Even as the author endures
the period of mass rape, she is conscious
that the period will end and that life will
return to 'normal'. She speaks of the German
soldiers who will return to Berlin on leave,
saying "they loved to tell their stories
which always involved exploits that showed
them in a good light. We on the other hand
will have to keep politely mum; each one of
us will have to act as if she in particular
was spared. Otherwise no man is going to
want to touch us any more."
She predicted correctly - when she showed the diaries to her fiancé, Gerd, he returned them to her without comment, and when A Woman in Berlin was first published anonymously in German (five years after an English language version was published in 1954) it was greeted with disgust by German audiences and quickly went out of print. The author was so shaken by the response that she would not allow her diary to be republished until after her death. In 2003 it was republished in Germany to critical acclaim and more controversy, but also to a great deal more recognition, empathy and understanding. A retranslation was published in English in hardcover last year, and this month in paperback.
Very little is known about 'anonymous', other than that she was a journalist and editor during the war, and lived out her life in Germany, dying in 2003. I spoke with the USA publisher who said that, of course, they know who she is but that they are honoring her estate's wishes in not revealing the information. If you must know more about her and happen to speak German you will likely find something on the internet about her, as the German press did investigate her background when her diary was re-released in Germany.
This review was originally published in April 2006, and has been updated for the July 2006 paperback release. Click here to go to this issue.
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