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133 of 138 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A shocking and amazing account that stays with you for days
This is the diary of a woman in Berlin from May 1945, when the Russians took over, to July when some form of normality returned and the Allies carved up the city between them. The author remains anonymous though we do know she works in publishing, which gives her a good eye for detail, and that she's intelligent and cultured, speaking some Russian and French, which she...
Published on 17 Dec. 2006 by dirktherabbit

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9 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Not quite what I expected
I too came across this book after first reading it referenced in Antony Beevor's "Berlin". It surprised me. I was expecting something quite teary and relentlessly brutal. There is brutality, of course, but the narrator treats the terrible events of 1945 with an equanimity and a kind of ironic objectivity that is both immensely impressive and faintly disconcerting. I must...
Published on 15 April 2010 by Frederick St John Smythe


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133 of 138 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A shocking and amazing account that stays with you for days, 17 Dec. 2006
This is the diary of a woman in Berlin from May 1945, when the Russians took over, to July when some form of normality returned and the Allies carved up the city between them. The author remains anonymous though we do know she works in publishing, which gives her a good eye for detail, and that she's intelligent and cultured, speaking some Russian and French, which she is able to use in the days to come.

At the start she chronicles the mass rapes that she and a large proportion of women in Berlin suffered, after which point the book moves on to her daily quest for survival. In her case that included `befriending' various Russian officers for protection. It also details how ordinary Berliners coped in the immediate aftermath of the fall of the Nazis and shows how the circumstances brought out the best and the worst in people.

The recent airing of accounts such as this, and Anthony Beevor's 'Berlin, The Downfall', has caused a certain amount of controversy in Germany and in Russia.

Are we somehow letting the Germans off the hook by making a parallel between what happened to them and what they did in the Second World War?

I don't think a diary such as this does anything of the sort. In their own way, the women such as the anonymous author of this book, were the final victims of Naziism, falling victim to Russian soldiers who were brutalised after four years of war.

On a human level it's impossible not to be shocked and horrified about what this woman went through and experienced; and to be amazed at how she dealt with the ordeal and recovered psychologically from it. And it's worth remembering that though this happened sixty years ago, rape is still used in war today - you only need to look at both Bosnia and the Congo for two contemporary examples.

This is an exceptionally powerful first hand account of how people can both lose and retain their humanity. It is one of those books that stays with you for days. Truly one of the most remarkable things I've ever read.
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54 of 56 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent piece of 1st hand history, 9 Dec. 2005
This is the reissue of a real life diary kept by an anonymous diarist living in Berlin in April/May of 1945, when Berlin was taken by the Russians and Hitler and company were tucked in their bunker for the last remaining days. It is a tale, first hand, of the ordinary Germans trying to fight for life in the falling Berlin as they slowly realise they have been abandoned, lied to, misled, and used by their 'leader'. The diarist recounts the horrifc scenes around her as well as the 'fashion' of rapes perpetrated by the Russians on the German women and girls, encouraged by Stalin as the 'spoils of war'. Although there is a danger that the diary entries may be overwhelmed with emotion, the diarist remains very level headed and recounts detail precisely, which makes this more than just the average memoir - it is an important social document. She even manages to get the reader to feel sympathy for some of the Russian soldiers, especially the ones she befriends to ensure safety and food for herself and others.
The main thing I was impressed by was that the tales of rape never are told for titillation, actual graphic details are not relayed. This is not a book for sensation, and the diarist, thought to be a journalist by occupation, is recording this period as history, so that we might know more of what happened during those final days. It's a fascinating record and one that is of great importance, but because it is not an academic book, or the work of an historian, it manages to engage like a novel and speaks directly to 'normal' people.
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69 of 72 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible, 1 May 2006
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An incredible diary of a young woman's existence in Berlin during the Russian occupation. She writes in such a moving and simple way...and without bitternes.She writes about the struggle the Berliners endured day to day: of their starvation, their constant battle for survival, how they filled their days all the while being in fear of their lives, placating and 'befriending' the Russian soldiers, surviving, being raped daily and the spiderfine thread with which they clung to life.......there is a heart stopping moment when she describes the soldiers' fixation on a young child.....if you read anything this year let it be this book. It is so hard to imagine this only happened 60 years ago..it is truly horrific and absorbing.
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56 of 59 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A tale of appalling personal suffering, an incredible book, 29 Jun. 2006
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Mr. K. Papas "kleopapas" (London, UK) - See all my reviews
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This book is a compellingly brutal account of a woman's fight for survival after Berlin falls to the Soviet army in the spring of 1945 and the immediate weeks of occupation. It is no secret that there were mass rapes of practically any available German female but what is surprising is just how widespread this was. The author not surprisingly has remained anonymous and the book takes the form of a diairy. What becomes immediately apparent to the reader is that the author has an amazing eye for detail and seems to be able to chronicle truly horrific events in a very objective, almost journalistic style. To the author's credit, she manages to emerge psychologically unscathed and even manages to inject humour into the darkest and most terrifying ordeals. You will be left feeling amazed at the strength of the human spirit and how even in the worst possible circumstances - hope exists.
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14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The other side of war, 14 Nov. 2008
By 
Bob Salter "Captain Spindrift" (Wiltshire, England) - See all my reviews
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A "Woman in Berlin" is the frank and honest diary of a young woman caught up in the dark days during the fall of Berlin in 1945. The book contains an excellent forward from Antony Beevor the historian who wrote the equally compelling "Berlin the Downfall". This extraordinary work has an interesting history. It was first published in 1953 to a German public that was not quite ready to face such brutal truths. It quickly disappeared from view and after many decades slowly re-emerged. It is now an international phenomenon and has recently been made into a film which will only enhance its reputation further.

