School of Culture and Communication - Theses

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    Faces in the shadows: an investigation into the anonymous diary A Woman in Berlin and A Rose in Winter, a fictional retelling of the Rosenstrasse Protest
    Bruce, Katherine Elizabeth ( 2013)
    This thesis represents the first in-depth academic examination of A Woman in Berlin, an anonymous diary first published in 1954 which detailed the experiences of a woman who experienced first-hand the chaotic weeks of April, May and June 1945 in the German capital, including the arrival of the Russian troops and their treatment of civilians. Her numerous diary entries, which cover a period of eight weeks and contain graphic accounts of the suffering she and others underwent, have frequently been quoted in historical descriptions of the period. Thus their historical value is beyond question, making the lack of investigation of the text even more surprising. To remedy this deficiency, several elements of A Woman in Berlin have been selected which, when examined, will give the reader a far deeper understanding of both diary and diarist. Chapter I considers the various tropes and themes that a reader may detect in the diary, looking at whether the traditional ideas associated with those genres are fulfilled, and how this fulfilment or subversion of it leads to the categorisation of the diary, as well as what this means for the reader. The second chapter focuses on the numerous intertextual references that appear in the diary, evaluating what their inclusion says about both the diarist’s literary knowledge and also her feelings at the moment that prompted her to include them in her recollections. The reader’s understanding of the diarist is further expanded in the third chapter by an examination of the various paratextual elements that make up the diary, in particular the illustrations that appear on the various covers, the fore- and afterwords written by people who seek to conceal the truth of the diarist’s identity and yet let slip numerous details about her, and finally the reaction that has greeted the diary upon its various publications. By focusing on these details, this investigation aims to give the reader an insight into both a fascinating retelling of history and also of a nameless diarist. The creative piece that forms the second part of this thesis is a fictionalised retelling of a little-known historical event known as the Rosenstrasse Protest. This uprising took place in Berlin during the end of February and early March 1943, when, having been prompted by the mass-arrest of the remaining Jews in the German capital, non-Jewish women gathered outside the building in which their husbands were being held and, for seven days, despite bombing raids and the constant, threatening presence of the SS, held a public protest. Despite annual memorial services held to remember this event, as well as a film directed by Margarethe von Trotta that told the story, which premiered in 2003, this event remains all but unknown, particularly to English-speaking audiences, and therefore ripe for retelling. With the event narrated in diary format, the reader is able to employ many of the techniques adopted in the critical study of A Woman in Berlin to come to participate in the unfolding narrative of A Rose in Winter.