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Hilke's Diary: Germany, July 1940-August…
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Hilke's Diary: Germany, July 1940-August 1945

by Geseke Clark

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Recently added bymeggyweg, Zabou1964, KatieL83, aliphil

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This offers a rare perspective for the English-language reader, to see World War II from the POV of a German civilian, in this case a teenage girl from a middle-class family in Hamburg. Hilke was twelve when she began her diary in 1940, and seventeen when it ended in 1945. I've never read the diary of a non-Jewish German civilian written during that time period. Indeed, this may be the only one that's available in English.

Unfortunately, the book is very boring. Most diaries are. I own several (unpublished) historical diaries and they're all quite mundane. Hilke seems to have been largely apolitical, although when the Allies invaded and everyone was tearing down their Hitler posters and swastika flags she did write in her diary how disgusted she was by their unpatriotic behavior, and how she actually left the room when she saw someone using a swastika flag as a dishcloth. But if I were a patriotic German having grown up under Nazism, I might well feel the same way.

Biographical information about the other family members, and photos of them, help pad out the story, but some annotations from would have been nice. It would have been nice to have some recollections from Hilke about her wartime experiences that she didn't write about in her diary at the time.

I understand that this is not the book's fault. Hilke herself was killed in a car accident in 1950s, aged only 27, and the book was translated and edited by her sister Geseke. But it seems like Geseke could have provided the aforementioned annotations, or gotten some scholar of the German war effort to write an illuminating foreword about life as a German civilian in World War II. (A matter of interest: as in the major British cities, early in the war the families living in major German cities often had their children evacuated to the countryside to escape the expected bombardment.)

I would say this book is for a select audience and the general population wouldn't find it of much use. I'm going to donate my copy to the local library. ( )
  meggyweg | Jul 10, 2015 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0752445138, Hardcover)

Hilke's Diary is a battered chintz-covered little book with a flowery pattern, its lock (once so important to its young owner) long-since broken. It has survived an incredible near-70 years, and was the inseparable companion of a little German girl throughout World War II. Hilke was evacuated from Hamburg and separated from her family; she was placed in 1940 with her uncle and aunt in Meisnheim, then later in 1942 she was sent to an estate as a companion for a little girl. Her siblings were also sent away, split up in the desperation to place them somewhere safe as bombing on Hamburg intensified with the firestorm in 1943. In 1944, Hilke was sent to a boarding school on Lake Constance, miles from home. When the war ended this school closed and the pupils were left on the streets with just a handful of money, no papers, and no responsible adult to help them get home. Hilke then embarked on a long journey across Germany to find her family, unsure whether they had even survived the bombing. Her childhood diary was her one confidant along her arduous journey home. This title presents the important record of the experience of war through the eyes of a little German girl. It is complemented by family photographs, contemporary articles, maps, and a timeline of events.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:08:52 -0400)

Hilke's diary is a battered chintz-covered little book with a flowery pattern. It has survived since the beginning of the Second World War, and was the inseperable companion of a little German girl throughout that time. Hilke's sister, Charlottle, has translated this diary, which tells of evacuation and bombing raids.… (more)

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