These three memoirs are by German women documenting their experiences during and after the Third Reich and the German Democratic Republic. Each is an illuminatingly personal experience of a moment in the country’s tumultuous political history.
On Hitler's Mountain - Irmgard A. Hunt
The disturbing photo on the cover of On Hitler’s Mountain is true to its contents. It begins “In 1933 both my parents voted for Hitler in the election that confirmed him as German chancellor”. Resolutely honest, Irmgard Hunt writes about her experience living as a child during the National Socialist period. She describes terrible views and behaviour - of herself, her family, authority figures and others - as well as the subtleties of the regime’s brainwashing.
Unsurprisingly, there are not many books out there written by ‘average’ Germans who did not resist the Nazi regime. After the war both Germanies experienced a collective amnesia, implementing denazification policies that theoretically cut ties with the past and ushered in brand new national identities. This book is a start to analysing how a population was taken in by a fascist regime.
A Woman in Berlin - Anonymous
A Woman in Berlin is the actual diary of a woman living in East Berlin when the Red Army invaded in 1945. Somehow, the writer manages to make depictions of true horror - looting, fear and rampant, repeated rape - readable. Unbelievably, there are even moments of humour. An estimated two million German women were raped by soldiers, yet this has gone largely undiscussed because it is so taboo and victims were so traumatised.
Never Mind, Comrade - Claudia Bierschenk
Never Mind, Comrade is about life in ‘80s East Germany. Claudia Bierschenk grew up in a village not far from the border with the West. She jumps between snapshots - wanting to join the Young Pioneers youth organisation, watching colour television for the first time, going to school - some more overtly political, but all contributing to a nuanced portrayal of life in the GDR.
32 years since the nation ceased to exist, people still identify as ‘East German’. Many consider unification to have been rushed, and decisions made on West German terms. This has contributed to a sense of the erasure of East German identity which makes this book an important read.
All three titles are available at Morocco Bound Bookshop, SE1 3HB