Letters From Berlin: A Story of War, Survival, and the Redeeming Power of Love and Friendship

( 12 )

Overview

A New York Times Bestseller

When Margarete Dos moved with her family to Berlin on the eve of World War II, she and her younger brother were blindly ushered into a generation of Hitler Youth. Like countless citizens under Hitler’s regime, Margarete struggled to understand what was happening to her country. Later, as a nurse for the German Red Cross, she treated countless young soldiers—recruited in the eleventh hour to fight a losing battle—they would die before her eyes as ...

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Letters From Berlin: A Story of War, Survival, and the Redeeming Power of Love and Friendship

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Overview

A New York Times Bestseller

When Margarete Dos moved with her family to Berlin on the eve of World War II, she and her younger brother were blindly ushered into a generation of Hitler Youth. Like countless citizens under Hitler’s regime, Margarete struggled to understand what was happening to her country. Later, as a nurse for the German Red Cross, she treated countless young soldiers—recruited in the eleventh hour to fight a losing battle—they would die before her eyes as Allied bombs racked her beloved city. Yet, her deep humanity, intelligence, and passion for life—which sparkles in every sentence of her memoir—carried Margarete through to war’s end. But just when she thought the worst was over, and she and her mother were on a train headed to Sweden, they were suddenly rerouted deep into Russia…

This powerful account draws back the curtain on a piece of history that has been largely overlooked—the nightmare that millions of German civilians

suffered, simply because they were German. That Margarete survived to tell her tale so vividly and courageously is a gift to us all.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
Dos’s early childhood in Berlin wasn’t easy—she was abused by her violent stepfather after her own father’s death—and her adolescence and young adulthood coincided with the brutal rise of the Nazi regime and postwar Soviet occupation. A former medical student, she served during the war as a Red Cross nurse amid allied bombings that left homes and lives in rubble. Transcribed and translated from Lieff’s interviews with her mother, Dos’s story mixes the ordinary life of high school athletics with extraordinary tragedy faced by Dos and her “Mutti.” In the war’s aftermath, Dos and her mother attempted to escape from ravaged Berlin. But the train they thought was bound for Sweden took them instead to the Soviet gulag. A treasure trove of photographs depicts Dos’s innocent prewar family life while giving insight into the overwhelmed German citizenry during the rush of Hitler’s rise. This history of an average but cheerful and optimistic teenager and her resourceful mother spells out the horrors of war but balances them with hope. Illus., maps. (Oct.)
From the Publisher

"After more than half a century of silence, a World War II survivor shares her terrifying experience of the war from the other side. Everyone should know this story of the survival of the spirit."

--Mary McKay Maynard, author of My Faraway Home

Kirkus Reviews
A daughter turns her German mother's harrowing memories of living through the liberation of Berlin into a moving insider's account of the time. Lieff assumed that her mother, Margarete Dos, who was a young teenager in Berlin during World War II and who died in 2005 at age 81, knew about the gas chambers and other horrors executed by Hitler's regime. Her mother had never wanted to talk about the war and afterward, when Dos and her mother ended up in a Russian gulag for two years. However, finally hearing her mother's memories over the three years they spent systematically recording them at the end of her life, then finding love letters to a German soldier her daughter had never heard of, threw tantalizing ambiguities over her mother's life and provoked new questions for Lieff. The author does an admirable job of reconstructing her mother's extraordinary journey, allowing the frankness of detail to reflect the integrity of her mother's voice. Indeed, the young Dos went from an Edenic childhood in Swinemünde, with doting parents and a younger brother, to Berlin after her father's death and the remarriage of her mother. Dos claimed her family never joined the Nazi Party and were always held in some suspicion; nonetheless, she and others were swept up in the general euphoria promised by the Nazis in the wake of hyperinflation and unemployment, until it all began to "feel wrong and frightening." Dos attempted to study medicine and work as a nurse, even as she and her mother navigated bombings, food rationing and the liberation of Berlin by the Russians. Fleeing their savagery, they tried to make it to Sweden but were imprisoned for two brutal years in the Russian gulag. A truly surprising denouement caps a well-told postwar account.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780762777983
  • Publisher: Lyons Press, The
  • Publication date: 10/2/2012
  • Pages: 384
  • Sales rank: 204,144
  • Product dimensions: 6.30 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.30 (d)

