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

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4.32  ·  Rating details ·  8,659 ratings  ·  1,124 reviews
A New York Times Book Review Editors' Choice

For eight weeks in 1945, as Berlin fell to the Russian army, a young woman kept a daily record of life in her apartment building and among its residents. The anonymous author depicts her fellow Berliners in all their humanity, as well as their cravenness, corrupted first by hunger and then by the Russians. A Woman in Berlin tells of the c
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Paperback, 261 pages
Published July 11th 2006 by Picador USA (first published 1953)
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Jan Adult material. Not terribly graphic but to understand it you need maturity.
peter humphries It is on Amazon US, that's where I got it from. If you are tied to Amazon UK you may not be able to get Amazon US books, part of the Amazon…moreIt is on Amazon US, that's where I got it from. If you are tied to Amazon UK you may not be able to get Amazon US books, part of the Amazon bureaucracy. (less)

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Agnieszka

Poor words, you do not suffice .

Indeed, words are not enough to convey that horror. We, lucky ones, born after the war, living in the time of peace, have to summon all our imagination, all human compassion and empathy to be able to catch though a glimpse of that suffering and humiliation that people then experienced.

A woman in Berlin, written by anonymous German woman, spans two months of 1945, from April until the 20 of the June and is a chronicle from besieged and defeated ci/>
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Lilo
Feb 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone who is interested in WWII and its aftermath
The end of World War Two was not the same all over Germany. It was quite civilized in the West, where the Americans and the British approached, fought, and eventually occupied. It was anything but civilized in the East, where the Russians came.

There were significant differences between the Western occupying forces (namely, the Americans and the British) and the Russians. Yes, most of the Russians soldiers (and even officers) were primitive folks, many of which country population of the vast Rus
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Zinta
Sep 02, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
When we speak of war fatalities, of those who have fallen, of those who have offered themselves up as sacrifices for the purpose of... but to what purpose? We think of fallen soldiers on the battlefield, yet far behind those front lines that so often are saluted in honor with parades and holidays -- are the women. Throughout the history of humankind, women of all ages have been treated as the prize of the conquerer. To the winner go the spoils, and the spoils are women.

"A Woman in Berlin" is a
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Trée
Oct 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Two days after finishing, I still can't stop thinking about the haunting beauty of this rare journal, deeply saddened at the events described and equally saddened she didn't write more. This is the kind of book that sucks all the oxygen out of the air, that needs space once it is finished. The idea of starting something new is out of the question, almost sacrilege. One wants a moment of silence, to reach through time and hug the writer, which cannot be done.

The prose is understated a
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Paul Bryant
Mar 05, 2013 rated it really liked it
Although this book was and still is published anonymously, in 2003 the author was identified as Marta Hillers, a journalist who had died two years previously at the age of 90. She was cultured, well-travelled, multilingual, and 34 years old when she wrote this diary, which covers only 58 days. It was first published in 1954, in English, then four years later, in German. They really hated it in Germany.

Wiki quotes a German author Hans Magnus Enzensberger about the book’s reception and
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Cheryl
"Poor words, you do not suffice," this is what she wrote in her diary.

“The truth lay in the mass of closely observed detail,” says this book's editor. “The anonymous diarist possessed an eye so consistent and authentic that even the most imaginative forger would never have been able to reproduce her vision of events.” Indeed, you sense the authenticity in these words--even if the book really was authenticated. Being alongside the author during her private moments of journaling creates spa
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Edward
Introduction, by Antony Beevor
Translator's Note


--A Woman in Berlin: Diary 20 April 1945 to 22 June 1945

Afterword, by the German Editor Hans Magnus Enzensberger
Chrissie
Jan 20, 2010 rated it it was amazing
I think everybody should read this book. When I began it I warned others that it is about rape in wartime. And that is true. Any subject in a good author’s hands can be worth reading. It is the ability of the author to make that subject comprehensible to readers that distinguishes a good author. We know now who the anonymous writer of these diaries was. Her name is Marta Hillers. The German writer Kurt Marek was responsible for the initial publication of the book in 1954, in the United States. T ...more
Victor
Jan 15, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The book is a journal that covers first eight weeks of Soviet occupation of Berlin at the end of WW2. This is one of the better written journals and one of the most honest.
The author was a gifted writer who didn't sugar coat the subjects of war-time rape when women became nothing more than the spoils of war. The victors were entitled, plain and simple, and no orders, or threats, or pleas could stop the daily assault of Red Army on the female civilians.
The German women knew it was com
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Katy
Jun 23, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone.
Shelves: memoir, favorites
I was floored. Jaw on the floor, heart in my stomach, tears in my eyes floored. This book should be required reading for all women everywhere. It should be on high school reading lists and mandatory for all new military recruits. About what war does to women and children, about how the men go and fight and forget that if they lose it’s the women who suffer. Who are raped repeatedly and who watch their children starve to death in the rubble of their lives. But Anonymous writes her journal entries ...more
Jill Mackin
Apr 30, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: ww2, history, germany, war
A difficult read. A harrowing account of what war does to women.