The diary is well written as you would expect from someone who has travelled Europe in the publishing trade. The diary does not tell us exactly what she did. That she is extremely intelligent and articulate there is no doubt. She reads such literary greats as Goethe and has travelled Europe. Those who might seek titillation in such a book will probably be dissappointed. I hope so. The rapes that she endured so stoically are not sensationalised in any way. She accepted that she could not alter the situation and did her best to live through it. There is no doubt that Stalin's Red Army raped on a huge scale in the early days. These were men who were out to revenge horrific atrocities against their own population. They were men who had often been on the front for years. No home leave for most of them. They were mainly simple workers with a smattering of intelligentsia. They felt it was their right to treat German women as war booty and they did so with impunity.

We follow the diary through the brutal early days and find this well read woman sleeping with a simple Russian peasant. One of the incongruity's that war throws up. She is not beneath sleeping with Russians for food to survive. A fact that would have upset many Germans. Many of the German men at that time were helpless to prevent assaults on their womenfolk and felt emasculated. The matter was best swept under the carpet. The matter was not talked about. Even today there are those that refuse to believe these events ever took place. My own Mother who lived through that era is among them. She believes the diary to be a lie and believes the Red Army would never have behaved in such a way. Having read this account and many others I have long been convinced that these events occurred. I would no more deny this than deny that the world was round. The bulk of evidence is convincing. But what convinced me most was her many descriptions of the more mundane tasks like collecting nettles.

I will not give five stars purely on the basis that I am not sure I like the diarist as a person. I sometimes find her comments grate. That is her character and another good case for authenticity. I disliked her comments about the elderly. She describes old age as something to be pitied, not venerated in those desperate times. Often true that the elderly and the very young are the first to suffer at such times. But surely if we behave in such a way then we are no better than the beasts. She quotes the Lapps and Indians as leaving the old to perish when they have gone past usefulness. However it is a fact that many ancient cultures venerate the elderly. As we should.

Aside from these small reservations I find this a compelling work that is deserving of its growing reputation. It is the grittier adult version of Anne Franks diary. It is as the hype says a chilling indictment of war. An important and serious work in the can'on of war literature. Read it.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars woman in berlin, 19 April 2006
By 
J. H. Birch (kent, dover) - See all my reviews
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This was a moving insight into the "enemies" way of life when the russians invaded germany. It reminds you of how people in every country even those who were supposedly fighting against were affected by the war. It shows how the people in germany had to suffer at the hands of the fuhrer. It is a fantastic book a window to another world well worth reading.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Nothing changes, 15 Nov. 2013
By 
John Jarman (Western France) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: A Woman In Berlin (VMC) (Paperback)
This is very well written book, peer reviewed and accepted as a historically accurate account of life in Berlin in the final stages of the second world war, It is written in diary form but is unlike any diary I have ever read before or am likely to read in the future. The Authoress appears to take all that being a 'spoil of war' means in her stride and the use of euphemism to describe what must have been truly horrifying for the women and girls in occupied Berlin does them a disservice in my opinion ... if you are going to write about horrors of rape then do so in all its 'Glory' ... failure to do so will allow it to be dismissed as a ''well it wasn't so bad after all'' attitude. I suspect that the book has been toned down for either public consumption or political purposes ... It is clear from the use of language that this woman was a well educated and pragmatic lady who went out f her way to assist were she could her fellow Berliners even if it meant a risk to herself. To use the fact that the Wermacht and SS troops had behaved like beasts in the east is no excuse for the Red Army to do likewise ... they have lost any moral high ground they may have enjoyed.
That Rape was a common occurrence after the fall of Berlin has long been known but never have I seen it spelt out in such terms before ... these women must have felt absolutely wretched, deserted by the might of the Aryan race and the blinkers must have quickly fallen from their eyes in regard to the infallibility of their Fuhrer at the same time they must have been despairing that they would never see their menfolk again.
I would recommend this book to anyone who thinks that War is a great game, for personal aggrandisement, and that once it is finished everything returns to normal ... for these women normality was a thing they could never enjoy again for they had to carry the mental and physical scars for the rest of their lives.
I hesitate to give this book 5 stars as I did not love it or really enjoy it for that matter but I did think it was a book worthy of note and one that perhaps our educators might include in the curriculum as all in life is not rosy and here is an example of what can happen when things go very wrong in the governance of a country. It was no surprise that the German people did not appreciate the book when it was first published ... National Shame is hard to bear especially when it instigates awkward questions. May the Authoress rest in peace.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars "Vae victis" - an exceptional testimony written by an exceptional woman, 14 Feb. 2013
By 
Maciej "Darth Maciek" (Darth Maciek is out there...) - See all my reviews
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As probably everybody nowadays knows, this diary describes the daily life of German civilians in Berlin during the last days of III Reich and the first days of Soviet occupation of German capital. It was written day after day by a German woman, who decided to stay anonymous, as her experiences during this time were terrible. Rape, hunger and different humiliations - such was the common lot of women in Berlin in those times. This testimony tells it all.

