articulate, observant, inventive and attractive young woman, whose view of Germany’s role in the war is clear-sighted and jaded. She’s travelled extensively in Europe; she’s been self-sufficient for her entire adult life; she’s modern and cosmopolitan. She’s never been vocally anti-Nazi; she’s played her cards carefully throughout the war, watching her back. In her own words: Was I for… or against? What’s clear is that I was there, that I breathed what was in the air, and it affected all of us even if we didn’t want it to. Paris proved that to me, or rather a young student I met in the Jardin du Luxembourg three years after Hitler came to power. We had taken shelter from a sudden shower under a tree. We spoke French, and recognized right away that it was a foreign language for both of us. Then we had fun bantering back and forth guessing where the other was from. My hair led him to place me as a Swede, while I pegged him as a Monagasque – I’d just learned what citizens of Monaco are called and found the name amusing. The rain stopped as abruptly as it had begun. We set off, and I gave a little skip so I would be walking in step with him. He stopped and proclaimed, ‘Aha, une fille du Führer!’ – a daughter of Hitler, in other words, a German, unmasked the minute she tried to march in perfect step with her neighbour. So much for fun and banter. For then the young man introduced himself, not as a Monegasque, but as a Dutchman and a Jew. And that was the end of our conversation. We went our separate ways at the next fork in the path. The experience left a bitter taste. I brooded over it for a long time. As the diary begins, the bombs are still falling on Berlin. There’s no food, no running water, no electricity. The entire apartment building is holed up in the basement together, parsimoniously pooling their resources. The Soviet army sweeps in and rapes all the women in the city so indiscriminately that it becomes the casual greeting one woman gives another in the aftermath: “How many times were you raped, Ilse?” “Four, and you?” “No idea, I had to work my way up the ranks, from supply train to major.” It takes the diarist about two days to decide, TO HELL WITH THIS, and attach herself to a Soviet officer who can protect her from random attacks and provide her with food. As the weeks move on, things slowly drift in the direction of something like normality; the rapes stop, running water is restored; by the end of the book the roof of the diarist’s building is mended and there’s a sensible and appropriate job prospect on her horizon. Here’s the thing. This woman is just so upbeat, so vivid, so articulate, so full of appreciation for the world. Is that why I relate to her so much? I mean, obviously, I’ve never had to endure anything like the hardships and violations she endures. But the whole way through the book I found myself picturing myself; it was as if I was viewing myself functioning in some weird alternative universe back when I was a grad student in Philadelphia, in some weird post-apocalyptic version of the city, coping on my own. There’s a scene where her Russian officer turns up out of the blue wheeling a German man’s bicycle to her doorstep. She begs to borrow it. And suddenly she’s riding in sunshine like a bat out of hell through the ruin of Berlin. She passes people sweeping up debris, chatting, burying the dead; past hasty graves of German civilians and Russian soldiers; she finds herself in the region of the publishing house where she used to work and loots it for coal, which she totes home in a box tied to the luggage rack of the bike. When she gets home: I’m sun-drunk and exhilarated from riding fast. I feel more cheerful than I have in weeks, practically elated. On top of that the major has brought some Tokay wine. We drink it; I feel good, cosy as a cat. The major stayed till 5 p.m.; after he left I felt rotten. I cried. [Weeks later, scribbled in the margin, to be used by novelists: For three heartbeats her body became one with the unfamiliar body on top of her. Her nails dug into the stranger’s hair, she heard the cries coming from her own throat and the stranger’s voice whispering words she couldn’t understand. Fifteen minutes later she was all alone. The sunlight fell through the shattered panes in broad swathes. She stretched, enjoying the heaviness in her limbs, and brushed the tousled fringe back from her forehead. Suddenly she felt, with uncanny precision, a different hand burrowing into her hair, the hand of her lover, perhaps long dead. She felt something swelling, churning, erupting inside her. Tears came streaming out of her eyes. She tossed about, beat her fists against the cushions, bit her hands and arms until they bloomed red and blue with tiny tooth marks. She howled into the pillow and wanted to die.] And this just reminds me so much of myself in essence – the sudden unexpected pleasure and freedom of the bike ride, and the harsh reality of where your next meal comes from, and the desperate need not only to write it all down, but to sublimate it as fiction. It’s not removing yourself from reality to fictionalize; it’s refining. It’s her resilience I think that gets to me, her fierce determination to enjoy life. She has this amazing ability to take pleasure in the growth of nettles and the warmth of sunlight through broken panes of glass. To make herself a “dessert” out of a centilitre of sugar by licking it from her fingertip grain by grain. To force herself to move on, to track down her stolen radio, to walk across five miles of bombed-out buildings to see if a friend is still alive. I’m just an ordinary labourer, I have to be satisfied with that. All I can do is touch my small circle and be a good friend. What’s left is just to wait for the end. Still, the dark and amazing adventure of life beckons. I’ll stick around, out of curiosity, and because I enjoy breathing and stretching my healthy limbs. I loved this book, and I wonder how many other piles of paper there are lying around Europe, testament to silenced voices, buried in filing cabinets and steamer trunks and cardboard boxes? Seriously. I’m thinking of And I Am Afraid Of My Dreams by Wanda Półtawska and Suite Française by Irene Nemirovsky and Anne Frank's The Diary of a Young Girl. Polish, French, Dutch, German. I feel sure there’s more out there.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Diane S ☔

