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Marta Hillers (1911–2001) was a German journalist and the presumed author of the autobiographical Eine Frau in Berlin (A Woman in Berlin), the published version of the diary of a Berlin woman from 20 April to 22 June 1945, during and after the Battle of Berlin. The book details the author's experiences as a victim of rape during the Red Army occupation.

Hillers studied at the Sorbonne, and later travelled extensively throughout Europe, including the Soviet Union. She spoke French and some Russian in addition to her native German. In 1945 she was in Berlin when the Soviets captured it. During this period she kept a diary in which she describes how she was repeatedly raped by Red Army soldiers.[1] In 1954 an acquaintance of Hillers', German author Kurt Marek, published the book, anonymously and in English, in the United States.[2] (The English-language version of the book published in 2005 lists Hannelore Marek, Kurt Marek's widow and executor of Hillers's literary estate, as the copyright holder.) In 1955 the book was published in the United Kingdom by Secker and Warburg.[3]

Hillers married in the 1950s and moved to Geneva, abandoning journalism. In 1959 she published her memoir in German, by a Swiss publisher, Kossodo. The book received hostile reviews and did not sell well. Hillers (whose name was not revealed at this time) was accused of "besmirching the honour of German women", of "shameless immorality" and of anti-communist propaganda. One review accused her of falsifying her account and of doing a "disservice to Berlin women."[4]

The distinguished German author Hans Magnus Enzensberger wrote in explanation of the book's hostile reception in Germany: "German readers were obviously not ready to face some uncomfortable truths... German women were not supposed to talk about the reality of rapes; and German men preferred not to be seen as impotent onlookers when the victorious Russians claimed their spoils of war. The author's attitude was an aggravating factor: devoid of self-pity, with a clear-eyed view of her compatriots' behaviour before and after the Nazi regime's collapse, everything she wrote flew in the face of the reigning post-war complacency and amnesia."[5]

After this controversy Hillers refused to allow the book to be republished in her lifetime.[6] It circulated in Germany in photocopied form and was popular among German feminists in the 1970s.[7] It was only after her death in June 2001 at the age of 90 that Eine Frau in Berlin could be published again: in Germany, as part of Enzensberger's Die Andere Bibliothek series.[8] Soon after it was republished in a new English translation, by Virago Press, a feminist publishing house.[9] It became a best seller in both English and German editions.

This led rapidly to the disclosure of Hillers's identity as the author. Jens Bisky the literary editor of the Süddeutsche Zeitung wrote in 2003 that Hillers may have been the anonymous author, and produced a profile of her life, mentioning that she was a journalist who worked on magazines and newspapers during the Nazi era, writing a navy recruiting brochure, but that she was probably not a member of the Nazi Party.[10][11] Hannelore Marek has not confirmed that Hillers is in fact the author of A Woman in Berlin, and Enzensberger has denounced Bisky's comments as "Skandal-journalismus".[12] However, no other candidate for the authorship of the book has been put forward.

Marek notes in his afterword to the 1954 edition that the book is based on a typescript based on handwritten notes, which were in the possession of his wife Hannelore after his death in 1971. At the time of the Bisky revelations in 2003 Christian Esch, writing in the Berliner Zeitung, pointed to differences in the editions and the Marek notes, and said that if the diary was to be accepted as a fully authentic work the originals would have to be examined by experts.[10]

Subsequently an examination of the notes was done by Walter Kempowski on behalf of the publishing house. He came to the opinion that it was a genuine diary Hiller kept at the time, though the typescript and the published book contain material not in the diary.[13] Antony Beevor a British historian who wrote, a "magisterial book" on the Battle of Berlin, confirmed his belief in the book's authenticity by comparing its content with his own detailed knowledge of the period and the other primary sources he has accumulated.[14][15]

In 2008 a film directed by Max Färberböck based on the diary, Anonyma - Eine Frau in Berlin, was released in Germany and Poland.[16]

A Woman in Berlin was Marta Hillers' only major work.[1]

See also[edit]



  1. ^ a b Harding, Luke (5 October 2003). "Row over naming of rape victim". The Observer (London). 
  2. ^ A Woman in Berlin, Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, New York 1954. Hans Magnus Enzensberger in his afterword to the 2005 English edition gives the original date of publication as 1953.
  3. ^ Antony Beevor, introduction to A Woman in Berlin, 2005 edition, 3
  4. ^ Frederick Lempe, Berlin 1961, Putnam's Sons, 2011, pp14-18. Lempe cites a review by Maria Sack in the Berlin newspaper Tagesspiegel, 12 June 1959: Schlechter Dienst an der Berlinerin / Bestseller im Ausland — Ein Verfälschender Sonderfall.
  5. ^ Hans Magnus Enzensberger, Afterword to A Woman in Berlin, 2005 edition, 310
  6. ^ Beevor, introduction to A Woman in Berlin, 5
  7. ^ Enzensberger, Afterword, 311
  8. ^ Eine Frau in Berlin, Eichborn Verlag AG, Frankfurt am Main, 2003
  9. ^ A Woman in Berlin, Virago Press, London 2005
  10. ^ a b Esch, Christian (25 September 2003). "Eine belanglose Person? (A Trivial person?)". Berliner Zeitung. 
  11. ^ Gottesmann, Christoph (11 September 2005). "letter to the editor: 'A Woman in Berlin'". New York Times. review section, p. 6.  for the "navy recruiting brochure"
  12. ^ Beevor, introduction to A Woman in Berlin, 4
  13. ^ Güntner, Joachim (19 January 2004). "Eine Frau in Berlin". Neue Zürcher Zeitung. 
  14. ^ Halley, Janet (2008). "Rape in Berlin: Reconsidering the Criminalisation of Rape in the International Law of Armed Conflict". Melbourne Journal of International Law 9 (1): 78. 
    In Footnote 70 cites:
    • Beevor, Antony (2002). The Fall of Berlin 1945. 
    In Footnote 71 cites:
    • Kempowski, Walter (20 January 2004). "Unchanging Tone: No Doubt about "A Woman in Berlin"". Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. 
    • Beevor, Antony (2005), "Introduction", in Anonymous, A Woman in Berlin, p. xvi 
  15. ^ Beevor, Antony (25 September 2005). "Letter to the editor: A Woman in Berlin". New York Times. 
  16. ^ Anonyma - Eine Frau in Berlin (English title: Woman in Berlin), entry in the British Film Institute database, retrieved 15 June 2010


External links[edit]

Original courtesy of Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marta_Hillers — Please support Wikipedia.
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