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Letters From Berlin: A Story Of War, Survival, And The Redeeming Power Of Love And Friendship Hardcover – October 2, 2012

4.5 out of 5 stars 289 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Booklist

Lieff weaves her mother’s letters and reminiscences into a compelling portrait of a young German girl’s WWII–era experiences. As a noncombatant, Margarete Dos witnessed Hitler’s rise to power and weathered the brutality of life on the homefront as she moved from adolescence to young womanhood. Her extraordinary journey did not end with Germany’s surrender, for as she and her mother attempted to immigrate to Sweden at the conclusion of the war, the train they boarded was diverted to Russia, where they spent several years as inmates in a Russian gulag. Since Dos shares her life and loves via intimate interviews with her daughter, an emotionally sympathetic portrait emerges. Though one might validly wonder whether Margarete’s claim that “she didn’t learn about what happened to the Jews in Germany until after the war was over” is entirely true, her eyewitness account, that of a teenager enduring the horrors and the uncertainty of war, can’t be discounted. --Margaret Flanagan

Review

"After more than half a century of silence, a World War II survivor shares her terrifying experience of the war from the other side. Everyone should know this story of the survival of the spirit."

--Mary McKay Maynard, author of My Faraway Home

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Lyons Press; First Edition edition (October 2, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0762777982
  • ISBN-13: 978-0762777983
  • Product Dimensions: 1.2 x 6.8 x 9.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (289 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #984,856 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
What a fabulous book. It kept my interest from the start. So fascinating to read about the events in Germany before, during, and after the war, from the perspective of a child growing into an adult during these years. I highly recommend this well - written book which will become an important part of history.
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Format: Hardcover
I can't put this book down. It is well written and easy to read. As I read I can visualize Germany through the eyes of Margaret Dos. The descriptions and emotions come alive. I highly recommend this book to anyone, particularly anyone wanting to broaden their understanding of Germany during the Hitler regime.
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Format: Hardcover
Kerstin Lieff's Letters from Berlin is an excellent reminder of the often over-looked consequences of war and subsequent human suffering which vastly exceed the loss of territory and military troops. Women and children, the elderly and the innocent have always been at the forefront of military conflicts, as Lieff's mother, Margarete Dos, reveals with the unmistakeable authenticity of someone who has suffered through the horrors of war and it's aftermath in post-WWII Germany. In this beautifully constructed memoir, Lieff allows Margarete Dos to retrieve and retell her memories in her own time and way. She strikes a perfect balance between the free flowing art of story telling and fact checking when necessary for historical perspective. This, combined with Dos's personal letters and photographs, creates a very compelling read. I read this memoir with the same page-turning voraciousness I enjoyed while reading Jung Chang's Wild Swans and Janet Frame's Angel at my Table.
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Format: Hardcover
What an emotionally charged memoir. Reading this book I felt drawn into the life of the character growing up in a well to do family, losing her father, and getting an abusive stepfather. Through the eyes of a young Margarete Dos, I experienced the rise and fall of the ruthless Nazi party and the horrendous ordeal of her and her mother's imprisonment in a Russian Gulag. Reading the book broadened my insight on how innocent citizens suffer the consequences of brutal dictatorship and war.
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Format: Hardcover
Loved reading a WWII story from the perspective of a young German woman. Her voice is sweet and innocent. She talks of the events around her in a matter of fact, straightforward way. Innocent and frightening. I loved this book.
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Format: Hardcover
Letters from Berlin is a gripping and moving account of a young German woman's story of life during World War II and her and her mother's subsequent imprisonment in a Russian gulag. While the memoir, told by the protagonist at the end of her life to her daughter, leaves many questions unanswered, it shows us how the citizens of Germany were just as much victims of Hitler's agenda as targeted populations. The book exposes the brutality of the Russians through untold stories from the gulag--history that's rarely taught. Underneath the horror lies a gentle recounting of a young woman in love, a family's devotion to each other, and a beautiful portrait of pre-war Berlin. A very stirring read; highly recommended.
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Format: Hardcover
Kerstin Lieff's "Letters From Berlin" is a captivating story. Her outstanding narrative style as well as her precise description of the historic circumstances and events reflected from her mother's personal experience and through her embodied suffering that was representative of a collective, at times leaves the reader breathless. Given my own personal connection to the Berlin of the Hitler Regime and thereafter, it painstakingly puts my senses back into the atmosphere of the loss of familiar places, of family and friends, and that which is "home" in the hearts of the affected ones. These unjustifiable, cruel assaults they had to endure themselves or become witnesses of, is in no way just a stigmatized memory of those days, but still lives on in human consciousness in many parts of this world that we often tend to ignore. "Letters From Berlin" is as much a historical and personal narration, as it is a call for awakening from humanity's Dornröschenschlaf (Sleeping Beauty's dream state) to the adherence to recognition and human rights observed. A book essential to one's own personal growth as well as to the becoming aware of the dire need of social acceptance, responsibility, and compassion within and among all global societies.
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Format: Hardcover
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 the war from the German point of view, from the Germans themselves, and it is only in recent years that the children of those who lived during the war years are now telling the stories of their parents and grandparents. And about time too.

Almost as interesting as the story itself, is the process taken to have the parents'/grandparents' stories told. Often there is so much pain and trauma that many of these stories of survival go unheard. In this particular instance, after some persuasion, Margarete made recordings of her story with her daughter Kerstin, and after her death in 2005, Kerstin took it upon herself to compile the recordings into a book. She also found diaries and photos which have greatly enlarged and enhanced the oral recordings made by her mother.

I can only imagine the emotion that came to the surface during the telling of Margarete's story, the courage it took to open up such old wounds and let out the grief and anger there. As we know war is never pretty, and it is always the civilian that cops the brunt of whatever the conflict is. Kerstin Lieff has transcribed her mother's story, adding historical and narrative detail where necessary.

Margarete Dos was a child when Hitler came to power, and very quickly it seems he became a figure to be feared and obeyed.
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