German Woman’s WWII-Era Diary Shows How Citizens Turned Blind-Eye to Nazi Crimes

June 14, 2013 11:09 am 2 comments

Nazi Propaganda, Bund Deutscher Osten - nazi poster 1935. Photo: wikipedia.org.

The diary of a young German woman’s experiences during WWII is finally seeing the light of day, and it may offer new insight into the all-too average day-to-day lives of war-era Germans, Der Spiegel reports.

Brigitte Eicke was just a teenager when in 1942 she began keeping a record of her interactions with the Third Reich. For the next three years she wrote in her journal every day. That dedication has paid off now that the entries have been published in German as “Backfisch im Bombenkrieg” — backfisch being an old-fashioned term for a girl on the cusp of womanhood.

The book not only describes Eicke’s own insecurities as a young woman, but it also offers a window into the mundane lives of Germans–and their ability to turn a blind-eye to the crimes of their government.

Eicke sent along her diary to writer and local historian Annet Gröschner, who co-edited and annotated the published version. “The paper was yellowed and had virtually disintegrated,” Gröschner told Der Spiegel. “It was almost unreadable.”

But it has proven highly valuable, especially as Germans have been willing to open themselves up more to public self-scrutiny.

Writes Der Spiegel: “Until relatively recently, accounts of Germans’ own wartime suffering were considered something of a taboo, their own trauma eclipsed by the horror of the Holocaust. But now that the wartime generation is dying, every slice of first-hand social history has inherent value.”

Eicke’s diary is unique in its style, a fact that lends to its appeal.

“She only kept a journal in order to practice her stenography skills, so she was economical about what she said,” remarks Gröschner. “The diary is simply a clear-eyed account of her life at the time. She had nothing to prove and no reader in mind, so she didn’t embellish anything and she didn’t censor herself. And even though she doesn’t go into much detail, she conveys a lot with a few words.”

Eicke’s diary depicts a life of an astonishingly normal teenage existence, albeit one where cinema visits and air raid warnings were treated with equal doses of indifference.

Just as importantly, Eicke’s diary also reveals how easy it was for Germans to remain oblivious to the atrocities being conducted right under their noses.

Now 86, Eicke told Der Spiegel she remains unapologetic about it. “I was young and busy with my own life,” she recalls. A nursing home near where she worked at the time served as a collection center for Jewish transports to Theresienstadt and Auschwitz. “My son always said to me: How could you have been so oblivious?” she says. “I never saw a thing!”

She continues: “Berlin was already Judenrein (“cleansed of Jews”) by then, and I was too young to have noticed anything before that. There were some Jewish girls in my first ever class photograph, taken in 1933, but by the time the next was taken, they were all gone. When I asked my mother about them, she said they had moved to Palestine.”

But Eicke’s story ends happily in a way that another girl’s doesn’t. Anne Frank also kept a diary noted for its unvarnished observational qualities. Frank, who huddled in a family friend’s attic to avoid death ultimately met her fate. Eicke, on the other hand, has lived a long life, one that had its beginnings in a horrifying era she met with detachment.

“We just muddled through, we had no choice,” she says today.

2 Comments

  • This is for a project and I feel that this article would help a lot but I cannot find this article anywhere can someone please give me a link or something so that I find this in English. Preferably the full text

  • Joe edwards

    I would like to read this but need to have the title in English. Reference Anne Frank, from the first time I saw the book I knew I could not read it. The picture of Anne on the cover showed a young girl’s innocence and hope which I cannot to this day bear to see harmed.

Leave a Reply

Please note: comments may be published in the Algemeiner print edition.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Jewish Identity Theater Hollywood’s Revisiting of Passover’s Exodus Story a Part of Throwback ‘Year of the Bible’

    Hollywood’s Revisiting of Passover’s Exodus Story a Part of Throwback ‘Year of the Bible’

    JNS.org – In a throwback to the golden age of cinema, Hollywood has declared 2014 the “Year of the Bible.” From Ridley Scott’s Exodus starring Christian Bale as Moses, to Russell Crowe playing Noah, Hollywood is gambling on new innovations in technology and star power to revisit some of the most popular stories ever told. “It’s definitely a throwback to the 1950s and early ’60s,” Dr. Stephen J. Whitfield, an American Studies professor at Brandeis University, told JNS.org. Starting with The [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada ‘Jewish Giant’ Headlines New York Jewish Museum Exhibit

    ‘Jewish Giant’ Headlines New York Jewish Museum Exhibit

    Eddie Carmel, dubbed “The Jewish Giant” by American photographer Diane Arbus, is the centerpiece of a new exhibit opening April 11 at The Jewish Museum in New York. Arbus met Carmel, who was billed “The World’s Tallest Man,” at Hubert’s Dime Museum and Flea Circus in 1959 but waited until 1970 to photograph him at his parents’ home in the Bronx, according to the museum. The son of immigrants from Tel Aviv, Carmel posed for Arbus with his head bowed to [...]

