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Letters From Berlin: A Story of War, Survival, and the Redeeming Power of Love and Friendship

4.17  ·  Rating Details  ·  414 Ratings  ·  62 Reviews
A New York Times Bestseller

When Margarete Dos moved with her family to Berlin on the eve of World War II, she and her younger brother were blindly ushered into a generation of Hitler Youth. Like countless citizens under Hitler’s regime, Margarete struggled to understand what was happening to her country. Later, as a nurse for the German Red Cross, she treated countless you
Hardcover, 384 pages
Published October 2nd 2012 by Lyons Press (first published January 1st 2012)
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Sabrina Devonshire
Nov 06, 2012 Sabrina Devonshire rated it it was amazing
I thought this was an amazing book. Lieff tells her mother Margarete's story of surviving World War II in Germany and also enduring months in a Russian prison camp. The writing is beautiful and the Margarete's story so compelling - I soon cared for her like a family member and felt very close to the suffering she endured. It really pulls you out of your modern-day existence and takes you back to another era where so many people endured un-ending hardship. I will never forget this book.
Ann Single
May 16, 2013 Ann Single rated it liked it
Really interested in these memoirs - hard to put down and realised how ignorant I was about Germany post WWII. Found the letters at the end a bit repetitive and thought the book could have been stronger without them. What stories do our families hold? Worth trying to capture them even if there isn't a novel in it. History has many truths.
Dec 07, 2015 Judy rated it really liked it
I’ve read a freakishly large number of personal stories of people who survived both hot and cold wars in Berlin, and Letters From Berlin is one of the best. This memoir by Kerstin Lieff, written about and with her mother Margarete Dos, is the most comprehensive, this-is-what-I-saw, this-is-what-I experienced account that I have read.

The story follows Margarete from her days as a young girl at the beginning of the war through young womanhood in a Russian work camp after the war. In it she describ
Apr 17, 2015 John rated it really liked it
Margarete Dos came of age in Hitler's Germany and survived World War II only to be sent with her mother to a Soviet gulag.
Late in life, she told her story to her daughter, Kerstin Lieff, who retells it in this memoir. After her mother's death, Lieff came across letters Dos had written -- but never managed to send -- to a soldier who apparently was a close friend. This book also contains those letters, written during the final days of the war and the first days after the war ended. Lieff was unab
Apr 17, 2014 Maura rated it really liked it
Reading the synopsis of this book gave me a jolt of recognition - it sounded in some ways as though it could have been my Aunt Elisabeth's story: a girl growing up in Germany as Hitler comes to power, a father in the military, having medical school studies interrupted by the war, struggling to survive after the war with her mother as everything they owned was taken from them. I wished I had known my aunt better; the few times she and my uncle visited us I was too young and ignorant to appreciate ...more
Maureen E
Feb 25, 2013 Maureen E rated it really liked it
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When Margarete Dos moved with her family to Berlin on the eve of World War II, she and her younger brother were blindly ushered into a generation of Hitler Youth. Like countless citizens under Hitler’s regime, Margarete struggled to understand what was happening to her country. Later, as a nurse for the German Red Cross, she treated countless young soldiers—recruited in the eleventh hour to fight a losing
Extremely interesting memoir about life in Berlin during the Second World War and thereafter, as well as two years spent working in a Soviet Gulag. Highly recommend this very readable interesting book.
Leanne Davis
Nov 08, 2014 Leanne Davis rated it it was amazing
Thank you for presenting your mother's story. It was truly a beautifully presented story that read like a suspenseful, tragic, emotional, and even exciting novel. That is is someone's memoirs makes it even more haunting. I read it in days and hated to put it down. It is engaging and lovely. It draws in the reader to her story giving the facts and figures of history that are shocking, a real voice and emotional attachment to highlight the gruesome nature of this period in history. This story of M ...more
Jun 03, 2014 Jeanne rated it it was ok
This is a pretty good compilation of memories into a readable story. The characters are really believable.

