Top positive review
140 people found this helpful
A shocking and amazing account that stays with you for days
on 17 December 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.