“A Woman in Berlin” comes to Iranian bookstores

December 27, 2021 - 18:35

TEHRAN – “A Woman in Berlin”, an anonymous memoir by a German woman, who was revealed in 2003 to be journalist Marta Hillers, has been published in Persian.

Now is the publisher of the book rendered into Persian by Siamand Zandi.

It covers the weeks from 20 April to 22 June 1945, during the capture of Berlin and its occupation by the Red Army. 

The writer describes the widespread rapes by Soviet soldiers, including her own, and the women’s pragmatic approach to survival, often taking Soviet officers for protection.

The memoir describes the journalist’s personal experiences during the occupation of Berlin by the Soviets at the end of World War II. 

She describes being gang-raped by Russian soldiers and deciding to seek protection by forming a relationship with a Soviet officer; other women made similar decisions. The author described it as “sleeping for food.” 

Conditions in the city were cruel, as women had no other protection against assaults by soldiers. “…when the woman and her neighbors go to a Soviet commander to complain about the rapes and to seek his aid in stopping them, he merely laughs.”

The book is known for its “unsentimental” tone in describing sexual assault but, as a New York Times critic pointed out, “the rapes are by no means all of [the book]. We are also given the feeling inside a bomb shelter, the breakdown of city life and civil society, the often surreal behavior of the enemy, soldiers’ arms lined with looted wristwatches, the forced labor clearing out the rubble piles that marks the beginning of the road back.”

The first English edition appeared in 1954 in the United States, where it was very successful, and was followed rapidly by translations into Dutch, Italian, Danish, Swedish, Norwegian, Spanish and Japanese. 

When finally published in German in 1959, the book was either “ignored or reviled” in Germany. The author refused to have another edition published in her lifetime.

In 2003, a new edition of the book was published in Germany, again anonymously. It met with wide critical acclaim and was on bestseller lists for more than 19 weeks. 

Jens Bisky, a German literary editor, identified the anonymous author that year as German journalist Marta Hillers, who had died in 2001. This revelation caused a literary controversy, and questions of the book’s authenticity were explored. 

The book was published again in English in 2005 in editions in the United Kingdom and the United States.

The book was adapted as a 2008 German feature film, directed by Max Färberböck and starring Nina Hoss. It was released in the United States as “A Woman in Berlin” in 2008.

Photo: Front cover of the Persian translation of “A Woman in Berlin”.


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