123 of 127 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
3.0 out of 5 stars Not as good as it is cracked up to be
Initially, I found it fascinating. By about a third of the way through, it seemed like more and more of the same. I gave up well before half way. It is claimed tobe authentic, but the claims seemed to be more hopeful than factual. I have my doubts. Particularly as the author insisted on remaining anonymous, and happened to be a well-travelled journalist from east Berlin...
Published 4 months ago by rod instrall
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123 of 127 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A shocking and amazing account that stays with you for days,
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.
49 of 51 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent piece of 1st hand history,
This review is from: A Woman in Berlin: Diary 20 April 1945 to 22 June 1945 (Hardcover)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.
67 of 70 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Incredible,
55 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A tale of appalling personal suffering, an incredible book,
12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The other side of war,
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.
10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars woman in berlin,
This review is from: A Woman in Berlin: Diary 20 April 1945 to 22 June 1945 (Hardcover)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.
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A remarkable, even poetic account of a vicious time,
In a similar vein this diary is a thing of strange beauty, a product of, but completely alien to, the senseless cruelties and world turned upside down Berlin the writer inhabits in those strangest of last days and new beginnings.
This is the story of a few weeks, a little more than two months meticulously detailed in a thoughtful, almost detached. It is no surprise that the author had a background in journalism and editing, nor that she had travelled and had little of the xenophobic closed mindset of Nazi Germany. But she still feels. She is humiliated, degraded and afraid, albeit capable of recognising, cataloguing and exploring these emotions and setting them down on paper.
The writer is a middle class woman, educated and travelled. She has lived through the Second World War and is now battling on the front line as it sweeps into and takes over Berlin. She is reduced to living with a neighbour, using her body to augment the larder and employing a smattering of Russian she picked up on travels in Russia to intervene on behalf of neighbours and to gain protection of Russian officers.
The writer endures and experiences the worse excesses of the occupation. She makes faultless observations about the way life unfolds under encroaching Russian occupation. Her descriptive talent paints vivid portraits of the neighbours, the Germans who share the basement `cave' in a clannish, pre-occupation retreat to before civilisation. She also applies her even handed language to the Russians, marvelling at the variety in personalities, types and manners. By some she is treated almost as an equal, or as a lady. Others smash her to the floor as the spoils of war.
As much as the account horrifies as the accounts of rape become an almost flippant daily discussion between the women, there are also touching moments of kindness and humanity, between neighbours and between the occupiers and occupied. But these are small flickers of light in the thick darkness of the Götterdamerung. There is violence, cruelty and vicious retribution for what Germans did in the Soviet Union.
It is a remarkable record, a flawless account of the most extraordinary of times and a testament to how people react in the most pressured of situations, the instinct for survival taking over. Without bitterness, recrimination or analysing the event long after it happened, this is raw, urgent yet erudite and poetic.
This is an historical record that well deserves the wider audience it will receive following the release of the cinematic adaptation.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Men start wars, the women pay!,
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.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Haunting,
I would urge everyone to read this, it is an honest, personal account of the tragedy of war.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinary eye-witness account of the Russian 'liberation' of Berlin in 1945,
This review is from: A Woman In Berlin (VMC) (Paperback)One woman's diary of the last few days of WW2 in Berlin. She describes in detail air-raids, hunger, a complete collapse of civic society, street-to-street fighting between Germans and Russians and the multiple rapes of German women by the Russian soldiers. However, the book is not as bleak as it sounds because of this woman's almost indomitable character, the strategies she uses to survive and the mordant black humour she shares with some of her neighbours. The overall impression left by this book is that the unthinkable is survivable.
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A Woman In Berlin (VMC) by x Anonymous (Paperback - 1 Sep 2011)