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A Woman in Berlin.

A Woman in Berlin.

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A very bracing read. It raises moral dilemmas that cannot be resolved by the order and elegance of conventional probity. The author, a German journalist named Marta Hiller, kept a diary during the fall of Berlin to the Soviet army. She describes the deprivation of modern necessities such as gas and electricity, so that lights and common kitchen appliances are now useless, having to barricade themselves under the bomb-pummeled ruins of what were originally their apartments like "cave-dwellers", widespread hunger, and fear. These cosmopolitan Berliners start hearing the stories from displaced Germans, who escaped from the east and are now living with them, about rampant gang raping and murder by the Soviets. Perhaps, stemming from Hiller's journalistic background, the tone of her writing is almost detached from the ongoing horrors of what some human beings can joyfully do to their fellow human beings, even when she is experiencing it them firsthand. She has a fiancé, a German soldier who is still on the battlefield. After near-starvation and repeatedly being gang raped, the highly educated, well-traveled, multi-lingual Hiller makes a Faustian bargain--using her body for her survival. She speaks moderately good Russian and she strategically goes after a Russian superior officer, trading sex for his protection. She finds the copulations repugnant and degrading, but she decides to survive. It raises unsettling questions of how much people can endure until they freely give away their morality and self-respect for the absolute necessities of food, shelter, and safety.
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