Meet the Author

Kerstin Lieff was born to Margarete Dos and Jurgen Moller in Stockholm, Sweden, in the winter of 1952, just after her parents fled their German homeland. Ten months later, the family immigrated to St. Paul, Minnesota, where she grew up speaking German and hearing stories about her parents’ past. Her mother died in 2005 at the age of eighty-one, not long after reciting her life’s story. Kerstin now lives in Boulder, Colorado.

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Table of Contents

Introduction xiii

Note to the Reader xxii

Part I Paradise Lost, 1933-1942

1 Paradise 3

2 Am I Still the Way We Used to Be? 14

3 An Important Man Arrives 21

4 A City I Would Fall in Love With 30

5 The Night of Broken Glass 40

6 The Announcement Came 47

7 That's Just How It Is Now 62

Part II Bombs on Berlin, 1942-1945

8 In the Bunkers 77

9 I'll Be Home in No Time 86

10 You'll Study Medicine 98

11 The Professor with the Gray Boots 109

12 You'll Not Recognize It 117

13 The Twentieth of July 128

14 Horse Carts and Children 136

15 Who Will Save Us? 151

16 The Final Days 164

17 It's Over 171

Part III Journey to a New Life, 1945-1949

18 A Sharp Turn 175

19 Stay Small 188

20 Snow 202

21 The Seasons Changed 218

22 You Still Have Hope 226

23 The Wide-Open Nothingness 238

24 Mutti Was Stoic 253

25 How I Came to Kiel 263

26 The Man Who Had Been to Canada 274

Coda: Sweden, 1952

27 The Lake 287

Letters to My Beloved Franzel 297

Epilogue 343

Acknowledgments 348

Endnotes 350

Selected Bibliography 356

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 12 )
Rating Distribution

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(6)

4 Star

(4)

3 Star

(2)

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Sort by: Showing all of 12 Customer Reviews
  • Posted April 25, 2014

    A side of WWII not often heard about.

    What was it like to be an ordinary German citizen as Hitler came to power? This book tells that story in the memoir of a woman who came of age just before the war and saw her plans for her future change drastically as Germany went to war. Many Germans were not particularly supportive of the war but got caught up in circumstances beyond their control and then just tried to survive. Margarete's experiences are shocking and what she endured is stunning. It's something that most of us never learned in history class. This is compelling reading, well written, well researched and honestly told.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 18, 2014

    Letters from Berlin

    This is an interesting perspective.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 14, 2014

    Great read

    Really enjoyed this book,
    in fact will read it again!!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted May 11, 2014

    Very interesting and well written

    I really enjoyed this book! It was very well written, and shared a perspective that is not typically considered when we think about WWII. I'm so glad that Kerstin Lieff shared her mother's story!

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 26, 2014

    Highly Recommended

    If you have ever complained about anything, this is the book to read. Makes you rethink what you are complaining about. A well written book about the travesty of war and lasting effects on the participants and non-participants.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2014

    Good insight into life during WWII

    Great read for anyone who is interested in this time period in history. Gives all of us an idea and feel for what life was like for those living thru this time in Germany.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2014

    Recommended

    this is a very good book. I have never read a book for the German side of the war. I will give this a 5 star. you have to read the book.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Posted April 25, 2014

    Fascinating account!

    What a history of pictures and memories at such a devastating time in history! A really incredible account of life during Hitler.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted September 2, 2013

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    Posted April 2, 2014

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 13, 2014

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 25, 2014

    No text was provided for this review.

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