Rearticulating the Experience of War in Anonyma: Eine Frau in Berlin


  • Holger Pötzsch University of Tromsø



Frau in Berlin, Berlin 1945, World War II, film, diary, cultural memory, bare life, war, rape, Giorgio Agamben, history, trauma, resistance


Situating itself in the field of cultural memory studies, this article traces the slow emergence in German historical discourse of the narrative of an anonymous German woman who survived the Soviet occupation of Berlin in 1945. I will, firstly, conceptualize the historical condition of the Anonyma as a precarious liminal sphere of transition between competing sovereignties that dislodged her political status as citizen and reconstituted her as bare life in the sense of Agamben. Secondly, I direct focus to the relationship between the personal story of the Anonyma and a historical Master narrative pertaining to the period.

The article argues for a close connection between the woman’s form of resistance that aimed at replacing unchecked rape with a form of coerced prostitution to reassert limited control over the borders of her body, and the negative reception her diary received after a first publication in Germany in 1959. Her story implicitly challenges a hegemonic discourse of war that treats mass rape as mainly an assault on the nation’s male defenders and that silences the victims’ traumatic experiences with reference to collective guilt and individual shame or treason.

Author Biography

Holger Pötzsch, University of Tromsø

Holger Pötzsch, PhD, works at the Department of Culture and Literature at Tromsø University (UiT) where he is associated with the Border Culture and DOMINO research groups. Pötzsch’s field of research includes discourse theory, war film and memory, war and the media, and the discursive construction of borders and boundaries in, and through, cultural expressions. He currently works on a project that focuses on liminal aspects in the work of Norwegian filmmaker Knut Erik Jensen.




How to Cite

Pötzsch, Holger. 2012. “Rearticulating the Experience of War in Anonyma: Eine Frau in Berlin”. Nordlit, no. 30 (October):15-33.

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