    Read more →
  • Music US & Canada Disney Hit ‘Frozen’ Gets Passover Themed Makeover With ‘Chozen’ (VIDEO)

    Disney Hit ‘Frozen’ Gets Passover Themed Makeover With ‘Chozen’ (VIDEO)

    A Passover themed cover of hit songs Let It Go and Do You Want to Build a Snowman? from Disney’s Frozen has attracted tons of media buzz and a cool 65,ooo views on YouTube within days of going online. The work of Jewish a capella group Six13, the track is aptly named Chozen. We are celebrating “our freedom, our favorite festival, our fabulous fans, and aspiring Disney princesses everywhere” the group said. The Chozen music video tells the story of [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Identity Retreat Gives Young Artists New Platform to Engage With Jewish Ideas

    Retreat Gives Young Artists New Platform to Engage With Jewish Ideas

    JNS.org – Many young Jewish artists struggle to define who they are personally, artistically, and religiously. Against the backdrop of that struggle, the recent Asylum Arts International Jewish Artists Retreat provided a space for some 70 young Jewish artists to explore Jewish ideas, to build community and a culture of reciprocity, and to learn skills to assist their career development. “We are trying to encourage and excite people to engage in Jewish themes,” says Rebecca Guber, director of Asylum Arts. [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Jewish Literature Darren Aronofsky Adds Psychological Depth, Little Else to ‘Noah’

    Darren Aronofsky Adds Psychological Depth, Little Else to ‘Noah’

    JNS.org – Has the era of large-scale biblical epics returned? Not since “The Ten Commandments” has there been so much torrential water on the big screen (not counting weather-related disaster films such as “The Impossible”) than in “Noah,” the latest blockbuster from writer and director Darren Aronofsky. “Noah” takes the traditional tale and splices it in an eco-friendly and psychologically driven plot. After Adam and Eve got booted out of the Garden of Eden and after Cain killed Abel, mankind [...]

    Read more →
  • Food Israel Israeli Arab Microbiologist Wins on Israel’s ‘MasterChef’ Reality Show

    Israeli Arab Microbiologist Wins on Israel’s ‘MasterChef’ Reality Show

    JNS.org – An Israeli-Arab microbiologist and mother of three won the fourth season of Israel’s most popular reality TV show, “MasterChef.” Nof Atamna-Ismaeel, 32, who holds a PhD in microbiology and is from the Israeli-Arab town of Baqa al-Gharbiyye, described winning as the “the most exciting moment in her life.” She said she plans to use the prize money to open up an Arab-Jewish cooking school. MasterChef is a popular reality TV show that originated in the U.K. It is [...]

    Read more →
  • Europe Theater Play About Muslim Man Who Discovers His Parents Are Jewish Seeking Funds

    Play About Muslim Man Who Discovers His Parents Are Jewish Seeking Funds

    Jewish comedian and writer David Baddiel is seeking public support to help produce a musical based on his film about a British Muslim man who discovers his parents are Jewish. London’s Theatre Royal Stratford East is in development to premiere The Infidel in October, London’s Evening Standard reported on Wednesday. However, the theater needs another £55,000 on top of around £200,000 already raised in order to produce the show. Baddiel, 49, retained the stage rights to the story when he wrote the [...]

    Read more →
  • Europe Relationships Love Guru Says Kaballah Practitioners Tend to Have ‘Less Satisfactory’ Relationships

    Love Guru Says Kaballah Practitioners Tend to Have ‘Less Satisfactory’ Relationships

    British relationship expert Andrew Wallas said Kaballah practitioners are likely to be less satisfied in their personal relationships than other couples, Britain’s Daily Mail reported Wednesday. “All the research is that individuals who have an interest in psychology or spirituality or who practice something like Kaballah (the branch of Jewish mysticism popularized by Madonna) are less likely to have satisfactory relationships,” he said. “A lifetime spent doing self-improvement workshops can just be a case of someone running away from reality.” [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.