This is a very exceptional document, of great historical value. It is also very, very brilliantly written, which actually for a time caused some doubts about its authenticity (presently there is virtually no doubt that this is a real, genuine diary kept in those times). Horrible things are described in detail, but mostly in a matter-of-fact way. And one of the things which are the most shocking is the description how even the most abject situation tends to create a kind of social acceptance, with its own rituals, if it perdures.

This book is hardly judgemental - in fact the way author sees both the invaders ("our liberators") and her fellow Berliners is full of compassion, even when they display some very abject traits. The description of the way the most defenseless people (women delivered into the hands of invading hostile army which considers rape as normal behavior) take their life in their own hands and even manage to get even (well, a little) by secretly mocking their new "masters" makes for a very interesting read. There is also a surprising amount of humor in this book - which is probably what shocked so much the male readers of the first edition of "Woman in Berlin" in the 50s...

Last but not least, author describes also another category of victims - German men, who, after fighting six years with extreme energy and courage, were ultimately so completely defeated that those who survived had to watch, powerless, the winners defile repeatedly and almost casually their wives, daughters, mothers and sisters. Author describes with a great respect one of the very few men who stood up (at the grave risk to his life) to a bunch of Soviet soldiers and not only managed to save his wife from being raped but was lucky enough to survive this confrontation (most of others who tried the same thing were not that fortunate).

But possibly the most shocking part of the book is the one, which begins after most of Soviet troops left Berlin. The rapes certainly ended at that moment and author was set free by the departure of Soviet officers who "owned" her. But her relief lasted only a short time... Those last chapters are indeed a very tough and surprising read...

This is not the kind of book which one enjoys reading - but it is certainly an extremely important testimony about an aspect of war which is seldom openly described, as it is too painful to remember - for both women and men. And it is also a very powerful warning to all those who would be tempted to start a war: if you really want to do this, you better be really, REALLY CERTAIN that you will not lose...
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Woman in Berlin - Hans Magnus EnzemBerger., 7 Jan. 2013
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This review dates back to my discovery of this book a while ago. However, the impact and memory of the account (quoted as a kind of diary) remains vivid in my mind. The author had been considered 'too candid' for her time - so that the manuscript remained hidden for some years, despite her obvious qualities and abilities as a journalist.. Day by day, hour by hour, in the story, the women trapped in central Berlin struggle to survive in their tenements, often unaware of the next blow to hit their road, as world politics,food shortages, and swopping armies overtake, grab, rape, and herd the women to back-breaking work centres within the same area.. The writer reveals humanity, courage, even a sense of humour, between fatality or pragmatism, totally balanced, under extreme circumstances. The account recorded ,within a relatively short period of time, unfolds like film footage. I have passed it on to those who can take it. It takes its place among personal WW2 stories and revivals, authenticated continually, heroic in its way., A small gem of realism, only found after the ashes..
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars clear eyed and acutely observed account by a highly resilient and truthful individual, 18 Jan. 2014
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This review is from: A Woman In Berlin (VMC) (Paperback)
After the fall of Berlin in 1945 somewhere in the region of 130,000 women became victims of rape. This book is the diary account of one women who both witnessed and experienced that trauma. First published in 1945 the book was initially not well received and the author was accused of "shameless immorality" and "besmirching the honour of German women". Quite the contrary this is a clear eyed and acutely observed account by a highly resilient and truthful individual with a Hobbesian grasp of the awful dynamics of the situation. I think it is also highly 'moral' account as she has the intellectual and emotional integrity to be able to write about and hold onto the humanity of people who are often behaving appallingly. This is a quite remarkable book that I would recommend reading alongside Hans Fallada's Alone in Berlin which gives an account of life under Nazi rule in Berlin (and likewise was not initially well received). A great book. Read it!
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