My biggest problem with this book was my inability to accept that the main character did not know of the brutality of her own country and that country's responsibility for the death and destruction of the occupied countries and England. I had little compassion for the anger about the bombings of their beautiful cities. Not once was there an expression of understanding that their country had
Kelly MacIver
Oct 21, 2012 Kelly MacIver rated it it was amazing
Really compelling viewpoint of the years just prior to and following World War II. I learned some things I did not know about the general feeling of Germans regarding the war, the Nazi party, and their own lives. The author is always careful to point out where recollection may not be all that accurate, yet stay true to her mother's narrative.
Carol Wakefield
Jul 15, 2014 Carol Wakefield rated it it was amazing
Amazing survival story. First of a young woman's teen age years spent in Berlin during WW11. Secondly surviving a couple years in a gulag in Russia working in a coal mine and on farms. This when a train taking Germans with a Swedish connection to Sweden is diverted to a slave labor camp in Russia. And finally a return to Berlin after the gulag years to find the city in deep distress overrun by refugees and with little food or housing available. Eventually marguerite and her mother do find a way ...more
Oct 20, 2014 Jill rated it really liked it
A very moving account of a young girl growing up in Germany before and during WWII, Letters from Berlin is based on the author's memories of that time, as recounted to her own daughter 50 years later. The memoir rarely expands into events outside the main character's immediate experiences and this is mostly a strength. The personal voice is strong and we feel for the young Margarete as she struggles to live through terrible times. However, this also becomes a weakness as we hope for some reflect ...more
Jun 07, 2014 Anne rated it really liked it
Marguerite Dos and her family moved to Berlin on the eve of WWII. She and her brother were caught up in the Hitler youth. She was not happy with what was happening, but she became a nurse hoping she could help the soldiers. She was horrified as the bombs reduced her home to rubble. Her humanity and love kept her going until the end, and she and her mother were on a train to Sweden but suddenly were rerouted to Russia. How she suffered for months as a prisoner there before her release makes one r ...more
May 06, 2013 Penny rated it really liked it
A perspective we don't see so much of - the experience of German civilians during WW2. It amazes me how the human spirit can survive so much horror.
Dec 15, 2013 Kiwiflora rated it really liked it
Growing up in the West learning 20th century WWII history, we took it on board that the British, the Americans and for a while the Russians were the good guys. The Germans and the Japanese were the bad guys - simple as that. History, of course, is always perceived and told from the viewpoint of the person telling it, and often the viewpoint of the other party/ies is minimised, ignored, glossed over or dressed up in a way to enhance the teller's version. We never, ever learnt about the history of ...more
Diane Wachter
Mar 01, 2016 Diane Wachter rated it it was amazing
Shelves: nonfiction, ebook, wwii
Letters From Berlin: A Story of War, Survival and the Redeeming Power of Love and Friendship. Margarete Dos and Kerstin Kieff. NB-M @ 2013, 6/14. Personal narratives of a young woman in Berlin Germany before, during and after WWII. Answered some of my questions about what the German People knew about what was happening...with the Jews and Concentration camps; with the propaganda; and finally what it was like in Berlin after the war. An excellent book!
Apr 07, 2014 Ron rated it liked it
"Letters from Berlin" is written as a first person account of a German girl and her family caught up in the turmoil of WW II. Covering a period of about 15 years from the mid 1930's to 1950 the book attempts to illustrate the brutality and suffering that average Germans endured at the hand of Hitler and the Nazis. A tough read in terms of the suffering endured by the family but still engrossing from the standpoint of being another look at the ravages of WW II.
May 05, 2014 Sam rated it liked it
Author not professional, but was one of the reasons I loved her story, it was her Moms true story. I have never read anything from this point of view, and it really opened my eyes, re WWll. I tend to believe, a little more, that the German people didn't know about the Jew camps, they were led to believe the camps were just POW camps, not death camps. It all is so hard to imagine.

