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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 9: Cities Razed to the Ground and Calls for Resistance: Can You Kill Hitler with a Cooking Spoon?

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CHAPTER 9

Cities Razed to the Ground and Calls for Resistance: Can You Kill Hitler with a Cooking Spoon?

Anna’s diaries culminate in graphic descriptions of the impact of Allied bombing. Stuttgart, being far from any battlefront, had initially escaped relatively unscathed, but the diaries record horrifying news from other regions. Histories of the period have highlighted the statistics of destruction and death, citing eye-witness accounts of unimaginable horror. The underlying message of the personal stories reproduced in the study by Jörg Friedrich is: how we are suffering.1 Anna, by contrast, explores the ethical question: why we are suffering. The ordeals she endures are placed within the axis of guilt and retribution. Insisting that those who embark on aggressive warfare cannot complain when they suffer punitive reprisals, she construes defeat as a tragic catharsis. The fatal flaw highlighted by her vision of Germany is ‘arrogance’ (‘Überheblichkeit’; HA 18, 64; TS 468).

The Luftwaffe attacks on London and Coventry had set precedents that ordinary Germans were destined to regret. By the spring of 1942 north German cities were particularly vulnerable, but the bombing of the ancient Hanseatic town of Lübeck was particularly shocking. From their son-in-law Richard Gebhardt, an airforce engineer based on the Baltic coast, the Haags received a graphic account of the damage in a letter dated 20 March 1942.2 The news filled Anna with foreboding: ‘In Lübeck there are said to be 36,000 people made...

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