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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


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 7: Avalanche: Super-Criminals, Yellow Stars, Deportations, Plunder, Slaughter – and the Spectre of Poison Gas


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Avalanche: Super-Criminals, Yellow Stars, Deportations, Plunder, Slaughter – and the Spectre of Poison Gas

Diaries recording responses to a crisis have a special value for those denied access to the public sphere, as many women were during the Nazi period. National Socialism valued domesticity and rewarded motherhood, while female employment was largely confined to lower paid jobs and various forms of labour service. This is not to say that public discourse was monopolized by males, for under the leadership of Gertrud Scholtz-Klink, Hitler’s Reichsfrauenführerin, women were systematically groomed to support the conquests of the master race. Recent archival research has highlighted female agency, arguing that women took the lead role in such sectors as Air Raid Precautions (‘Luftschutz).1

Letters written to husbands and sons at the front are also cited to give weight to women’s voices, but they tend to be muted by a concern not to sound unpatriotic, as well as by fear of censorship. Thus uncensored private journals become all the more significant, especially for historians debating how much ordinary Germans actually knew about the deportation of Jews and the ordeals that awaited them. Reminiscences recorded many years after the event offer evasive answers. Among the five hundred German women interviewed by the historian Margarete Dörr for a study of women’s experiences during the war, published in 1998, scarcely a single respondent referred to the deportations, let alone to hearing about the massacres. Even the...

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