Hope and dread for the New Year in Berlin

Berliners now knew that the air defences could not prevent the widespread destruction of their city.

Berliners now knew that the air defences could not prevent the widespread destruction of their city.

Many people were hoping that 1944 would bring a better year. For many it did not seem an unrealistic prospect that the war would be over by the end of the year. An Allied victory now seemed inevitable, although there was much uncertainty as to how that would come about.

Ursula von Kardorff was a young journalist working in Berlin. She had already lost one of her two brothers on the frontline. Berlin itself was increasingly looking like a battlefield itself as more and more building were destroyed by the bombing. She moved in circles where many young officers were anti Nazi, although she knew very well how careful they had to be in expressing such sentiments. Her diary, if ever discovered by the authorities, would have seen her sent to a concentration camp at the very least:

Berlin, 1 January 1944

1943. The worst year of my life. Jurgen’s death, the raids, people rendered homeless by bombing, so that the Germans now wander around as homeless as the Jews, loaded down with the same kinds of sacks and bundles. At least it relieves one of some of one’s guilt, and that is a comfort.

‘This must be a better year.’ I write that down again in my diary as a motto. If only the war could end this year and we could be freed from that monster Hitler I should never ask for another thing for the rest of my life.

Last night I saw Barchen home at two in the morning because she was too frightened to be alone in the subway which leads from the Savignyplatz station, where a man was shot dead before her very eyes a few days ago.

We said goodbye by the light of our torches and I was walking home alone when suddenly a ruined house collapsed, just behind me, with a terrifying crash. My hat was blown off, and if it had happened a second earlier I should have been buried. All the same I was not at all frightened, I don’t know why.

I imagine that the climax of the war will be reached in the spring and that if we, here in Germany, do not do something soon to change the situation radically we shall be finished by the autumn. By then the Russians will be here.

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

Earlier German propaganda pictures of a Flak tower in Berlin.

Earlier German propaganda pictures of a Flak tower in Berlin.

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