Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.

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. Comments written in all caps will be deleted.


Current day month ye@r *

More...

  • Arts and Culture Middle East Larry King Asks Saudi Arabian Fan If Taking Pictures With Jews Is Permitted

    Larry King Asks Saudi Arabian Fan If Taking Pictures With Jews Is Permitted

    Jewish former CNN host Larry King asked a Saudi Arabian fan if taking pictures with Jews is allowed in his country, before agreeing to pose for a photo with the man, The New York Times reported on Wednesday. The world-famous interviewer was leaving the Ritz Carlton hotel in Washington, D.C. with a New York Times reporter when a “dark-skinned man” approached and asked to take a picture with him, according to the publication. Whereupon, King asked the fan where he was from. When the man said Saudi […]

    Read more →
  • Europe Sports Britain’s Lord Sugar Says Synagogues Will Be Empty With Yom Kippur Matchup of Jewish-Supported Soccer Teams

    Britain’s Lord Sugar Says Synagogues Will Be Empty With Yom Kippur Matchup of Jewish-Supported Soccer Teams

    British-Jewish business tycoon Lord Alan Sugar joked on Wednesday that London synagogues will likely be empty during Yom Kippur with congregants fleeing to watch the match-up of two leading English soccer teams known for having hordes of Jewish fans. “Spurs V Arsenal cup game drawn on most important Jewish festival,” Lord Sugar pointed out on Twitter. “Both teams have loads of Jewish fans. Conclusion Synagogues will be empty.” North London rivals Tottenham Hotspur and Arsenal FC will go head-to-head in the Capital One Cup third-round […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture US & Canada Jewish Men Pass Jimmy Kimmel Social Experiment, Rescuing ‘Spongebob’ in Distress (VIDEO)

    Jewish Men Pass Jimmy Kimmel Social Experiment, Rescuing ‘Spongebob’ in Distress (VIDEO)

    Two Jewish men were the only unwitting participants in a social experiment conducted by Jimmy Kimmel, for his popular TV show. As part of a candid-camera-like sketch featured Monday night on Jimmy Kimmel Live, the host devised different street scenes to observe human behavior — in particular, to see how long it would take people walking down California’s bustling Hollywood Boulevard to notice and interact with others in distress. One scene involved a man in a Spongebob Squarepants costume who had “fallen down” on the sidewalk and needed help […]

    Read more →
  • Education US & Canada International Jewish Organization Blasts Israeli-Born Star Natalie Portman for Comments on Holocaust Education

    International Jewish Organization Blasts Israeli-Born Star Natalie Portman for Comments on Holocaust Education

    A major Jewish organization rebuked actress Natalie Portman on Monday for saying in a recent interview that Jews put too much emphasis on teaching about the Holocaust relative to other genocides. The Israeli-born movie star told the U.K.’s Independent that the Jewish community needs to examine how much focus it puts on Holocaust education over other issues. She said she was shocked when she learned that a genocide was taking place in Rwanda while she was in school learning only about the horrors of the […]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Israel Book Draws Parallels Between Holocaust and Palestinian Nakba, Sparks Outrage

    Book Draws Parallels Between Holocaust and Palestinian Nakba, Sparks Outrage

    JNS.org – A new book that draws parallels between the Holocaust and the Palestinian Nakba (the Arabic term for the displacement of Palestinian refugees during Israel’s War of Independence) has sparked outrage ahead of an official book launch, to be hosted by the Van Leer Jerusalem Institute on Sept. 7. The Zionist organization Im Tirtzu wrote a letter to the institute demanding that it cancel an event it planned in honor of the book’s authors, under the title The Holocaust and […]

    Read more →
  • Education US & Canada Natalie Portman Says Holocaust Education Shouldn’t be Used for ‘Fearmongering’

    Natalie Portman Says Holocaust Education Shouldn’t be Used for ‘Fearmongering’

    Famed actress Natalie Portman warned on Friday against the use of Holocaust education to evoke fear and paranoia. In an interview with the U.K. Independent she added that the trauma should make Jews more empathetic to others who have also experienced hatred. “Sometimes it can be subverted to fearmongering and like ‘Another Holocaust is going to happen,’” the Israeli-American star said. “We need to, of course, be aware that hatred exists, antisemitism exists against all sorts of people, not in the same way. I […]

    Read more →
  • Book Reviews Commentary A Righteous Gentile Navigates the Sharkpool of Washington’s Middle East Correspondents (REVIEW)

    A Righteous Gentile Navigates the Sharkpool of Washington’s Middle East Correspondents (REVIEW)

    The Tribalist, by Louis Marano, is ostensibly a work of fiction but at its core a kind of love song by a gentile journalist for the State of Israel, and especially its secular Zionist core. (Because of the relentless attacks by left-wing polemicists on Israel’s allegedly “messianic” fringe, it’s often forgotten that most of Israel’s founders and all its leaders have been secular Zionists.) The author, the product of an Italian-American family in Buffalo, served two tours of duty in […]

    Read more →
  • Food Jewish Identity Rugelach Roundtable: Does Beloved Pastry Need Dairy to Taste Good?

    Rugelach Roundtable: Does Beloved Pastry Need Dairy to Taste Good?

    JNS.org – Rugelach (singular: rugala) are a beloved traditional Jewish pastry, with a quirky history to boot, but they often present a kosher conundrum. Though parve rugelach are often a preferred dessert after a meat meal for those observing kosher laws (which stipulate a waiting period between eating meat and dairy), some of today’s most popular rugelach are known for their dairy fillings. Pastry chef Paula Shoyer—author of the books “The Kosher Baker: Over 160 Dairy-free Recipes from Traditional to Trendy” and […]

    Read more →