Anonymity and Its Collective Nature: The Narrative of “A Woman in Berlin”

The book, A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City, written by an anonymous female, focuses on the social history during the capture of Berlin by the Red Army in 1945 and how it led to violent acts of rape against Berlin women. The end of World War II left most of Germany, including Berlin, in shambles. This left German civilians, who were mostly women, on their own and fighting to survive in the most basic ways. This story focuses on women in Berlin, who were at the mercy of the Red Army and had to endure pervasive rapes by Soviet soldiers. The author, along with many other women, had to come up with plans to both survive and cope with the difficulties that were placed on them in the conquered city. As the progress of the text demonstrates, the, author’s choice of anonymity adds to the book as a historical source, due to its ability to collectively represent the experience of the other one hundred thousand [1] women raped in Berlin.

The end of World War II left Berlin destroyed but most importantly lawless. Women were defenseless against the Soviet Army, which embodied a large number of men who chose to occupy themselves with violent sexual acts. In her journal, anonymous illuminates the vastness of the issue and how most women were able to relate over it. She states, “we’re dealing with a collective experience, something foreseen and feared many times in advance that happened to women right and left.”[2] Anonymous uses her story to illustrate the sadness, loneliness, and utter fear that the women in Berlin felt as a whole. Essentially, the author chose to remain anonymous to represent all of Berlin women. Her journal acts as a looking glass for the emotion and experience of every Berlin women who was raped by the Soviet soldiers.

Through anonymous’ eyes the harsh realities and happenings of all the women come alive. She often depicts the difficulties women had to go through to protect themselves and attempt to avoid rape. Anonymous states “the pathetic figure in front of me reports in a monotone that no, she hasn’t been raped yet, she and a few neighbors managed to lock themselves in the basement”[3] The use of anonymity allows for the realization that all of her observations and thoughts could be those of any woman at the time. Throughout her book, the author continuously explores her own inner thoughts, reactions, and feelings to everything that is happening to her and those around her. In these deep thoughts she often uses the word “we”. This consistent use can be seen as a symbolic way to represent the masses.

At one point, anonymous expresses through her internal dialogue how she is starting to come to terms with the rapes that she is enduring. Nevertheless, she states “slowly but surely we are starting to view all the raping with the sense of humor-gallows humor.”[4] The symbolic use of the word “we,” along with the use of anonymity, proves the authors purpose was to create a piece of literature that collectively represented the women in Berlin and all of their experiences. The author’s choice to remain anonymous in hopes of representing the masses, adds to this book as being a reputable historical source. The depiction of the authentic life as a woman in Berlin is greatly enhanced by the use of anonymity. The widespread cruel reality of women in the conquered city is exposed by the impression that anybody could be anonymous or those she describes. By being unnamed, anonymous allowed herself to become anybody. As a historical source, this book allows historians to recognize that the one hundred thousand rapes is not just a statistic, but rather real people that experienced and felt real things.

Woman in Berlin Eight Weeks in the Conquered City, written by anonymous, explores the social history of rape during the Red Army’s conquest of Berlin in 1945. This book explores the shared thoughts, feelings, and experiences of the women who fell victim to rape in Berlin. Its anonymous authoring of the book allows for the woman of Germany to be collectively represented. Essentially, choosing to be an anonymous author adds to the successfulness of this novel as a historical source.

[1] Professor Mauriello. Lecture, April 11, 2017 [2] Anonymous. A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City. A Diary. Trans. Philip Boehm. New York: Picador, 2005, 147. [3] Anonymous. A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City. A Diary. Trans. Philip Boehm. New York: Picador, 2005, 107. [4] Anonymous. A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City. A Diary. Trans. Philip Boehm. New York: Picador, 2005, 121.