• Germany's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Film confronts rapes of German women in WWII

AFP · 28 Nov 2008, 08:50

Published: 28 Nov 2008 08:50 GMT+01:00

"Anonyma - A Woman in Berlin" stars A-list German actress Nina Hoss and has returned a victim's anonymous diary to the forefront of an extremely tentative debate about German suffering during and after the war.

"There were tens of thousands (of rape victims) - that is for certain. Perhaps even hundreds of thousands," US historian Norman Naimark, director of the Center for European Studies at Stanford, told German weekly Die Zeit. "Some estimates go up to two million if you include all the Eastern European territories with German populations."

While the horrors inflicted by Nazis troops across the Soviet bloc are well documented, the price German women paid for the revenge taken by Russian soldiers was long unspoken in Germany- overshadowed by the overwhelming guilt of Hitler's followers.

The new film by Max Faerberboeck, 58, was inspired by the intimate journal a Berlin woman kept from April 20 to June 22, 1945 in which she recounts the excruciating hunger and repeated violations she suffered in the vanquished German capital.

The nameless author bears witness in a laconic tone, with searing insights into the apocalyptic world around her.

The chilling journal was first published in the United States in 1954 and then in several other countries before arriving in West German bookstores in 1959 thanks to a small Swiss publishing house.

It was an era in which no one cared to hear about German suffering after the horrors wrought by Nazi troops - least of all the guilt-wracked Germans.

And in communist East Germany, a Soviet satellite, a blanket of silence suffocated any public discussion until the Berlin Wall fell in 1989.

The diary disappeared into obscurity for nearly half a century until noted writer Hans Magnus Enzenberger had it re-released in 2003. It became a bestseller in Germany.

The author appeared to have been in her 30s, well-educated, with a passion for photography and a basic knowledge of Russian picked up on her extensive travels before the war.

The daily Sueddeutsche Zeitung claimed to have unmasked her in 2003 as Marta Hillers, a journalist who made a name for herself with pro-Nazi propaganda - the prevailing theory to this day.

Although researchers such as Naimark and Britain's Anthony Beevor have documented the enormous scale of sexual assaults of German women at the war's end, such first-person accounts are extremely rare in the historical record.

The University of Greifswald in northeastern Germany has just launched what it says will be the first scientific study of the rapes of German women at the end of the war.

The study will focus on Berlin, the surrounding state of Brandenburg and the northeast of the country near today's Polish border.

Story continues below…

It will concentrate on the long-term psychological effects suffered by the affected women, all of whom, if still alive six decades on, are elderly.

The research team is advertising a telephone number for volunteers, just as the film has whipped up renewed public interest in the story.

"Anonyma" itself has received mixed reviews despite a riveting performance by Hoss in the lead role, with critics incensed about the introduction of a love story to the plot.

The journal recounts the woman's decision to seduce a high-ranking Russian officer so he will protect her from the other soldiers - "packs of wolves", as she calls them - preying on her and her neighbours.

There was no mention of love.

Today's headlines
Prickly Bavarian calls out cops on hedgehogs' noisy sex
Photo: DPA

Caught in the act.

International or German state school - which one's best?
Photo: DPA

Deciding between sending your child to a German state school or a private international school isn't easy. Max Bringmann has experienced both.

13 mortifying mistakes German learners always make

Sure-fire ways to get off on the wrong foot in the German language.

Captain Schweinsteiger retires from international football
Bastian Schweinsteiger. Photo: DPA

He has won a World Cup with Die Mannschaft and captained them at Euro 2016. On Friday Bastian Schweinsteiger announced his retirement from the national team.

Woman accused of false rape allegation at Cologne NYE
Cologne on New Year's Eve. Photo: DPA

According to latest reports, the woman was not even in Cologne on New Year's Eve.

Govt argues over using army inside Germany
Photo: DPA

After a string of violent rampages in one week, an argument has broken out in Germany’s coalition government over whether the army (Bundeswehr) should be deployed inside the country.

Analysis
How Merkel reacts to crises better than other leaders
Photo: DPA

It is of critical importance for a country how a leader chooses to react to an act of terrorism. Chancellor Angela Merkel’s cool head sets an example for the rest of the country.

Turkey demands Germany extradite Gülen supporters
Fethullah Gülen. Photo: DPA

Ankara called on Germany on Thursday to extradite supporters of Islamic cleric Fethullah Gülen, whom the Turkish government accuses of plotting a failed coup earlier this month.

German police raid 'hotbed of radicalization'
Police entering one of the residences. Photo: DPA

A mosque and eight residences were searched.

Germany boasts Europe's best value beaches
This beach just got named Europe's cheapest. Do you know where it is? Photo: DPA

Forget Mallorca or the Costa del Sol - the best beach bargains can be found in Germany. But where?

Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Travel
Enter if you dare: Berlin's best abandoned haunts
DPA
Gallery
IN PICTURES: How Munich responded to shooting spree
Lifestyle
10 rookie errors all Brits make when they arrive in Germany
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
National
Bavaria train attack: Were police right to shoot to kill?
Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
National
How to get German citizenship (or just stay forever)
Technology
Brexit will turn Berlin into 'Europe’s startup capital'
Travel
Six soothing day trips to escape the bustle of Berlin
International
'Germany needs to make UK come to its senses'
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Features
Six odd things Germans do in the summer
Travel
These 10 little-known German towns are a must see
Sponsored Article
Health insurance for expats in Germany: a quick guide
Features
How two gay dads cut through German red tape to start a family
National
Five things to know about guns in Germany
Culture
10 things you need to know before attending a German wedding
National
Eight weird habits you'll pick up living in Germany
Sponsored Article
Why Swiss hospitality graduates are in demand
Lifestyle
Six reasons 'super-cool' Berlin isn't all it's cracked up to be
Society
Only one country likes getting naked on the beach more than Germany
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Lifestyle
23 ridiculously fascinating things you never knew about Berlin
Culture
8 German words that perfectly sum up your 20s
Lifestyle
Can't make it past the door at Berlin's most famous club? Help is at hand
Business & Money
Why Frankfurt could steal London's crown as Europe's finance capital
Features
6 surprising things I learned about Germany while editing The Local
10,747
jobs available
Toytown Germany
Germany's English-speaking crowd