    This was an extremely difficult book to read, not because of the prose because the book was extremely well written but because of the subject matter. It is the first book, and actually it is non fiction from the authors own diary, I have read about a insider living in Berlin and what the ordinary people went through when the Russians took over. She writes for her own sanity but also in the hope that if her husband returns he will read it and know what has happened to them. All the rapes, young a This was an extremely difficult book to read, not because of the prose because the book was extremely well written but because of the subject matter. It is the first book, and actually it is non fiction from the authors own diary, I have read about a insider living in Berlin and what the ordinary people went through when the Russians took over. She writes for her own sanity but also in the hope that if her husband returns he will read it and know what has happened to them. All the rapes, young and old, can't believe that something like this on such a grand scale went on. These women who were left behind and their will to survive is amazing. They were in fear all the time, never had enough to eat, literally starving and under the complete power of the occupying force of the Russians. Very powerful.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Aldi

    There’s a certain type of survival story that requires the reader – decades later – to weep, commiserate, or at the very least remark on the courage of the one telling the tale. Every time I had even the slightest inclination to do any of those things while reading this book, I felt as if the author was cocking a brow at me, cynically, half-laughing, rejecting my sympathy. She didn’t need it. She wouldn’t want it. It was so refreshing. This is an incredible book, probably one of the best I’ve re There’s a certain type of survival story that requires the reader – decades later – to weep, commiserate, or at the very least remark on the courage of the one telling the tale. Every time I had even the slightest inclination to do any of those things while reading this book, I felt as if the author was cocking a brow at me, cynically, half-laughing, rejecting my sympathy. She didn’t need it. She wouldn’t want it. It was so refreshing. This is an incredible book, probably one of the best I’ve read from a German perspective dealing with the immediate aftermath of WW2 on a personal level. It’s a two-month slice, precisely carved, of intensely personal history, a mere snippet of one woman’s experience in the weeks following the liberation of Berlin, dealing with hunger, the Russian Army’s freedom to take what they want, uncertainty, loss, and of course, rape on a daily basis, that facet of Allied victory that was later declared taboo and swept under the rug. Spoils of war, considering the whole thing pragmatically. Gallow’s humour. Talking to other women, each conversation preceded by a darkly humorous, “Raped how many times?” –“Oh I’m not sure, I had to work my way up through the ranks.” Making a joke of it, an arrangement, inventing new language. (“Schändungsschuhe, Majorszucker, Nahrung anschlafen”). This precise account is not asking for pity. It’s straightforward and often startlingly funny, in a very dark way. It doesn’t gloss over the horrors of war, relates the terrible tragedies of the final days of the fight for Berlin frankly; but the author never takes the easy way out, never paints the Russians as animals or perpetrators of evil. She draws each one she encounters with the acerbic accuracy of political caricatures, but as real people. When it comes to the large-scale rapes Berlin women were subjected to by the Russian army, there’s an appalling yet compelling bluntness about her assessment that “our guys probably did the same over there, or worse” but she never excuses either side; nor is her account devoid of emotion. Her writing is laconic, dry-humoured, frank; she refuses the mantle of victimhood (although she could have embraced it, having no particular pro-Nazi sympathies) as much as she does that of deserving accomplice to genocide. She considers ideologies, asks questions, sometimes cries (“damn, smears on my paper”); she’s not emotionless, but clear-sighted, unapologetic, determined to live. I did cry, a couple of times, because I couldn’t help it, but on the whole this is not a book that asks you to mourn. It asks for nothing. It just drags you straight into that two-month span and leaves you to consider history from the most stripped-back, immediate layer, that of the individual. There’s a movie and it’s not badly done but I highly, highly recommend the book over it. This woman’s words, her refusal to be a victim or let others control her story, cannot be approximated or interpreted by another medium. In fact, the only time I was ripped rudely out of it was when I hit the afterword and found a man trying to sanction, interpret and/or justify this account. No, dude. Fuck off. Let it stand for itself.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly

    One hundred twenty-one pages of gray war-issue paper came out from the ruins of war and became this book. It's a diary of a "pale-faced blond" German woman, most likely a journalist in the 1920s who had had travels in twelve European countries and knew several languages, including a little Russian. She never wanted to disclose her identity and forbade its publication during her lifetime. The first entry was marked "Friday, April 20, 1945, 4:00 p.m." That day was Adolf Hitler's birthday. The last One hundred twenty-one pages of gray war-issue paper came out from the ruins of war and became this book. It's a diary of a "pale-faced blond" German woman, most likely a journalist in the 1920s who had had travels in twelve European countries and knew several languages, including a little Russian. She never wanted to disclose her identity and forbade its publication during her lifetime. The first entry was marked "Friday, April 20, 1945, 4:00 p.m." That day was Adolf Hitler's birthday. The last one was marked "Saturday, June 16 to Friday, June 22, 1945." Ten days after the first entry Hitler committed suicide. The diarist didn't know about it. She didn't even write anything that day and only wrote about her recollections the day after, May 1. The little over eight weeks covered by this diary was perhaps the most tumultuous period for the city of Berlin during the last world war. Its beginning was when Berlin's eastern part (where the author lived) was shaking from Russian bombardment and the entries ended at the time when the Russians were slowly trying to restore normalcy to the city after the German surrender. In-between were deaths from bombs, arrests, suicides, hunger, and a lot of rapes of German women (including girls, mothers and grandmothers) by Russian soldiers. The author was not spared from these. Writing on May 1, 1945 she tried to remember the events of two days before, Sunday, April 29, 1945. A poignant line reads: "Exactly how the evening passed escapes me at the moment. Presumably brandy, bread, herring, canned meat, coitus, Anatol." Anatol was a minor-ranking Russian officer whom she tried to keep as her permanent rapist--just so that she will cease to be fair game to other soldiers and also for some food he'd share with her. This was just one of the many tricks, some verging on the ludicrous, the women residents of the city had resorted to to avoid being raped or at least minimize the incidents (one pretended to be a boy, another hid in the attic all the time, others tried to make themselves as repulsive as possible, like not bathing or pretending to have horrible diseases). But it was not a long procession of cinematic horror as it would probably have been had the diary been fake (initial doubts about its authenticity were expressed by some). There were many moments of everyday ordinariness, as if there had been no war, like when the author met gentlemen Russian soldiers who treated her like a lady and who were interested more in discussing, say, politics, than sleeping with her. Or when she had interacted with some people to discuss a printing business they thought they can put up as Berlin struggles to recover. It was a city in a twilight zone, hovering between sanity and barbarism.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Jess

    ‘These girls have been forever deprived of love’s first fruits. Whoever begins with the last phase, and in such a wicked way, can no longer quiver with excitement at the first touch.’ Stunning. Frankly written with economy and clarity, this rare journal illuminates the true reality of war: whilst military leaders revel in their dreams of victory, it is the ordinary people whose lives are trampled. The anonymous journalist documents her experiences with a complete absence of bias; instead, her stor ‘These girls have been forever deprived of love’s first fruits. Whoever begins with the last phase, and in such a wicked way, can no longer quiver with excitement at the first touch.’ Stunning. Frankly written with economy and clarity, this rare journal illuminates the true reality of war: whilst military leaders revel in their dreams of victory, it is the ordinary people whose lives are trampled. The anonymous journalist documents her experiences with a complete absence of bias; instead, her story aches with empathy. When we consider the female experience amid the androcentricity of war and victory, ‘rape’ or more specifically ‘mass rape’ are what tend to spring to mind, especially in conjunction with the siege of Stalingrad or the occupation of Berlin. Of course, the hideous act of rape is by no means exclusive to women - and there are definitely more dimensions to women's suffering besides rape or assault. And yet, her account is not restricted or solely dedicated to the experience of rape in Berlin. I am by no means belittling rape and its consequences, but what makes this account so powerful is that the anonymous journalist details and emphasises the shared adversity that both the victors and the vanquished face throughout the war, and most crucially, the surprising acts of humanity that exist alongside. She provides an unflinching snapshot of everything from air raids, rationing and rape, to desertion, basement-comradeship and the state of the tram service. This account therefore becomes a universal social commentary and examination of power play; essential reading to not only understanding war, but life and the human condition in the face of horror. A Woman in Berlin should in theory be entirely unbearable to read. And I am certain that it would be, were it not for the journalist’s sardonic wit and dry humour. Although it does become meditative in places, her voice never feels forced or preachy, as such war journals are wanton to do. Throughout her account there is not one shred of self-pity, which is perhaps startling. This could be accredited to her journalistic training and style, but I think her evident courage and honesty belies that assumption. Any sort of autobiographical material is incredibly difficult to critique or rate - this is someone’s life after all. I am however of the firm belief that no form of art is above criticism or interpretation: in my opinion, the authority of her narrative waned throughout her final entries. Nevertheless, A Woman in Berlin is extraordinarily powerful, not only in its subject, but in the way in which it is told: beautifully written and startlingly direct, the author is at once compelling and overwhelmingly human. It is, quite simply, remarkable.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Denis

    This is quite a stunning book - some have questioned its authenticity, some on the contrary have carefully explained why it can only be a real document. The fact is, this diary of an ordinary German citizen who lives through the fall of Berlin, during WWII, is breathtaking, and transports us like no other book does into the heart of a nightmare that did happen. As any diary written by a simple citizen, it's all about daily life - yet daily life in Berlin in 1945 is far from normal. It's actually This is quite a stunning book - some have questioned its authenticity, some on the contrary have carefully explained why it can only be a real document. The fact is, this diary of an ordinary German citizen who lives through the fall of Berlin, during WWII, is breathtaking, and transports us like no other book does into the heart of a nightmare that did happen. As any diary written by a simple citizen, it's all about daily life - yet daily life in Berlin in 1945 is far from normal. It's actually hell on Earth. And hell as seen through the eyes of a woman whose only goal is to survive, whatever happens (including the bombs, the invasion by the Russian, rape on a massive scale), has never seemed so human - and so inhuman, too. The fact that it is written by a German woman is also an extraordinary incursion into the psyche of a population traumatized by its terrible choices, mistakes, guilt, and the consequences that befell upon it. Are those consequences deserved or not? That's the question that hangs over this testimony, but for which there is no easy answer. It's one of the most vivid book I've read about this era, disturbing and excruciating at some points, yet also showing the resilience of human beings in the most difficult circumstances.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Swaye

    "But here we're dealing with a collective experience, something foreseen and feared many times in advance, that happened to women right and left, all somehow part of the bargain. And this mass rape is something we are overcoming collectively as well. All the women help the other, by speaking about it, airing their pain and allowing others to air theirs and spit out what they've suffered." Extraordinary. Such a well-written, brave and honest account. This is a true horror story. The subject matter "But here we're dealing with a collective experience, something foreseen and feared many times in advance, that happened to women right and left, all somehow part of the bargain. And this mass rape is something we are overcoming collectively as well. All the women help the other, by speaking about it, airing their pain and allowing others to air theirs and spit out what they've suffered." Extraordinary. Such a well-written, brave and honest account. This is a true horror story. The subject matter is completely nauseating and appalling and I'm sad to say that I honestly had no idea that it even happened. I long to live in a matriarchal utopia where no woman is ever raped or forced to have sex, through coercion, societal pressure, or Goddess forbid, in order to exchange her body for food. It's horrifying and disgusting that sex has been used against women as a weapon for so long. Absolutely everyone should read this book.

  23. 4 out of 5

    ❆ Crystal ❆

    5 stars for her courage, her bravery, her resilience, her determination, her ability to survive and, most important, her wiliness to share this story with the world. This is an amazing real-life account, by diary entries, of a 34 year old woman that was living in Berlin when the Russians stormed the city. It was terrifying from the first moment she first saw a Russian to a week or so later when some civility was finally put in place. Rape in war has for sure happened many time before in history. 5 stars for her courage, her bravery, her resilience, her determination, her ability to survive and, most important, her wiliness to share this story with the world. This is an amazing real-life account, by diary entries, of a 34 year old woman that was living in Berlin when the Russians stormed the city. It was terrifying from the first moment she first saw a Russian to a week or so later when some civility was finally put in place. Rape in war has for sure happened many time before in history. Mostly it is coldly mentioned as just a fact along with some staggering statistics that make it feel artificial and just too hard to imagine. This book is the first book I've read of it's kind. Understanding what it was like for the women that had to live through it... and survive it, and try to move on from it. She says, "And this mass rape is something we are overcoming collectively as well. All the women help each other by speaking about it, airing their pain, and allowing others to air theirs and spit out what they've suffered." Men, husbands, co-workings have to leave the room when the women talk so openly about it... Are they cowards? Or do they think if they don't hear it then it didn't really happen? A lot of the conversations begin with, "How many times were you raped?" The accounting of events happening to her and all around her are just mind-blowing. All the different emotions and all the trauma happened so quickly, so violently... and yet the struggle afterward seem just as paramount. This is a well written story about a tough subject. I'm happy the author could publish this - although I'm so sad that it wasn't well received when it was initially published in 1953. I think this woman was amazing and I'm happy she survived. I hope she was able to piece her life together and find happiness. I'm glad I read it! It is a book that will remain with me for a long time.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Miquixote

    Shocking, revealing. Captures the day to day of life of common people during and immediate post- war. The author, incredibly, doesn't even appear to feel sorry for herself. And after how many atrocities committed by the Russian pillagers? You'll have to brave this book to find out the details. This book was initially printed in 1954 and mostly ignored and rejected by the German population for depicting new truths that they didn't want to deal with yet. In 2003, the author, who did not want it re Shocking, revealing. Captures the day to day of life of common people during and immediate post- war. The author, incredibly, doesn't even appear to feel sorry for herself. And after how many atrocities committed by the Russian pillagers? You'll have to brave this book to find out the details. This book was initially printed in 1954 and mostly ignored and rejected by the German population for depicting new truths that they didn't want to deal with yet. In 2003, the author, who did not want it re-rinted in her lifetime, due to the pain of the autobiography's initial rejection, died. And the German population was ready to face new knowledge of horrors that occurred during and post-war when it was re-printed to bestselling status. Said to be one of the most important war diaries ever written.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    Matter-of-fact and quietly devastating.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Rowland Pasaribu

