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A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City: A Diary Paperback – Bargain Price, July 11, 2006

4.7 out of 5 stars 156 customer reviews

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Paperback, Bargain Price, July 11, 2006
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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Starred Review. Anonymous, then a 34-year-old journalist, started this eight-week diary in April 1945, when the Russians were invading Berlin and the city's mostly female population was heading to its cellars to wait out the bombing. Anyone who was able looted abandoned buildings for food of any kind. Soon the Russians were everywhere; liquored-up Russian soldiers raped women indiscriminately. After being raped herself, Anonymous decided to "find a single wolf to keep away the pack." Thanks to a small series of Russian officers, she was better fed and better protected at night. Her story illustrates the horror war brings to the lives of women when the battles are waged near a home front (rather than a traditional battlefield). In retrospect, she advises women victimized by mass rape to talk to each other about it. Once the war was officially over, the real starvation began; by the time the author's soldier boyfriend returned to Berlin, she was too hungry and hurt to deal with him. When the radio reported concentration camp horrors, she was pained but unable to quite take it in. The author, who died in 2001, has a fierce, uncompromising voice, and her book should become a classic of war literature. First published in 1954, it was probably too dark for postwar readers, German or Allied. Now, after witnessing Bosnia and Darfur, maybe we are finally ready. New translation includes previously untranslated portions. (Aug. 4)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

The author of this diary was a 34-year-old journalist, now deceased, who consistently refused to reveal her identity publicly. She spoke some Russian and seemed liberal in outlook. Her chronicle was first published in 1953; after remaining dormant, it was republished 50 years later in Germany. This stunning account covers the period from late April to mid-June 1945, beginning with the massive Soviet bombardment of Berlin and ending with the opening weeks of the Soviet occupation. The author is a keen observer of the ironies, even the absurdities, of a collapsing society, but this is a work of great power. At times, one can virtually smell the fear as people cower in basements as the bombardment intensifies. When Russian troops arrive, they are, at first, comically playful as they seem intent on accumulating watches and bicycles. Then the rapes begin and there are scenes of casual but horrifying brutality. The author recounts her own rape with an unsettling detachment. This is a devastating and rare glimpse at ordinary people who struggle to survive. Jay Freeman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Picador (July 11, 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312426119
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312426118
  • ASIN: B0013TFBJM
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.5 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 8.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (156 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,809,410 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Milton E. Muelder on September 13, 2005
Format: Hardcover
As a navy officer and as a special consultant to OMGUS (The U.S. Military Government High Command in Berlin) I arrived hard on the heels of the days described by the author. Conversant in German I was able to talk at length with many Berliners-all levels of society-about their experiences during the period covered by the book. I can therefore endorse this publication for it's veracity and excellent portrails of the people and of the conditions under which they struggled to survive.
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Format: Hardcover
Most of the literature on World War II is written by men on the military ascepts of the conflict (see Winston Churchill's "The Second World War" or Stephen Ambrose's "D-Day"). This is a reprint of a classic memoir of a woman's survival in the wreckage of a fallen Berlin from fifty years ago.

The anonymous writer writes grippingly of the brutal Russian occupation of Berlin in the late spring of 1945. Her first person account of the repeated rapes by the Russians and the choices that a woman needed to make in the chaos of war in order to live is chilling. The building ruins, the hunger, the lack of sanitation of a ruined capital are all here. "A Woman in Berlin" is a powerful book and will make the reader wonder how far they would go to survive if they were in a similiar situation.
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Format: Hardcover
It's unsettling to have to rate this profound diary of a woman's agony. It is what it is, independent by its very existence from any criteria except that which preserves truth. I waited a long time to read this; I was #20 in the library hold list. Meanwhile, before I obtained a copy, I had read the assertion in a letter to the NYTBR questioning the authenticity of the diary. The letter-writer (among others, including a Toronto reviewer) claims the woman was the Berlin journalist Marta Hiller (1911-2001) and how only her death allowed the new translation to be undertaken after an agreement had been made to keep her identity a secret while she was alive. How this would in any way diminish the journal's veracity remained unclear after I had read the letter-writer's argument. I mention these details because, for me, rather than detracting from the power of this diary, they for me confirm that a real woman lived through these two months and not a frustrated novelist or determined forger. By the way, at one point, she claims she's thirty, when in fact she was thirty-four! Perhaps this all-too-stereotypical "white lie" only confirms its truth!

Philip Boehm in his forward verifies that tests have been made that prove that the journal was written at the time. Reading it, while it does bear the well-designed "arc" of a cohesive narrative that begins on Hitler's last birthday and ends as the author meets again her fiance Gerd, I hazard that this only shows that a professional did indeed write the diary and, as is evident from the details that demonstrate her education and observational skills, that she--as the preface explains--polished her initial reactions as she worked on them every day or two and filled her notebook.
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Format: Paperback
The soldiers of the Red army, on their way west in the spring of 1945, behaved like buffoons when they got to Berlin. They careened around on stolen bicycles and crashed into trees. And so the citizens of Berlin--most of them women and children--at first saw them as harmless and comical boys. But once they'd unearthed the stash of liquor Hitler had left behind (hoping it would lead to their drunken defeat by a weakened German army) they turned into rapists.

A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City, a record of those terrifying encounters, is the diary of a Berlin editor and journalist who never permitted her name to be associated with it during her lifetime. She didn't even hide behind a pseudonym. Her story of the first weeks of the Russian occupation and subsequent rape of 100,000 girls and women in Berlin has never been published under any name other than "Anonymous."

Which is this remarkable book's first irony, since anonymous is the last thing she is. "Autonomous" would be a much better name for her, for she is an independent and brave observer, a journalist who literally writes "notes from underground," sparing no one. Not the Russians, not the Germans, not herself.

"Anonymous," widely believed to have been the Berlin journalist Marta Hiller, was 34 years old in 1945 and lived to see the dawning of the 21st century (she died at ninety in 2001), and so rather than call her Anonymous, I'll refer to her as MH from now on.
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Format: Hardcover
My mother was 10 years old when the Russians came into Berlin. She had told me stories of family friends she knew of who were raped repeatedly by the plundering Russians. Many ended their own life after.

This book really was an eye opener. Dread enters your stomach as you're reading the book especially before the approaching days of the Russians. Her power of observation of everything around her is gripping. A simply amazing read.
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