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...

  • Arts and Culture Middle East Hamas Commander Reportedly Urges Hezbollah to Join Forces Against Israel

    Hamas Commander Reportedly Urges Hezbollah to Join Forces Against Israel

    JNS.org – Five months after Israeli forces tried to assassinate Hamas military commander Mohammed Deif in Gaza, Deif appears to have signed a letter that the terrorist group claims he wrote in hiding. The letter, addressed to Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, expressed Deif’s condolences for the death of Hezbollah terrorists during Sunday’s reported Israeli airstrike in Syria. Deif is said to have survived multiple assassination attempts, but he has not been seen in public for years. According to the Hezbollah-linked Al-Manar [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Theater Shlomo Carlebach Musical Has the Soul to Heal Frayed Race Relations

    Shlomo Carlebach Musical Has the Soul to Heal Frayed Race Relations

    JNS.org – The cracks that had been simply painted over for so long began to show in Ferguson, Mo., in November 2014, but in truth they had begun to open wide much earlier—on Saturday, July 13, 2013. That is when a jury in Sanford, Fla., acquitted George Zimmerman of culpability for the death of a 17-year-old black man, Trayvon Martin. The cracks receded from view over time, as other news obscured them. Then came the evening of Aug. 9, 2014, [...]

    Read more →
  • Theater US & Canada ‘Homeland’ Season Finale Stirs Controversy After Comparing Menachem Begin to Taliban Leader

    ‘Homeland’ Season Finale Stirs Controversy After Comparing Menachem Begin to Taliban Leader

    A controversial scene in the season finale of Homeland sparked outrage by comparing former Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin to a fictional Taliban leader, the UK’s Daily Mail reported. In the season 4 finale episode, which aired on Dec. 21, CIA black ops director Dar Adal, played by F. Murray Abraham, justifies a deal he made with a Taliban leader by referencing Begin. He makes the remarks in a conversation with former CIA director Saul Berenson, a Jewish character played by Mandy [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Spirituality/Tradition Placing Matisyahu Back Within a Life of Observance

    Placing Matisyahu Back Within a Life of Observance

    Shining Light on Fiction During the North Korea-Sony saga, we learned two important lessons. The first is that there are two sides to this story, and neither of them are correct because ultimately we should have neither inappropriate movies nor dictators. The second is that we cannot remain entirely fixed on the religious world, but we also must see beyond the external, secular view of reality. It’s important to ground our Torah-based thoughts into real-life activism. To view our act [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Nine Decades of Moses at the Movies

    Nine Decades of Moses at the Movies

    JNS.org – Hollywood has had its share of big-budget biblical flops, but until now, the Exodus narrative has not been among them. Studios have brought Moses to the big screen sparingly, but in ways that defined the image and character of Moses for each generation of audiences. The first biblical epic In 1923, director Cecil B. DeMille left it to the American public to decide the subject of his next movie for Paramount. DeMille received a letter from a mechanic [...]

    Read more →
  • Arts and Culture Blogs Exodus on Screen (REVIEW)

    Exodus on Screen (REVIEW)

    JNS.org – The story of the Exodus from Egypt is a tale as old as time itself, to borrow a turn of phrase. It’s retold every Passover, both at the seder table and whenever “The Ten Commandments” is aired on television. But the latest adaptation—Ridley Scott’s epic film, “Exodus: Gods and Kings”—fails to meet expectations. Scott’s “Exodus” alters the source material to service the story and ground the tale, but the attempt to reinvent the biblical narrative becomes laughable. Moses [...]

    Read more →
  • Jewish Identity Lifestyle ‘Jewish Food Movement’ Comes of Age

    ‘Jewish Food Movement’ Comes of Age

    JNS.org - In December 2007, leaders of the Hazon nonprofit drafted seven-year goals for what they coined as the “Jewish Food Movement,” which has since been characterized by the increased prioritization of healthy eating, sustainable agriculture, and food-related activism in the Jewish community. What do the next seven years hold in store? “One thing I would like to see happen in the next seven years is [regarding] the issue of sugar, soda, and obesity, [seeing] what would it be like to rally the [...]

    Read more →
  • Blogs Education Seeds of ‘Start-Up Nation’ Cultivated by Israel Sci-Tech Schools

    Seeds of ‘Start-Up Nation’ Cultivated by Israel Sci-Tech Schools

    JNS.org – Forget the dioramas. How about working on an Israeli Air Force drone? That’s exactly the kind of beyond-their-years access enjoyed by students at the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) industrial vocational high school run by Israel Sci-Tech Schools, the largest education network in the Jewish state. More than 300 students (250 on the high school level and 68 at a two-year vocational academy) get hands-on training in the disciplines of aviation mechanics, electricity and energy control, and unmanned air [...]

    Read more →



Sign up now to receive our regular news briefs.