BERLIN DIARIES, 1940-1945 by Marie Vassiltchikov


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A detailed look at an aristocrat's life inside Hitler's Germany. Vassiltchikov was a White Russian princess (her sister, Princess Tatiana Metternich, wrote her own autobiography, Tatiana, over 10 years ago), who as a child was forced to emigrate after the Russian Revolution. Settling in Lithuania, the family remained there until forced by the Nazi-Soviet pact of 1939 to head for Berlin where employment was plentiful. Marie and her sister became temporary civil servants there and, thanks to family connections, ran in interesting circles. Foremost among these, Marie made the acquaintance of Adam von Trott, four years prior to the aborted plot on Hitler's life, in which Trott played a major role, and it is the account of Trott's activity that lends this diary its fascination. For her part, Marie writes of him that Trott ""belongs to a more civilized world--something, alas, neither side does."" At any rate, in the aftermath of the plot's failure, Marie was heroic in her efforts to aid the imprisoned conspirators. Trott, eventually, was executed for his part in the plot. Vassiltchikov (who died of leukemia in 1978) recounts her transfer to Vienna as a Luftwaffe hospital nurse and her last-minute escape from the clutches of the Red Army (as ex-Russian nobility, her head had value to the Soviets). Her diary breaks off just at the point where she met her American architect husband in 1946. There are occasional irksome passages of aristocratic hauteur and guzzling of oysters amidst the rubble around her. Marie wasn't, after all, Anne Frank. But, overall, a specialized addition to WW II literature by a modern-day Pepys, writing while Berlin burned.

Pub Date: Feb. 26th, 1987
ISBN: 0394757777
Publisher: Knopf