    WHEN THE ANGEL SING WITH TEARS OF BLOOD Focusing in particular on the German-Soviet war in the East, this book explores variations in patterns of sexual violence associated with armed forces in Europe during and immediately after World War II subjectively. Besides soldier violence perpetrated against civilian populations, a significant role was also played by irregular forces: most notably, by partisan guerrillas and civilian vigilantes. Ethnic nationalist partisan forces perpetrated especially b WHEN THE ANGEL SING WITH TEARS OF BLOOD Focusing in particular on the German-Soviet war in the East, this book explores variations in patterns of sexual violence associated with armed forces in Europe during and immediately after World War II subjectively. Besides soldier violence perpetrated against civilian populations, a significant role was also played by irregular forces: most notably, by partisan guerrillas and civilian vigilantes. Ethnic nationalist partisan forces perpetrated especially brutal sexual violence against women and girls of “enemy” nationalities. Likewise, after liberation civilian reprisals were fairly common throughout Europe against so-called “sexual collaborators”—that is, against women excoriated for providing “sexual comfort” to the enemy during the German occupation. A Woman in Berlin presents itself as the contemporaneous diary of a German woman struggling to survive the fall of Berlin to the Soviets in 1945. Chronological entries starting at 4 pm on Friday 20 April 1945 relate events in the present tense; as we read, we are privy to the diarist’s written stream of consciousness about what she is experiencing. The form that the book takes has been crucial to the two waves of controversy that it has provoked in Germany; one when it was first published in German in 1959 and another on its republication in 2003. At stake both times has been the link between the book’s truthfulness and its moral import: if true, it is a moral indictment of the Soviets (for raping), of the Nazis (for the national calamity of Germany), of the Woman (for being raped), of German men (for letting her be raped). If untrue, it is anti-Soviet, pro-Nazi propaganda, an assault on the honor of German women and the masculinity of German men (1959) — or anti-Soviet, pro-West propaganda or an assertion of German suffering during the War in which German aggression provoked so much suffering (2003). The provenance of the book — the anonymity and identity of the author and the way in which her diary came to be a book in the first place — have been central to these controversies from the start. The debate has repeated the following logic with relentless fidelity: if the diaries are a naïve transcript of the Woman’s experiences, they are true; if they have been shaped by any conscious intentions, they are false. The literariness of the text has been firmly associated in these debates with its falsity. And if literary, and false, the Diary is motivated by occult ideological investments which it is the task of interpretation to root out; if naïve, and true, it teaches us undiluted lessons, more or less in the form of a direct apercu. First, a brief restatement of the publication history of the Diary in its English and German language versions. It was first published in the US in English (1954); and subsequently in Britain (1955); and then in German by a Swiss publishing house (1959). The second version was published in German in Germany (2003) and re-translated into English and published in the US (2005) and in Britain (2005). I will call these, collectively, the first version and the second version. The first version was edited and introduced by Kurt M Marek; the second by Hans Magnus Enzensberger. Both editors have posited that the published Diary constitutes the very transcription of their anonymous author’s contemporaneous diary. In his introduction to the first published version of the book, Marek describes the manuscript — ‘the short pencilled notes … ; the combination of shorthand, longhand and secret code … , the significant abbreviations’ — and assures us of its objective existence: ‘These pages lie before me while I write’. He claims to know the building described as the Woman’s residence almost throughout the diary and vouches for the accuracy of her descriptions of it. And he concludes: we are faced, then, not with a literary creation whose author has an eye on the public but with a document. … What I have written here should make it amply clear that this book contains the truth and nothing, but the truth. In his introduction to the second published version of the book, published in English in 2005, Enzensberger tells us that the author transcribed the notes described by Marek into ‘121 pages of gray war-issue paper’ and that ‘these pages — authenticated along with the original notebooks by a foremost expert on twentieth century diaries — stand as a shattering indictment and complete our record of the time’. The German language cover of this second version links these claims for veracity to the author’s refusal to disclose her name: it includes a banner announcing that ‘it was the desire of the author that her name remain anonymous. Because of this, speculations about her identity are forbidden’. Some IDIOTs called this book only just: "Revisionist propaganda", an Apologist for Communists ...... how come...??? This journal was no doubt therapeutic for the author. And maybe more than that, perhaps it was a survival tool, helping to take her temporarily out of her terrible situation, even out of herself perhaps, allowing for a life-saving perspective (i.e. as bad as it is, this too will pass) and even retrospective humour (which was not possible at the moment of action). If you can remember (and a journal makes you thoroughly do so), it means that you have survived, and usually it also means that you expect to continue to do so. The author is incredibly resilient (she was starving and was raped multiple times). Is she able to write because she is resilient? Is she resilient because she has the discipline to write? Or is she writing because she is a journalist and that is what journalists do? Perhaps all three are true. And yet A Woman In Berlin is a testament to the resilience of the human spirit and of woman-kind in particular.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Mary Durrant

    A very true and moving account of the perils and hardships of war.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Gwen

