Berlin, Friday, April 20, 1945

11 p.m., by the light of an oil lamp in the basement, my notebook on my knees. Around 10 p.m. there was a series of three or four bombs. The air raid siren started screaming. Apparently it has to be worked manually now. No light. Running downstairs in the dark, the way we’ve been doing ever since Tuesday. We slip and stumble. Somewhere a small, hand-operated dynamo is whirring away; it casts giant shadows on the walls of the stairwell. Wind is blowing through the broken panes, rattling the blackout blinds. No one pulls them down anymore — what’s the point?

A Woman in Berlin, p. 6

Self wonders who the translator is? Because this reads very smoothly, I almost forget it was originally written in German.

The translator’s name is Philip Boehm.

Stay tuned, dear blog readers. Stay tuned.

Berlin, the Conquered City

How the narrator reacts to food:

The gas is running on a tiny, dying flicker. The potatoes have been cooking for hours. The most miserable potatoes in the country, good only for distilling into liquor, they turn to mush and taste like cardboard. I swallowed one half-raw. I’ve been stuffing myself since early this morning. Went to Bolle’s to use up the pale-blue milk coupons Gerd sent me for Christmas. Not a moment too soon — I got the last drops. The saleswoman had to tilt the can; she said there’d be no more milk coming into Berlin. That means children are going to die.

I drank a little of the milk right there on the street. Then, back at home, I wolfed down some porridge and chased it with a crust of bread.

A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City, pp. 3 – 4

from the Introduction to A Woman in Berlin

The lack of electricity and gas has reduced modern conveniences like lights and stores and hot water boilers to useless objects. “We’re marching backwards in time,” she writes, “cave dwellers.”

Introduction by Antony Beevor to A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City

A Woman in Berlin: Eight Weeks in the Conquered City

She vividly evokes the civilians trapped in Berlin and deprived of meaningful news. They know only that information from the western front, where the Americans have just reached the Elbe, is by then irrelevant. “Our fate is rolling in from the East,” she writes.

— from the Introduction, by Antony Beevor

The Diary of Brig. Arthur Varley

Arthur Varley, a commander of the 22nd Australian Infantry Brigade, was one of those unfortunates who, almost at the tail end of the war, was loaded on a prison transport ship to be taken who-knows-where, a ship that was, tragically, sunk by a US submarine (The Japanese refused to mark their prisoner transport ships)

Fortunately, he had kept a meticulous diary during his internment and his forced labor on the Burma-Siam railroad and buried it near his camp in Thanbyuzayat, its whereaouts known only to a trusted few. After the war, during the War Crimes trials of the officers who ran the POW camps in Burma, the diary was located and the words of the “welcome speeches” given by certain officers, and in particular the words and actions of a sadistic officer who headed 80-kilo, 100-kilo, 105-kilo and 114-kilo camps, Lt. Colonel Yoshitada Nagatomo, came back to haunt them. Nagatomo, was hung in the jail in Chiangi, the same jail where so many POWS had been kept in isolation and tortured, on Sept. 16, 1947.

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