3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
- Published on Amazon.com
Andreas-Friedrich, author of this diary-format book about life in the years right after the war, chronicles very well the desperation of most BErliners as the entire infrastructure of the city is collapsing, the Russian occupation and rampaging and raping takes over, the lack of food and water, phone service or transport, making everything almost impossible. One cannot find one's friends and relations, one has to walk everywhere since the Russians steal the bicycles, women and girls are perpetually afraid of rape, since the Russian mob - mainly Uzbekis and Kazakis and other minorities - were the ones sent by Stalin to rape and steal as revenge against the Germans.
Our author is 28, raised in a well-to-do family, well-read and well-educated, employed until shortly before Berlin's collapse at a newspaper. Now she and all her close-knit friends must scramble for food, housing, basic supplies and even water.
Several of these friends, equally professional and educated, stuck together as a group during their years of Resistance against the Nazis, helping Jews and Communists and others who needed to be hidden and fed secretly. They formed networks and delivery methods across the city, sometimes recruited new members, and so on, but always in high anxiety of being caught and killed by their own government; at the least, thrown in a concentration camp. After years of such challenges and tension, tightly bound with each other, and well documented in her first book, she now has to face the dissolution of the group as its purpose is lost.
She sees that each person must reevaluate his or her life, start his or her work again - a very hard job in a ruined city, and try to plan for their individual futures. In some cases, this leads to the obvious - fleeing from Soviet Occupied Zone, out into what is now West Germany, where food supplies were much more plentiful, where especially the Americans were generous in setting up a new economy and treating the "natives" fairly. In the Soviet zone, people are getting rounded up for speaking against Russians or Communism, thrown right back into those concentration camps, which the Russians have taken over.
An interesting side trip for anyone visiting Berlin: Take the S-1 train out to the end station, Sachsenhausen. There you can see the ruins of the original first Nazi camp, never opened until the Wall went down, so much less well known than Dachau near Munich. The place is enormous, and there is a very high-tech museum about the thousands of Germans locked up for years by the Soviets there - their names scratched into the bricks.
Andreas-Friedrich herself ultimately makes the decision to leave her native city at the end of the book, leaving everything and everyone behind. This is certainly a major decision; in real life, she became editor of SIE magazine.
If there is any downside to this authentic diary, it's the lack of clarity on certain issues, which to those unfamiliar with Berlin, let alone Germany, and the absolutely horrific conditions of the post-war years, the average reader might feel confused half the time. On the other hand, it is a diary, with entries from each week or so, therefore it is not meant to be a novel explaining how things are to a non-German.
When you no longer have an enemy to resist, what happens to the group? This is happening even now in post-Cold War Europe - naturally, most intensely in the East. Another generation probably has to grow up before a lot of the old resentments are forgotten.