Nicole
Dec 29, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Since writing the reaction below, I have come to think that the strength of this book is the empathy and intelligence of its author. And yet, I also still feel that the anger is appropriate. Maybe she is simply a different kind of person than I am: better equipped to practice tolerance and empathy and understanding. Also, more practical: a virtue I know that I lack.
______________________________________________

I was prepared for the rapes. Here is what I was not prepared for: the wo
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Ally
Nov 06, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This blew me away. What it might be like to live in a city that's subject to invasion, occupation and destruction by an enemy whose force you cannot hope to match -- that's what it offers us a glimpse of.

The fact that it's from a German perspective only underlines the reach of this diary. It's an anonymous woman's account of the 20 or so days during which the Russians took Berlin in April 1945. When a city's unarmed citizens (especially the women) become spoils for the victors, and w
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Caroline
Feb 25, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Caroline by: Kirsty
.


This review contains spoilers



This is the story – told over a couple of months – about the Russian invasion of Berlin at the end of the Second World War. It is the story seen through the eyes of one woman, a well-travelled journalist, who now finds herself, like millions of other Germans, struggling to survive at the end of the war. She writes without self-pity, suggesting a steely robustness that carried her through the innumerable challenges she had to face. The book was writ/>
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Aldi
There’s a certain type of survival story that requires the reader – decades later – to weep, commiserate, or at the very least remark on the courage of the one telling the tale. Every time I had even the slightest inclination to do any of those things while reading this book, I felt as if the author was cocking a brow at me, cynically, half-laughing, rejecting my sympathy. She didn’t need it. She wouldn’t want it. It was so refreshing.

This is an incredible book, probably one of the best I’ve re
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Swaye
Aug 19, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2018, books
"But here we're dealing with a collective experience, something foreseen and feared many times in advance, that happened to women right and left, all somehow part of the bargain. And this mass rape is something we are overcoming collectively as well. All the women help the other, by speaking about it, airing their pain and allowing others to air theirs and spit out what they've suffered."

Extraordinary. Such a well-written, brave and honest account. This is a true horror story. The su
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Elizabeth

This is one of those books where I empathize so deeply with the narrator that it makes my heart ache I can’t meet her and talk to her. Though – what would I say? What could I possibly say?

A Woman in Berlin was written as a diary – a way for the diarist to keep herself sane during incomprehensibly insane days – during and following Germany’s surrender at the end of World War II. First published in English translation in 1954, it wasn’t published in Germany until 2003, after the anonymous diarist’s d/>A
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Jess
‘These girls have been forever deprived of love’s first fruits. Whoever begins with the last phase, and in such a wicked way, can no longer quiver with excitement at the first touch.’

Stunning. Frankly written with economy and clarity, this rare journal illuminates the true reality of war: whilst military leaders revel in their dreams of victory, it is the ordinary people whose lives are trampled.

The anonymous journalist documents her experiences with a complete absence of bias; ins
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❆ Crystal ❆
5 stars for her courage, her bravery, her resilience, her determination, her ability to survive and, most important, her wiliness to share this story with the world.
This is an amazing real-life account, by diary entries, of a 34 year old woman that was living in Berlin when the Russians stormed the city. It was terrifying from the first moment she first saw a Russian to a week or so later when some civility was finally put in place. Rape in war has for sure happened many time before in history.
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Denis
Feb 19, 2009 rated it really liked it
This is quite a stunning book - some have questioned its authenticity, some on the contrary have carefully explained why it can only be a real document. The fact is, this diary of an ordinary German citizen who lives through the fall of Berlin, during WWII, is breathtaking, and transports us like no other book does into the heart of a nightmare that did happen. As any diary written by a simple citizen, it's all about daily life - yet daily life in Berlin in 1945 is far from normal. It's actually ...more
Diane S ☔
Mar 29, 2012 rated it really liked it
This was an extremely difficult book to read, not because of the prose because the book was extremely well written but because of the subject matter. It is the first book, and actually it is non fiction from the authors own diary, I have read about a insider living in Berlin and what the ordinary people went through when the Russians took over. She writes for her own sanity but also in the hope that if her husband returns he will read it and know what has happened to them. All the rapes, young a ...more
Hannah
Oct 14, 2008 added it
Matter-of-fact and quietly devastating.
Joselito Honestly and Brilliantly
One hundred twenty-one pages of gray war-issue paper came out from the ruins of war and became this book. It's a diary of a "pale-faced blond" German woman, most likely a journalist in the 1920s who had had travels in twelve European countries and knew several languages, including a little Russian. She never wanted to disclose her identity and forbade its publication during her lifetime.

