A powerful voice to the forgotten women of war and the barbaric realities they endured.
Ten days before Hitler’s suicide, and as the Russians approach Berlin in the final days of Wold war II, an unnamed woman holed up in a Berlin air raid shelter starts a diary. Her two exercise books and a clothbound notebook form one of the most shocking and powerful accounts of women in war-time. Unflinchingly, she recounts the fate she shares with the women around her not just in terms of the hunger, cold and desperation but the ever-present threat of the victors. For the next eight weeks she describes her experiences, feelings and surroundings in compelling detail, inspiring no pity and assigning no blame. Told with wit, insight and a profound humanity, this is an inspiring tale of the human spirit rising from the rubble.
Published anonymously in 1954 as Eine Frau in Berlin, this frank account of the Red Army’s occupation shocked German readers, unwilling at the time to acknowledge the rape of over 100,000 women in that city alone so its author banned further publication in her lifetime. Following her death, it was republished in 2003. Critical response to its once taboo subject matter couldn’t have been more different. More than half a century later its profound humanity gives voice to the forgotten women of war. Hailed as “one of the most important personal accounts of war and defeat ever written”; “an unforgettable testament”; and “one of the essential books for understanding war and life.”
A Woman in Berlin is fundamentally a one-woman Berlin based war diary which was adapted for the stage by director Janice Muller (The Country, Crave) and actor Meredith Penman (Rush, City Homicide) and is, of course, based on a true story of survival.
"This story is based on a very intense period of history and an original diary and the story of a woman’s survival because of her documenting it. We found her story quiet inspiring." says Penman.
"The voice of the character is a contemporary voice and we felt it would really work on the stage. We felt people would really respond to the text and the voice of the character." says Muller
The script is pretty harrowing with the ‘woman’s’ account being unsentimental and unsparing: ”A stranger’s hands expertly pulling apart my jaw,” she writes. ”Then with great deliberation he drops a gob of gathered spit into my mouth.” It is this frank, evocative and gutsy style that sits well with Muller.
“This woman is an incredibly courageous and compassionate human being struggling to survive in extremely brutal circumstances. She’s one of the best female characters I’ve come across – and she really existed.”
“Poetry after Auschwitz is barbaric”, wrote German philosopher Theodor Adorno but beneath the brutal detail of this fearless narrative lies a clear-eyed account of history – the forgotten woman’s lament is finally given voice.
Hailed as one of the most powerful and important accounts of a woman’s experience of war, A Woman in Berlin can be seen at Tower Theatre, The CUB Malthouse,113 Sturt St., Southbank, November 16 – November 28.
Tickets $23.00 – $30. www.malthousetheatre.com 9685 5111
“These are strange times. History experienced first hand, the stuff of tales untold and songs unsung. But seen up close, history is much more troublesome – nothing but burdens and fears.”