Wednesday, June 16, 2010

A Woman in Berlin

A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City: A Diary by Anonymous

How does one rank a first-person historical account? In this case, rather favorably. It's intense, well written and features tightly structured experiences for a rather under-studied aspect of World War II. Showing what happened with a community of women late in the war and during Russian occupation creates a very vivid picture. Highly disturbing to read, in terms of the subject matter, in particular the description of mass rape of German women, narrated in a horrifically direct narrative. It's not just a story of victimization, though, and in the representation of female consciousness, memory and adaptation it serves as an emphasis for the benefits of non male-centered history.

The account downplays the role of politics considerably, which is somewhat problematic. The author was an educated woman in Hitler's Germany who shows herself capable of astute mascroscopic insight into European developments, yet she downplays her own knowledge of and complicity with the Nazi regime in the past. That's another aspect of things that can't be forgotten, yet insofar as A Woman in Berlin offers a vivid lifestory of a whole different angle of German existence in the war and postwar period, it's well worth reading.

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