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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 8: Echoes of Stalingrad and Un-German Attitudes: Women’s Responses to Total War

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CHAPTER 8

Echoes of Stalingrad and Un-German Attitudes: Women’s Responses to Total War

The news from Stalingrad reverberates through contemporary diaries, not only those of Anna Haag. Her entries for January 1943, including newspaper clippings, take up 53 pages in the original manuscript, compressed into 15 pages in the typescript.1 To place her writings in context, we may draw comparisons with the collective war diary compiled by Walter Kempowski under the title Das Echolot. His documentation for January 1943 fills two volumes totalling 1,500 pages, drawing on dozens of witnesses. While the defining voices in Das Echolot are predominantly male, Anna is more alert to the responses of women, charting the tensions between the confident proclamations of Nazi spokesmen and the creeping sense of crisis experienced on the Home Front.

Anna assigned the role of spokesman for the official line to her neighbour the Pharmacist, a ‘whisper-propagandist’ (‘Flüsterpropagandist’) tasked by the Party with spreading news designed to boost morale. She responded with a blend of scepticism and alarm when he assured her on 20 June 1942 that Rommel’s troops were advancing so rapidly into Egypt that they would soon reach the Suez Canal. And she could hardly contain herself when on 15 October he declared that the Germans had ‘floating tanks’ (‘schwimmende Tanks’) to cross the Volga and the Nile. But on 28 October, after news of the British counter-attack, she gently asked him what had happened to those...

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