Thursday, June 7, 2018
A Woman in Berlin (1954/2013)
The best known diary to have emerged from the Second World War is The Diary of a Young Girl (1947) by Dutch national Anne Frank (b.1929). Another wartime diary is A Woman in Berlin (1954/2013) by Marta Hillers (b.1911), who, until her death in 2001, insisted that her authorship remain anonymous.
Apart from some obvious differences between these two women, their books are similar insofar as their lives are determined by occupying forces. In the case of Frank, it is the German army; in the case of Hiller, the Russians who "liberated" Berlin in April 1945.
Below is a passage from A Woman in Berlin that was written on Thursday, 26 April, 1945 at 1100hr, the day before the Russians arrived in Bergmannkiez:
These days I keep noticing how my feelings towards men -- and the feelings of all the other women -- are changing. We feel sorry for them; they seem so miserable and powerless. The weaker sex. Deep down we women are experiencing a kid of collective disappointment. The Nazi world -- ruled by men, glorifying the strong man -- is beginning to crumble, and with it the myth of "Man". In earlier wars men could claim that the privilege of killing and being killed for the Fatherland was theirs and theirs alone. Today, we women, too, have a share. That has transformed us, emboldened us. Among the many defeats at the end of the war is the defeat of the male sex. (62)