Rumours, exaggerations, and misunderstandings

An episode on BBC Radio 4 that I discovered only recently dealt, among other things, with A Woman in Berlin.
It was broadcast in 2013, so I will grant that the attendants couldn’t know any better since neither my German biography of Marta Hillers nor its abridged English version existed back then. So they simply repeated the usual rumours (which, however, are very hard to kill even now). But things took a bizarre turn when they actually stated that the German government banned the book in 1959/1960.
In that spirit, I want to address a few of the most persistent falsehoods attached to A Woman in Berlin. No, the book was never banned, neither by the government nor anyone else. It was never taken off the market; it simply never saw a second print run. There was no widespread outrage about the book. There were hardly even any reviews, and most of the few that I did manage to find were positive.

Some reviewers today, mainly from the US, are claiming that Marta Hillers lived in East Berlin in the spring of 1945. That’s simply a case of not knowing the facts about the fall of Berlin. During the time covered by Marta’s narrative there was no East and West Berlin yet, no Soviet zone. The Red Army conquered Berlin as a whole, plain and simple. US and other Allied troops didn’t move in until a while afterwards – in fact, Marta wrote about it in her book! And she never lived in East Berlin. It was Tempelhof at first, later Zehlendorf, both in the American sector or zone.


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