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Anna Haag and her Secret Diary of the Second World War

A Democratic German Feminist’s Response to the Catastrophe of National Socialism

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Edward Timms

How was it possible for a well-educated nation to support a regime that made it a crime to think for yourself? This was the key question for the Stuttgart-based author Anna Haag (1888–1982), the democratic feminist whose anti-Nazi diaries are analysed in this book. Like Victor Klemperer, she deconstructed German political propaganda day by day, giving her critique a gendered focus by challenging the ethos of masculinity that sustained the Nazi regime. This pioneering study interprets her diaries, secretly written in twenty notebooks now preserved at the Stuttgart City Archive, as a fascinating source for the study of everyday life in the Third Reich. The opening sections sketch the paradigms that shaped Haag’s creativity, analysing the impact of the First World War and the feminist and pacifist commitments that influenced her literary and journalistic writings. Extensive quotations from the diaries are provided, with English translations, to illustrate her responses to the cataclysms that followed the rise of Hitler, from the military conquests and Jewish deportations to the devastation of strategic bombing. The book concludes with a chapter that traces the links between Haag’s critique of military tyranny and her contribution to post-war reconstruction.
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Chapter 5: The People’s War: Diarists, Demagogues, Spin-Doctors, Popular Broadcasters and Secret Listeners

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CHAPTER 5

The People’s War: Diarists, Demagogues, Spin-Doctors, Popular Broadcasters and Secret Listeners

On 10 May 1940 the phoney war abruptly ended as the Wehrmacht thrust deep into Belgium and the Netherlands. It must have been the assault on those neutral countries that prompted Anna Haag to draft the first entry featured in her diary typescript. Placed directly under the title ‘From My War Diary. By Anna Haag’, this reads: ‘11 May 1940: Whatever was the point of a Mozart, a Beethoven, a Goethe living and creating their works if we today can think of nothing other than killing and destroying?’1 This forms an effective motto for the historically specific entries that follow, documenting the betrayal of German humanism by a criminal regime. But the motto seems to derive from loose-leaf jottings that have not survived, for in the first of Anna’s handwritten diary notebooks in the Stuttgart archive the opening entry is dated 12 August 1940 and begins: ‘So Sigrid does not want to go to Baltimore with her child. Does not want to leave her husband behind. That’s what Cousin Pauline has written from Baltimore. That’s what I myself thought, anyway. What fate awaits the poor children!’ She has heard via Pauline that on 29 June Rudolf was still interned in England.2 ← 83 | 84 →

Clearly, the impulse to begin this diary was prompted by Anna’s concern for her children living abroad. They were able to exchange letters...

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