Screenshot of the website (no longer online) for the film Eine Frau in Berlin, directed by Max Färberböck, starring Nina Hoss, 2008
70 years ago, Nazi Germany surrendered on this day. For some odd reason, on Thursday 30th April I borrowed from Lausanne’s university library a wartime dairy written by a woman (published anonymously) during the battle of Berlin and its immediate aftermath. I also borrowed Antony Beevor’s classic account of the same event. I perused through the pages of Berlin, the downfall 1945 whilst I was walking back home and, once home, I read A woman in Berlin until page 71 (that is, in the French edition) in one go.
However, I could not go any further, i.e. I could not get myself to read her entry for 1st May 1945 and thereafter because of the poignancy of the daydream she has about distancing herself from her body after she has been raped multiple times. Although reminiscent of out-of-body experiences, her daydream might be more closely related to what a French researcher, Dr Judith Trinquart, who has studied prostitutes’ psychological responses to their plight, calls ‘decorporalisation’ — an attempt to protect themselves by dissociating themselves from their bodies but still with negative consequences ultimately.
Somehow I could not escape associating these horrible descriptions of rape committed by soldiers during WWII with a book I had finished just the day before about the meat industry. In both cases, the ruthlessness, the lack of compassion or mercy of the perpetrators (rapists or knockers off) seem to be distinguishing traits. This description of the total lack of pity displayed by the owner of an independent slaughterhouse in the USA also still haunts me:
Jonathan Safran Foer, Eating Animals
So I was extremely happy tonight to have been able to eat my first salad from our balcony; it was so delicious that I could not help but eat several leaves before reaching for my camera. I am so happy that my wife has green fingers because this translates into healthy organic vegetables being grown just outside of our kitchen door (and of course, no blood was shed for this meal).
Postscript (a few hours later)
Somehow my mind is only half relieved, even though I managed to write the above post, a little in keeping with Tolstoy’s famous quote linking slaughterhouses with battlefields. My intention was to write a kind of essay, but this takes time and my thoughts still need further clarification. In the meantime, here are some links about this painful event – which some describe as the biggest rape in world history.
- ‘The rape of Berlin’, Lucy Ash, BBC News, 1 May 2015 [I wonder whether the BBC says anything about the same crimes committed by the Allied forces – see below]
- ‘New book alleges Allied soldiers “raped one million Germans after the end of Second World War”’, Allan Hall, The Daily Mail, 2 March 2015
- ‘Postwar rape: were Americans as bad as the Soviets?’, Klaus Wiegrefe, Spiegel online, 2 March 2015
- ‘German woman breaks silence about Red Army rapes’, Allan Hall, The Telegraph, 28 February 2010
- ‘Row over naming of rape author: fury after German war diary writer’s identity is revealed’, Luke Harding, The Observer, Sunday 5 October 2003
- ‘Hitler’s Teeth’, Neal Ascherson, The London Review of Books, 28 November 2002
- ‘They raped every German female from eight to 80’, Antony Beevor, The Guardian, 1 May 2002 [contains Beevor’s famous estimate of the numbers of women who were raped and which is also mentioned in his book, Berlin the downfall 1945]
PS The search engine Yandex (used by duckduckgo.com, ‘The search engine that doesn’t track you.’) is becoming better and better: it has already indexed this post (as I found out a couple of minutes ago when I was looking up the link to Dr Judith Trinquart’s PhD dissertation – the keywords I used were Dr Judith Trinquart decorporalisation). 😉