Jan Hotubbee
Mar 06, 2015 Jan Hotubbee rated it really liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Chuck Heikkinen
Jul 04, 2014 Chuck Heikkinen rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history
This is a German woman's reconstructed view of life in Germany during and shortly after World War II, and includes description of her three years in a Russian gulag. Raised to despise the Nazi party, she undergoes increasing privation as the war goes on, and then survives a gulag. It's a story that puts humanity back into wartime and depicts the horror and terrors of war.
Lucy Meeker
Mar 04, 2016 Lucy Meeker rated it really liked it
A great memoir of a girl coming of age during the rise of Hitler in Germany. Her story is told of how she survived before, during and after the war. I would recommend this book for people who read WW2 novels. Her story needs to be told because she was one of the few people who was against Hilter and made it though to tell her story of her struggles. Great read!
Jul 06, 2014 Dan rated it it was amazing
A beautifully written memoir of a person who grew up in Nazi Germany and survived incredible horrors at the close of the war in Europe. This is for any World War II history fan because, though it is the tale of but one, it most surely in reality is the tale of thousands upon thousands who lived through similar events. Can't stress enough how well written it is.
Mar 12, 2015 Viktoria rated it liked it
The book starts slowly: the war part diary feels somewhat construed and apologetic. However, vivid description of bombings and other events kept me from giving up. The book picked up with the family in Russian POW camps, with haunting descriptions of events I knew very little about. The personal postwar Germany picture, again, was vivid and memorable. Very good read.
Apr 17, 2014 Pat rated it really liked it
This book gave me insight on World War II from the German people's perspective. It was quite interesting. After the war many German and other ethnics were shipped to camps in Russia. Part of this book explains how horrific life was in these camps. The book is told by the daughter of a survivor using her mother's letters.
Jun 14, 2014 Linda rated it it was amazing
E-book True story of survival - two times over. After their story of survival in Berlin, the author has an equally hard survival ahead of her. And these were the "good" Germans and their hardships! The power of the human spirit and spirit of survival in such circumstances NEVER ceases to amaze me.
Kathleen Johnson
Apr 23, 2014 Kathleen Johnson rated it really liked it
Truly a fascinating book! It was very interesting to hear about WWII from the perspective of a German civilian.
I really was not aware of the "imprisoning" of German non-party citizens in the post war period.
Not only did the Jews pay the price for Hitler's inhumane ideas, the German citizens paid for his cowardice when he avoided his responsibility by taking his own life.
All in all, a very interesting and captivating book.
Bravo Kerstin Lieff! Your mother would be proud!
Apr 25, 2014 Stephanie rated it really liked it
It was interesting to read about WWII from an ordinary German's point of view. The fact that the author finally got her mother to open up and tell her life's story gave the book a sense of intimacy. With what is happening in Ukraine and surrounding countries, it gives books such as this a new perspective.
Marie Dafgard
Jun 08, 2015 Marie Dafgard rated it it was amazing
So little is written about Germans who lived in Germany during WW2, not having to face the concentration camps and what not but having to deal with their own sacrifices and problems. This is well written (dictated by the author's mother) and touches on many of the questions I often had while reading and hearing others' stories of this time. Definitely a must read!
May 18, 2014 REGINA PANTER rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

This book kept my attention interesting....and so shocking at the same time......the brave women,children and soldiers believed what they were told.....sad
Jun 26, 2015 Barbara rated it really liked it
Good book coming from German citizen during war. I have read several on Jews as prisoners and their hardships, but not from a German citizen and how they were touched.
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Kerstin Lieff came to the United States with her parents as an immigrant from Germany in 1952. She grew up in Minnesota and now calls Boulder her home. She is a recent graduate from Fairleigh Dickinson University where she received her Master's Degree in creative writing. Her first book, LETTERS FROM BERLIN, is a memoir of a young woman caught in the devastation of Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Ru ...more
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