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124 of 128 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 millie1512

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7 of 11 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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124 of 128 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
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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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50 of 52 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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67 of 70 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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55 of 58 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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12 of 13 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
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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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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Men start wars, the women pay!, 17 July 2010
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This book should be read by every person interested in World War II or in wars for that matter. It should be read by every young person glorifying war, by every person that has never seen or been in a war. THIS is the backside to EVERY war, this is what the women have to go through and have gone through since wars started.
We read about glorious battles, we read about the brave soldiers but what we do not read about, are the innocent civilians, the children, the elderly and the women. Wars are not only about battles but more so about shortage of food, of suffering and ultimately someone has to pay the price for the wars started by men, and it always ends up being the women having to pay.
This book only descibes two months in the life of the women in Berlin. Two horrid months described by a journalist in her diary, trapped like all other women, in a Berlin waiting to be invaded by the feared Russian troops. They have been ordered to stay by Hitler himself. None of them are fools. They know that the 2500 babies in the city, that Hitler told should stay as well, will surely die from malnutrition. They know what the Russian soldiers will do to every woman they encounter and every teen girl for that matter. The rumours have traveled before the troops. And still the women stay because there is no alternative open to them.
The Russians arrive and all the rumours come true. The author describes rape after rape so that her boyfriend, when he returns home from the front one day, will understand why she is the way she is and what she has been through. But she also describes the hunger, how all the women have to deal with the rapes emotionally, how they only know what goes on in their own street, how their house becomes the centre of the universe with a no existing outside.
Is the book depressing to read? It is shocking, it leaves you with lots of thoughts, but it also shows that the human being is capable of surviving anything. The German women had been taught for years to thank Hitler for everything, for the welfare, for the jobs, for the autobahns, and when they get raped they go on saying "and for this we have to thank Hitler", it now having taken on a new meaning. They turn misery in to humour to keep mentally sane, to survive.
It is sad that the author did not go on writing her diary, but her boyfriend like many men after getting back, was disgusted by her and all other Berlin women. She probably felt it pointless to continue since she did not receive the understanding she had wished for. And most of all, she was so weak from hunger and had to deal with primary needs instead, that diary writing was a waste of energy that she lacked.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Haunting, 24 Sep 2007
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I, like some of the other reviewers, first heard about this book while reading Beevor's Berlin: The Downfall. After buying it I was worried about how upsetting it might be and put off reading it for weeks. It is upsetting but all the more worth reading for it. The anonymous author's unflinching approach is distubing and the images the constructs are graphic but it is not without a certain gallows humour.
I would urge everyone to read this, it is an honest, personal account of the tragedy of war.
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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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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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