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A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City    by Anonymous order for
Woman in Berlin
by Anonymous
Order:  USA  Can
Picador, 2006 (2006)
* *   Reviewed by Mary Ann Smyth

A Woman in Berlin is a tough book to read. It's the diary of an anonymous woman trying to stay alive at the end of World War II in worn-torn Berlin - where a topic of conversation might be 'How many times were you raped?' as much as where food might be found. The book was translated by Philip Boehm.

The anonymous author has survived the war. Now she must try to survive the peace. Conditions are horrendous. No electricity. Water must be hauled from a distance and then lugged up flights of steps. What food can be scrounged must be guarded. Starving people are dangerous people.

Enter the Russians. Angry at what Hitler did to their country, they are ready to retaliate. Women are handy. They can be used and tossed aside or killed.

A Woman in Berlin relates through her diary what she and others like her endure in the aftermath of the war to end all wars. They are driven to searching for wild nettles. Bread is a rare luxury, meat an almost unattainable commodity except for those who fraternize with the Russians to stay alive. Who could blame them? Humiliations and atrocities become commonplace. Your friends are the ones you meet in bomb shelters. Life is tenuous at best.

Anonymous asks for no pity just understanding. She tells her story like it was. This book was published in the mid 1950s but was not received with much acclaim. It has been resurrected. I was very touched by it. And recall the words that those who don't learn from their history are doomed to repeat it. I guess we haven't learned.

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