'A Woman in Berlin' by Anonymous

'A Woman in Berlin' by Anonymous, published by Virago. First published 1954. 

"In the early hours of 16 April 1945, civilians in the eastern quarters of Berlin were awoken by a distant rolling thunder. The vibrations were so strong that telephones began to ring on their own and pictures fell from their hooks. Women emerged slowly from their apartments and exchanged meaningful looks with neighbours. They hardly needed to speak. The long-awaited Soviet offensive had at last begun sixty miles to their east." 

'A Woman in Berlin', was a diary written by an anonymous German woman during the period between April and June in the year 1945. She began writing on 20 April 1945, the day Berlin started to fall under the Russian army.

This is a diary written by a journalist, a well-educated woman. You can clearly see that in how she writes about the horrifying circumstances she and the other women were in. She keeps her emotions at bay and tries to stay to some extent quite neutral. Writing this diary is for her the only way to cope with what is happening.

Because what is happening is what happens to so many women in so many wars. They fall victim to whoever is the opposite force. They are the 'well-deserved' prize for the men of the winning side.
At least 100,000 women and girls in Berlin were raped during this period. And not just raped once, they were raped repeatedly by different soldiers, sometimes 20 times in a row.

The writer describes everything that happens to her and her experience, such as being gang-raped by Russian soldiers. To protect herself from having this happening again, she strikes up relationships with Russian generals. Young girls are hidden away in claustrophobic shelters, not seeing daylight for weeks. The women are starved, they can do nothing to protect themselves from what is happening to them. Still, they find ways to survive.

Cleverly written and very readable, I couldn't put this book down. It was one of the most horrifying things I have probably ever read. It is a horrific piece of history. Nevertheless it is an incredibly important record of what war is. If you want to understand war, any war, then you must read this book.

It did made me realise how little we hear from the stories of women falling victims during a war. We always remember the war heroes, especially when you look at films (Dunkirk recently, for example) and the media. Who do we think about and remember when we talk about wars? Do we think about the fallen soldiers, do we think about the massacres, or do we also recognise the pattern of women falling victim no matter what side they were on?

Do not only read this because it is a very important record in history. Read this also because the things happening during that time, are still happening today.

Bookish love, 

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