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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
This review is from: A Woman in Berlin: Diary 20 April 1945 to 22 June 1945 (Paperback)
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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Showing 1-7 of 7 posts in this discussion
Initial post: 29 Apr 2011 19:14:47 BDT
I haven't read the book, but to call this woman a "victim" is ridiculous. The German people brought upon themselves what happened to them after the war and, believe me, it was considerably better than what happened to us in the concentration camps. Those who did not actively persecute us Jews, wre bystanders and just let happen whatever happened. They deserved whatever they got after the war. The "final victims" of Nazism and Germany were the ones they murdered. And the survivors who relive what happened to them every day. And the next generation who grew up with their parents' experiences in their minds. Even the grandchildren are having problems. And this woman is called a "victim"???? Forget it!! She isno such thing.
Gabriele Silten

In reply to an earlier post on 4 Jun 2011 22:29:47 BDT
Mariusz says:
The book treats about how easy it is to retain or to loose humanity... in your case it would be the later...

In reply to an earlier post on 3 Aug 2011 14:05:43 BDT
H. Du Preez says:
[Customers don't think this post adds to the discussion. Show post anyway. Show all unhelpful posts.]

In reply to an earlier post on 7 Aug 2011 20:49:16 BDT
Gibby says:
Are you really Gabriele Silten? Forgive me for cynicism but the internet is an easy place to make such claims without verification, and I didn't think Gabriele Silten lived in America. I mean no offense by asking.

Assuming you are, then let me say I cannot begin to imagine the suffering you went through, being privileged enough to grow up in a relatively free state. If had gone through what you did, then I would likely feel the way you do about the experiences of the woman who wrote this book.

However, in a state like Nazi Germany, what could a civilian woman do, unless she wanted her and her family to simply disappear?

Posted on 1 Mar 2012 16:34:32 GMT
Buddy says:
Letting Germans off the hook? why not, people don't decide the policies the politicians do, we just get dragged along whether we like it or not. But we always have to bare the consequence's when the politicians get it wrong.

In reply to an earlier post on 21 Jun 2012 10:43:27 BDT
Chris Green says:
You're completely wrong. what happened to the Jews is beyond description in its awefulness but it's important to remember a) that rape is never acceptable under any circumstances b) that deliberate violence against civilians is wrong

Posted on 18 Nov 2012 14:02:09 GMT
Last edited by the author on 18 Nov 2012 14:08:00 GMT
It seems odd that people are content to view German war crimes solely through the lens of Jewish persecution. While they suffered the most, as a single group, in the holocaust and Nazi terror, they still were not the majority of those suffering - that majority would be classed other. The Disabled, Gypsies, Russians, Communists, Political Dissidents, Homosexuals, Ethnic minorities, great swathes of the population of Eastern Europe were all similarly targeted. It is a shame that more focus isn't brought to bear on this fact to really hammer home the danger the concept of 'otherness' presents when it manifests. In Germany it began with the physically and mentally disabled, spreading like wildfire; when you deem any one group unfit it takes barely any time before you judge nearly every 'other' group unfit.

The important fact is not that Germans 'stood by' while any one group still defined by otherness was persecuted, but that they perpetrated these great horrors upon themselves; German Jews, German Gays, German Politicists, etc. that is surely the most frightening.

And of course we cannot judge the whole of Germany culpable due to inaction. Most evidence still suggests that the majority were unaware, for the longest of times, of the extent of persecution. Besides, and it may sound glib, the majority of people had no recourse to put a stop to political policy lest they endanger their own families. Of course that is no defense, but as a motivator I'm certain it is a stance we can understand, even if we don't agree with it. More worryingly most European countries would have to be judged negatively in this case: if we judge so generally. Certainly there was a case of 'as long as I'm OK, it is probably fine', but I'm uncertain that the entire European continent should be branded so negatively, as without the actions of their governing Nazi leaders these atrocities would never have occurred. Europe as a whole was in an unenviable position; the Nazi party were not fond of dissent of any kind. And, of course, there is the question whether the proximity of the First World War, and the bitter privations either side of it, may have impacted on the general consciousness rendering a different view on the sanctity of life. Certainly the evidence for the lead up to the programme of murdering the disabled had its seeds sown when, during prior times of dire need, the institutions tasked with caring for the sick were viewed as less important for providing money/foodstuffs leading them to die through neglect 'for the common good'.

This woman was still a victim, of course. The Russians were notoriously brutal in their revenge, but frequently against women and children who had little say in political/military life at that time. In fact, much like the German's, their armys were given substantial drink, encouraged to see the German's (regardless of involvement, rank, or status) as vermin, and to treat them as horribly, and awfully as possible. Post war, scores of German soldiers disappeared in to Russia's Gulag system - and not all soldiers were Nazis, rather thy were conscripts much like our own armies. The Russians, too, were not friends to the average Jew, having carried out pogroms of their own, Poles, the terrible massacre upon the dividing/invasion of Poland of Polish officers, or dissenters from the norm, Gulags. Ultimately if we judge societies in such a blanket fashion, based upon their political policies, then we should have little sympathy for Russian wartime hardships either, and that wouldn't be at all right. Each case needs evaluating on its own merits, as civilised people that is the least we can do.

It is fair to say there are people with the most vile tendencies (even if otherwise charming, and friendly) everywhere, and if they assume unchecked power they can lead a country to the very bowels of depravity taking all in their vicinity with them regardless of agreement. In war, especially the foul thing that is WW2, everyone suffers/ed. Some justly perhaps, but most suffer unjustly.
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