The first entry was marked "Friday, April 20, 1945, 4:00 p.m." That day was Adolf Hitler's birthda
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Rowland Pasaribu
WHEN THE ANGEL SING WITH TEARS OF BLOOD


Focusing in particular on the German-Soviet war in the East, this book explores variations in patterns of sexual violence associated with armed forces in Europe during and immediately after World War II subjectively. Besides soldier violence perpetrated against civilian populations, a significant role was also played by irregular forces: most notably, by partisan guerrillas and civilian vigilantes. Ethnic nationalist partisan forces perpetrated especially b/>Focusing
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Mary Durrant
Nov 27, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A very true and moving account of the perils and hardships of war.
Gwen
Jan 27, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This is the diary a woman kept during the weeks when the Russians occupied Berlin in 1945. I knew nothing about this episode--when you learn about the end of WWII, it's all about liberating the concentration camps, not what happened to the Germans. I mean, it's hard to work up a lot of sympathy.

Until you read the introduction, in which you find out that over 100,000 German women were raped by Russian soldiers in the first couple of weeks after Berlin fell. Hitler, being a megalomania
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Maurice A.
Mar 22, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone
Recommended to Maurice by: I saw a book review of it.
The sad events of World War II have traumatized many people on all sides of the conflict. “A Woman in Berlin” is an autobiographical description of the trauma experienced by a young German woman living in Berlin during the Russian conquest. It was written anomalously and published after the war. This thirty-four year old woman probably was impressed with German success early in the War, but experienced, first hand, the consequences of such aggression. Her comment about Hitler’s dreams of conques ...more
Miquixote
Shocking, revealing. Captures the day to day of life of common people during and immediate post- war. The author, incredibly, doesn't even appear to feel sorry for herself. And after how many atrocities committed by the Russian pillagers? You'll have to brave this book to find out the details. This book was initially printed in 1954 and mostly ignored and rejected by the German population for depicting new truths that they didn't want to deal with yet. In 2003, the author, who did not want it re ...more
Casey
Mar 03, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: everyone, but especially women
This is one of the most incredible books I have ever read and I think that it is a book that everyone should read, but more importantly every woman should read. it is a story of strength and resiliance and gives us a glimpse into the lives of people that we may have thought growing up were the "bad guys". Every time I learn more and more about WWII I realize that aside from the horrible atrocities of the holocaust, the line between good and bad can sometimes be unclear. A word of warning, many s ...more
Sundry
Sep 06, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, nonfiction
A truly amazing journal of one woman’s experience. She was a writer before the war, and traveled widely, and keeping a diary probably helped her keep her sanity.

Very well written. Intelligent discourse. An important look at the particular price women pay in wartime, how they become part of the loot and a target for vengence.

The author also observes in detail how society changes in times of extreme danger and deprivation. How it flexes to allow for every individual doing w
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Books can be attributed to "Anonymous" for several reasons:

* They are officially published under that name
* They are traditional stories not attributed to a specific author
* They are religious texts not generally attributed to a specific author

Books whose authorship is merely uncertain should be attributed to Unknown.
“These days I keep noticing how my feelings towards men - and the feelings of all the other women - are changing. We feel sorry for them; they seem so miserable and powerless. The weaker sex. Deep down we women are experiencing a kind of collective disappointment. The Nazi world - ruled by men, glorifying the strong man - is beginning to crumble, and with it the myth of "Man". In earlier wars men could claim that the privilege of killing and being killed for the fatherland was theirs and theirs alone. Today, we women, too, have a share. That has transformed us, emboldened us. Among the many defeats at the end of this war is the defeat of the male sex.” 8 likes
“Ich versuche mir vorzustellen, wie es wäre, wenn mir dies Erleben zum ersten Mal auf solche Art zuteil geworden wäre. Ich muß den Gedanken abbremsen, so was ist nicht vorstellbar. Eines ist klar: Wäre an dem Mädchen irgendwann in Friedenszeiten durch einen herumstreunenden Kerl die Notzucht verübt worden, wäre hinterher das übliche Friedensbrimborium von Anzeige, Protokoll, Vernehmung, ja von Verhaftung und Gegenüberstellung, Zeitungsbericht und Nachbarngetue gewesen – das Mädel hätte anders reagiert, hätte einen anderen Schock davongetragen. Hier aber handelt es sich um ein Kollektiv-Erlebnis, vorausgewußt, viele Male vorausbefürchtet – um etwas, das den Frauen links und rechts und nebenan zustieß, das gewissermaßen dazu gehörte. Diese kollektive Massenform der Vergewaltigung wird auch kollektiv überwunden werden. Jede hilft jeder, indem sie darüber spricht, sich Luft macht, der anderen Gelegenheit gibt sich Luft zu machen, das Erlittene auszuspeien. Was natürlich nicht ausschließt, das feinere Organismen als diese abgebrühte Berliner Göre daran zerbrechen oder doch auf Lebenszeit einen Knacks davontragen.” 3 likes
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