    This is the diary a woman kept during the weeks when the Russians occupied Berlin in 1945. I knew nothing about this episode--when you learn about the end of WWII, it's all about liberating the concentration camps, not what happened to the Germans. I mean, it's hard to work up a lot of sympathy. Until you read the introduction, in which you find out that over 100,000 German women were raped by Russian soldiers in the first couple of weeks after Berlin fell. Hitler, being a megalomaniac insane per This is the diary a woman kept during the weeks when the Russians occupied Berlin in 1945. I knew nothing about this episode--when you learn about the end of WWII, it's all about liberating the concentration camps, not what happened to the Germans. I mean, it's hard to work up a lot of sympathy. Until you read the introduction, in which you find out that over 100,000 German women were raped by Russian soldiers in the first couple of weeks after Berlin fell. Hitler, being a megalomaniac insane person, refused to evacuate women and children from the city as the Russians advanced, leaving them trapped and unable to get food or protection. They were already living in bombed-out buildings, scavenging for food, and then the Russians--who are all referred to as "Ivan"--show up. The author keeps a heart-breakingly frank diary of what happens to her and those around her--the attempts to hide daughters in attics and crawl spaces, the fear of being caught in the stairway, efforts to make themselves look ugly, diseased, or as though they're menstruating. Group rapes are common. After a few days, a rapist who is "gentle" because she is so sore, or one who leaves behind money or food, stands out as a highlight of the day. After the brutal forcible rapes become less common, the more subtle form of rape occurs--the women try to align themselves with one particular Russian soldier to protect themselves from others, although there is no guarantee this will work--and of course their "voluntary" sexual relations with these men is not voluntary at all, since it's an effort to protect themselves from even worse sexual exploitation. It's just mind-blowing to read her accounts--every time women who haven't seen each other in a while meet, the first questions is, "How many?", meaning "How many Russians raped you?" It becomes a joke--the women deal with the situation collectively by laughing at the rapists, saying they are horrible in bed or poorly endowed, congratulating themselves for being attractive enough to be raped, and so on. Although of course it's not funny. They all worry about STDs and pregnancy, and women share information of doctors or remedies that might help should they encounter either. And the author recognizes that when the German men return, all the women will have to pretend that THEY PERSONALLY escaped the raping so their men will not see them as ruined. So they're victimized, but they already know that once life starts to return to "normal," they'll have to pretend it never happened. Their men's honor depends on them denying this horrible situation. I loved reading the book--the author is insightful, witty, and informative--but it's definitely not FUN to read.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Maurice A.

    The sad events of World War II have traumatized many people on all sides of the conflict. “A Woman in Berlin” is an autobiographical description of the trauma experienced by a young German woman living in Berlin during the Russian conquest. It was written anomalously and published after the war. This thirty-four year old woman probably was impressed with German success early in the War, but experienced, first hand, the consequences of such aggression. Her comment about Hitler’s dreams of conques The sad events of World War II have traumatized many people on all sides of the conflict. “A Woman in Berlin” is an autobiographical description of the trauma experienced by a young German woman living in Berlin during the Russian conquest. It was written anomalously and published after the war. This thirty-four year old woman probably was impressed with German success early in the War, but experienced, first hand, the consequences of such aggression. Her comment about Hitler’s dreams of conquest, now that his defeat has caught up with her, is “No tree is too high to hang him.” She describes the terror felt as the invaders entered the city, the inhibitions of the victorious soldiers, amplified by alcohol left behind by the city’s defeated defenders, and the spree of rapes perpetrated by the drunken conquerors. She tries her best to protect herself from repeated rape by seeking an alliance with an enemy officer, hoping his rank would keep others away. It worked to some extent, but she also had to endure forced rape by drunken soldiers. After the initial euphoria of winning, the Russians forced the defeated people into labor gangs to dismantle German factory equipment and load the equipment and many industrial supplies onto trains for shipment to Russia. The first publication of her diary describing eight weeks of terror was not received well in Germany. Humiliated, she then remained out of the public eye and never again offered her diary to the public. She survived to be ninety, dying in 2001. After her death, her diary was republished. It serves as a reminder of the enormous price all human beings pay when ambitious governments decide on conquest.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Casey

    This is one of the most incredible books I have ever read and I think that it is a book that everyone should read, but more importantly every woman should read. it is a story of strength and resiliance and gives us a glimpse into the lives of people that we may have thought growing up were the "bad guys". Every time I learn more and more about WWII I realize that aside from the horrible atrocities of the holocaust, the line between good and bad can sometimes be unclear. A word of warning, many s This is one of the most incredible books I have ever read and I think that it is a book that everyone should read, but more importantly every woman should read. it is a story of strength and resiliance and gives us a glimpse into the lives of people that we may have thought growing up were the "bad guys". Every time I learn more and more about WWII I realize that aside from the horrible atrocities of the holocaust, the line between good and bad can sometimes be unclear. A word of warning, many sections of this book are difficult to read, especially as a woman. but I think that because of that, we must read it. while reading this I often asked myself if I could do what these women did in this situation, if I could survive. I find this book heartbreaking as well as inspiring, and I feel like I maybe learned a little bit about myself and my strength as well.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...