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Berlin Diaries, 1940-1945 Paperback – June 12, 1988

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Vassiltchikov, who died in 1978, kept a diary of her work at the German Foreign Ministry and with the underground resistance movement during WW II. "A remarkable document alive with history, passion and truth," praised PW, "her clear-eyed account of life in wartime Germany is gripping." Photos.
Copyright 1988 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

A Russian emigre princess, Vassiltchikov (1917-78) arrived in Berlin soon after the outbreak of World War II. This secret diary is replete with graphic descriptions of what life was like during those increasingly desperate times when saturation bombings, fire storms, and food shortages became the terrible norm. Of exceptional interest, too, are the entries pertaining to her close ties with those who attempted to assassinate Hitler in the "July Plot." This absorbing personal account of Berlin's Gotterdammerung represents a valauble opportunity to understand World War II from the perspective of Germany's courageous civilian population. Though no less brave than Londoners, Berliners suffered far more. Highly recommended for most libraries. Mark R. Yerburgh, Trinity Coll. Lib., Burlington, Vt.
Copyright 1987 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 368 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (June 12, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394757777
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394757773
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (66 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #106,498 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

68 of 70 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on January 11, 2003
Format: Paperback
Don't listen to the review below. Yes, Missie did party and drink and dine, but only at the beginning of the book, when WWII was still called "the Phony War". She was a refugee from her country, a princess, who had to leave Lithuania because of Soviet rule. She can't seem to, at first, give up her lavish lifestyle of parties and such, but she never complains when it is time to give up that lifestyle. She and her sister run out of money, have to take care of their family, but they never complain. I would love to see a modern day aristocrat adapt the way Missie does.
Also, the parties that Missie attends are hosted or attended by some of the most powerful and influential people during the second world war.
Later on though, she is bombed out of house and home... the true reality of living in Germany under the constant destruction, fires, bombing, low flying "enemy" planes, and never being able to go back to how you once lived shines through. She is not a Nazi, she hates the Reich, and gives a great unbiased account of what it was like to live in Berlin during the war. It is a perspective that you've never heard before.
She is friends and co-worker of many of those who attempted to kill Hitler, and supports them. She watches as people she loves and respects are thrown into jail and killed for being associated with those who tried to kill Hitler, and grieves that he wasn't killed.
This is a great book. I've read as many books as I can about the holocaust experience from a Jewish perspective, and though Missie doesn't mention the Jews hardly at all (they shielded the Berliners from what was going on in the death camps) this is still a great book for me. The way the Jew were killed is horrid, and this sounds bad, I don't mean it, but WWII was more than that, believe it or not.
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41 of 42 people found the following review helpful By K. Maxwell on February 20, 2004
Format: Paperback
Missie Vassiltchikov was an aristocratic Russian who was living in Berlin at the beginning of World War 2. At the time the war started Missie was a habitué of the diplomatic party circuit and friends with many of the German aristocrats of her parents class.
Missie, through her experiences in exile valued people on their own intrinsic worth and not based on their nationality and she proved to be a good judge of character. Many of her German friends were involved in the 20th July 1944 plot to kill Hitler and finish the war. Missy herself was lucky to escape the death squads that combed Germany afterwards and her diary chronicles the deaths of many of her close friends. It also clearly portrays the horror of living under the allied air raids against civilians, especially in Berlin, in the closing years against WW2 where luck, rather than good judgement, was a more assured method of survival.
Missie brings home the fact that "total war" is a horror for all involved and that there were 'good guys' and 'bad guys' on both sides of the conflict, but in the end it was the ordinary civilians who paid the greatest price for the folly of their leaders. Possibly one of the areas that is an eye opener is the closing days of the war. An area little touched on in movies or documentaries. We get to see some of the human costs of the disgraceful Yalta agreement that the allies signed with Stalin and the starvation and ruin that prevailed in Europe the years after the war. For a civilian insight into the war on the continent this book is first class along with her sister Titania's autobiography.
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33 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Tony Thomas on September 28, 2006
Format: Paperback
Princess Marie Vassiltchikov, a member of some minor branch of the Russian nobility who ended up in Lithuania and then in Germany for World War II, can sure tell a story. Her diary is a good page turner. You always know what is going on. You're always want to find out what is going to happen next. I finished this book in a day or two and took it everywhere I went, because I had to find out what happened.

She is direct and never gets too intwined in her personal musings (although the curious would want to know more about personal/romantic and other dirt in a private diary).

Her story is intensified by the big events she is involved in.
She begins with Germany's descent into World War. Then, a number of her associates and probably herself (the editor says she is circumspect about this in her diary lest the diary be found)are involved in the aristocratic attempt to assassinate Hitler and overthrow the Nazi government in the fall of 1944. Finally, the Princess, as a Russian aristocrat emirge who spent World War II working for Germany, flees first Berlin and then Austria in fear of the advancing Soviet Army.

While the princess lives modestly on jobs translating and clipping English periodicals for various German foreign policy enterprises, her world is one of the titled wealthy in Germany and Austria. She's continually mixing it up with the descendants of the Royal Houses of Prussia, Russia, Austria and of Germany principalities like Bavaria and Hanover. Her friends are descendants of Bismark and Metternick. Most of her friends are also princesses, counts, countesses, princes, and even lowly barons.

For all the ravages of the War she faces, there is always a great estate or castle to stay in if her home is bombed out.
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