Wednesday, July 26, 2006

A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City - A Diary - by "Anonymous"

Book Review by Zinta Aistars

# Hardcover: 288 pages
# Publisher: Metropolitan Books, 2005
# Price: $23.00
# ISBN: 0805075402

When we speak of war fatalities, of those who have fallen, of those who have offered themselves up as sacrifices for the purpose of... but to what purpose? We think of fallen soldiers on the battlefield, yet far behind those front lines that so often are saluted in honor with parades and holidays -- are the women. Throughout the history of humankind, women of all ages have been treated as the prize of the conquerer. To the winner go the spoils, and the spoils are women.

A Woman in Berlin is a journal kept over a two-month period of time in 1945, when Berlin was overtaken by the Russian (Soviet) Army. The author, dubbed simply "Anonymous," is rumored to be a German woman named Marta, well educated, perhaps a journalist who has seen much of the world... but not in this way. For eight weeks she chronicles the battle of the woman in war. Over 100,000 women are raped over this 8-week period in Berlin. Not once, but over and over again. The diarist writes of this time in a way that perhaps only a journalist could, keeping emotions in check, remaining clear-eyed, intelligence evident, apparently using her writing as a tool of survival. If the horrors of war are indescribable, the horrors of what women have had to endure as the human spoils of wars over time has had little examination, little if any punishment (arguably this behavior has even been encouraged), and even less understanding. This book is important reading to anyone wishing to understand war. Any war.

Who will pin purple hearts on these women for their suffering and degradation? Who can measure the wounds that never heal and their lifelong consequences to invidividuals and to societies? These are the unsung heroes who are forced to submit, yet so often rise up first to rebuild what war has torn apart -- homes, families, lives.

The first time this diary was published, it was not received as the heroic work of a survivor. The diarist was ostracized, because so often people turn away from and deny what hurts most, what reminds us of the depravity in mankind. She gave instruction to not publish these pages again until after her death, which arrived in 2001. But this is a timeless book, because women are being used and abused as the spoils of wars today. Witness Bosnia and Kosovo, Darfur, Iraq, and the list goes on to include every battle in which man has raised a weapon, himself becoming a weapon of destruction.

Essential reading.

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