Diary of Second World War German teenager reveals young lives untroubled by Nazi Holocaust in wartime Berlin

Newly published diary hailed as remarkable documentary evidence of how millions of Germans relied on collective indifference to endure the horrors of war

Her neighbourhood was bombed by the allies, the Jews around the corner were being sent to Auschwitz and the Red Army had launched its final assault on Berlin. But Brigitte Eicke, a teenaged German, was unconcerned. She was far more interested in going to the cinema, dancing to gramophone records and trying to cope with a "disastrous" perm.

The 15-year-old Berlin schoolgirl, nicknamed "Gitti", started keeping a diary in December 1942, when the German capital was being bombed nightly and the Nazi Holocaust was killing thousands. As a trainee secretary, she recorded her daily experiences to improve her stenography skills.

Now, some 70 years on, her diary has been published for the first time in Germany and is being hailed as remarkable documentary evidence of how millions of Germans relied on collective indifference to endure the horrors of war and ignore the brutality of the Nazi rule.

Entitled Backfisch im Bombenkrieg (teenaged girl in bombing war), Eicke's diary is an often banal account of everyday life. She started writing it just months before Anne Frank began her diary, but the contents could hardly be more different.

"Gitti is merely a cog in the wheels that kept Nazi Germany turning," is how Der Spiegel magazine described the author last week. "She is a young woman skilled in the art of blotting out ugliness, willing to believe what she's told and, ultimately, one of the lucky ones," it added.

Here is Gitti's entry for 1 February 1944: "The school had been bombed when we arrived this morning. Waltraud, Melitta and I went back to Gisela's and danced to gramophone records." In another raid on her Berlin neighbourhood in March 1943, two people are killed, 34 are injured and more than 1,000 are made homeless. Gitti writes: "It took place in the middle of the night, horrible, I was half asleep".

In November 1944, Hitler is trying to cripple the advances made after the D-Day landings by planning an offensive in the Ardennes, but Gitti – by now a member of the Nazi Party – is more concerned about her hairdo. She writes that she has just been given a "disastrous" perm by her hairdresser and is worried about going to work "looking a fright".

Then on 2 March 1945, while Hitler's troops are trying to halt the Red Army's advance just 60 miles east of Berlin, Gitti, now 18, goes to the cinema. She writes: "Margot and I went to the Admiralspalast cinema to see Meine Herren Söhne. It was such a lovely film, but there was a power cut in the middle. How annoying!"

The humdrum tone is all the more disquieting when it comes to the steady disappearance of Berlin's Jews – an issue that receives only one mention in the entire diary. On 27 February 1943, she ends a trivia-packed account about how she and her friend Waltraud go to the opera and get chatted up by soldiers on the way home with the entry: "Jews all over town being taken away, including the tailor across the road."

Brigitte Eicke is now 86. She still lives in east Berlin's Prenzlauerberg district, where she lived during the war. Just around the corner from where she worked as a secretary, there was a "collection centre" for Jews who were being sent to the Auschwitz death camp.

In a recent interview to coincide with the publication of her diary, she said: "My son always said to me: how could you be so oblivious? But I never saw a thing." She added: "There were some Jewish girls in my first class photograph taken in 1933 but, by the time the next one was taken, they were all gone. When I asked my mother about them, she said they had moved to Palestine."

Decades would pass before she grasped the enormity of the Nazis' crimes. "It was only when I visited Buchenwald in 1970 that I saw photographs of the camps. It took me years to realise what had gone on," she said.

Unlike thousands of young German women, Brigitte Eicke appears to have escaped being raped by Red Army troops when they took Berlin. But she lost her father and an uncle on the eastern front. Some German commentators have suggested that her naive and apolitical account of her experiences was an unconscious survival attempt.

"We just muddled through, we had no choice," is how she describes it.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Technical Author / Multimedia Writer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This recognized leader in providing software s...

Recruitment Genius: Clinical Lead / RGN

£40000 - £42000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: IT Sales Consultant

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT support company has a n...

Recruitment Genius: Works Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A works engineer is required in a progressive ...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent