I have been reading a book by an anonymous woman, called A Woman in Berlin. It’s a diary of the period between late April and mid-June 1945. It describes the fall of Berlin and its takeover by the Red Army. Society is in collapse, and the book is amazingly frank, thoughtful, and unsentimental. Much of it details the simple tasks of staying alive, managing not to be raped by too many of the soldiers, finding food and relative safety.
Here are a few snippets:
“These days I keep noticing how my feelings toward [German] men–and the feelings of all the other women–are changing. We feel sorry for them: they seem so miserable and powerless… The Nazi world–ruled by men, glorifying the strong man–is beginning to crumble and with it the myth of ‘Man.’… Among the many defeats at the end of this war is the defeat of the male sex.”
“But our country is despondent, our people are in pain. We’ve been led by criminals and gamblers, and we’ve let them lead us, like sheep to the slaughter. And now the people are miserable, smoldering with hate. ‘No tree is high enough for him,’ I heard someone say of Adolf this morning at the pump.”
“Everywhere you look, ‘non-Aryans’ who’d been hidden deep in the family tree are being spruced up and put on display.”
“A bath at home, a nice dress, a quiet evening did some good. I have to think about things. Our spiritual need is great. We’re waiting for some heartfelt word, something that would touch us, some declaration that would bring us back into the stream of life. Our hearts have run dry…The future weighs on us like lead. All I can do is brace myself for what is to come, and try to keep my inner flame alive.”