Living the German nightmare in Berlin

In the face of growing Allied strength Hitler now put his faith in a number of super weapons such as the Tiger tank, seen here in Tunisia.

In the face of growing Allied strength Hitler now put his faith in a number of super weapons such as the Tiger tank, seen here in Tunisia.

The whole of Europe was now enveloped by the war. Some chose to side with the Nazis, including these Russian Cossacs.

The whole of Europe was now enveloped by the war. Some chose to side with the Nazis, including these Russian Cossacs.

For ordinary Germans there was a growing sense that the war was not turning out as the Nazis had promised. Whilst the extent of the German occupation across Europe was at its height there were growing uneasiness over the news from the Eastern Front and Stalingrad in particular.

The Nazi propaganda machine had yet to decide how the Stalingrad disaster could be presented to the people – and this was one of the considerations in delaying any possible surrender for as long as possible. At home the move to put the economy on a total war footing was just beginning to have an impact on ordinary lives. And the bombers were suddenly becoming a much more regular presence in the skies over Germany.

As a journalist in Berlin Ursula von Kardorff was better informed than most. Many in Germany, if not most, would have been in her position, of having relatives at the front. Such circumstances would colour anyone’s perspective on the war, whether they agreed with it or not:

12 January 1943

I sometimes feel like a candle burning at both ends. At the front my brothers and my friends are fighting for a victory the very prospect of which fills me with horror. To think Hitler as the Master of Europe!

The picture supplement we had to get out for our New Year issue was entitled ‘The German Soldier Keeps Watch’ – in the Russian winter, under the African sun, in submarines in the Atlantic, beneath the palm trees of Southern France, in the ice of Finland. How can we possibly hold such an extended front for any length of time? It is beyond all sense and reason. We seem to be asking for retribution. ‘What shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul ?’

But I suppose it must be some kind of perversion to hope that one’s own country will be defeated. Anyhow it is something utterly beyond the comprehension of the worthy citizens who glory in their power and possessions.

Klaus tumed up yesterday from Miinsingen and I asked a few people in to meet him. The sirens went at the beginning and after the all-clear we got into a mood of rather sinister merriment. Papa, retuming from a memorial service for E. R. Weiss, had passed burning houses on his way home, and was shocked at us.

But for some reason I was bursting with vitality and cheerfulness. It was really dreadful to feel like that … to feel that the thickness of a wall could shut out all the horrors, that they were nothing to do with me at all.

See Ursula von Kardorff: Diary of a Nightmare, Berlin 1942-1945

A German image of a Russian 'volunteer' in the Wehrmacht.

A German image of a Russian ‘volunteer’ in the Wehrmacht.

A German propaganda image of 'Foreign guest workers' at Siemens January 1943, apparently enjoying their leisure time. The reality for most 'guest' workers, who were usually there under duress, was rarely so pleasnat.

A German propaganda image of ‘Foreign guest workers’ at Siemens January 1943, apparently enjoying their leisure time. The reality for most ‘guest’ workers, who were usually there under duress, was rarely so pleasant.

Official Nazi regime newsreel from January 1943 showing German forces on the different fronts around Europe:

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