Book Review; Berlin at War

4 Apr

Berlin at War By Roger Moorhouse is a look at the experiences of Berliners during World War II. As the title implies the book is about Berlin during the war, but the focus is on the people and what life was like for many of them. It is not in the true sense a book about the war itself.

Moorhouse is very thorough is exploring all the different manners in which the war and Naziism changed that city and it’s inhabitants. Each aspect is covered, from the rise of Nasiism and the development of Berlin, to the bombing raids and the deportation of the city’s Jewish residents.

Many people simply assume that the German people of the Second World War, were simply animals. This book helps to explore the other side of German life during that period. Berliners it seems were not overly eager to support Hitler, but at the same time did not manifest their dislike in any actionable way.

Because the book discusses many different aspects of life in Berlin at the time, there are several thought provoking sections.

For example, because Berliners in general did not like Hitler and the Nazi party (with their dislike growing, the longer they were around), would they have been active in their effort had they known that the Valkyrie plot was an effort to take over the city? As Moorhouse points out, the conspirators in the plot kept the effort private to as not to create additional hassles.

Perhaps the mentality of Berliners can be summarised with one paragraph from the book about a Berliners journal entry after a bombing raid, on page 345.

Neither rubble shoveling, nor pillow rescuing has anything to do with Nazi enthusiasm or resolution to endure. Nobody thinks of Hitler as he boards up the kitchen window.What everyone thinks of is that you can’t live in the cold, that before evening fall and the sirens wail you must have a corner where you can lay your head and stretch your legs the way you choose to do it, and not the way someone else wants you to choose.

This paragraph nicely sums up the duality of the average Berliners attitude during the war. Knowing that things aren’t right but being possessed by a feeling that there is nothing they can do about it.

Moorhouse does an excellent job relaying the thoughts, feelings, experiences, and even sights and sounds of the people of Berlin during the war.Berlin at War is easy to read. The language is simple enough and the details are no more than what is necessary to understand the issue and no less void so as to leave you wondering.


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