«Anna Haag and her Secret Diary of the Second World War A Democratic German Feminist’s Response to the Catastrophe of National Socialism Bearbeitet ...»
Women in German Literature 20
Anna Haag and her Secret Diary of the Second World War
A Democratic German Feminist’s Response to the Catastrophe of National Socialism
1. Auflage 2016. Taschenbuch. XVI, 268 S. Paperback
ISBN 978 3 0343 1818 1
Format (B x L): 15 x 22,5 cm
Gewicht: 400 g
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Introduction: Fragments of History in the Raw ‘The contemporary witness is the enemy of the historian’, observed our sceptical visitor from Berlin, Professor Wolfgang Benz. We were discussing at Sussex the unreliability of reminiscences recorded many years after the event. ‘But personal testimonies with an authentic dateline are especially valuable’, was my reply. In my hands was the diary kept by a German-Jewish schoolboy named Ernst Stock in Paris during the spring of 1940, recording the panic as the Wehrmacht broke through French defences.1 Testimony of this kind helps historians to capture the immediacy of events, provided they follow the fundamental principle of diary research: back to the manuscript!
By this means the authentic diary can be distinguished from various forms of ‘diary memoir’, composed at a later date on the basis of pre-existing notes.
Diaristic narratives of indeterminate origin often make compelling reading, but – as Professor Benz noted in his introduction to the ‘Aufzeichnungen’ of another German-Jewish refugee, Hertha Nathorff – they contain reconstituted elements that are ‘not in the strict sense a diary’.2 Handwritten diaries are time capsules that register impressions of a specific moment from a clearly defined angle in a concise historical format.
In the words of Myrtle Wright, a Quaker who chronicled her experiences in Norway under the German occupation, the authentic diary entry is 1 ‘Der Überlebende ist der Feind des Historikers’ (Wolfgang Benz); ‘Lebenszeugnisse, die einen authentischen Zeitstempel tragen, [seien] besonders wertvoll’ (Edward Timms); cited from Jugend auf der Flucht: Die Tagebücher von Ernst und Julie Stock, ed. Ernst Stock, with an introduction by Edward Timms, Berlin: Metropol, 2004, p. 10.
2 ‘Nach formalen Kriterien der Quellenkritik handelt es sich bei den Aufzeichnungen 1933–1939 nicht um ein Tagebuch im strengen Sinne, sondern um eine Anfang 1940 rekonstruierte, an etlichen Stellen wohl auch verdichtete Version’: ‘Einleitung’ zu Das Tagebuch der Hertha Nathorff: Berlin – New York: Aufzeichnungen 1933 bis 1945, Frankfurt/Main: Fischer Taschenbuch, 2013, ed. Wolfgang Benz, p. 31.
2 Introduction ‘a fragment of history in the raw’.3 Of course we must beware of what Alexandra Zapruder (defining wartime diaries as a genre in her anthology Salvaged Pages) calls ‘the romantic illusion of these diaries emerging whole and unblemished from the past’.4 There is always a tension between a manuscript and its publication with the attendant editorial filters, and diaries can be touched up retrospectively to enhance the author’s self-image. But diary entries actually written during the Third Reich by writers determined to think for themselves constitute acts of resistance, articulating individual dissent from the perspective of an excluded minority. It is not by chance that the most widely read work of the Second World War is the diary of Anne Frank, which combines historical authenticity with imaginative flair.5 Diaries from the Second World War carry special weight for historians. Beneath the barrage of patriotic propaganda they reveal what ordinary people were thinking at the time. The diary-orientated approach to social history, pioneered by Angus Calder in The People’s War (1969), has been applied with growing sophistication by recent scholarship. For historians of everyday life in the Third Reich the trend received a further impulse from the publication in 1995 of the diaries of Victor Klemperer. As a German Jew who had taught at the Technical University in Dresden, Klemperer was saved from deportation by his marriage to an ‘Aryan’ wife. His diaries chart an ideological battlefield in which the discourse of European humanism is deployed against the debased language of the Third Reich, yielding compelling insights into the ‘forgotten everyday life of tyranny’.6 Myrtle Wright, Norwegian Diary 1940–1945, London: Friends Peace Committee, 1974, p. iii.
See Appendix II: At the Margins in Salvaged Pages: Young Writers’ Diaries of the
Holocaust, collected and edited by Alexandra Zapruder, New Haven and London:
Yale University Press, 2002, pp. 444–50 (here p. 444).
De Dagboeken van Anne Frank, ed. David Barnouw, Harry Paape and Gerrold van der
Stroom. Amsterdam: Bert Bakker, 2001. Cf. Anne Frank, The Diary of a Young Girl:
The Definitive Edition, ed. Otto H. Frank and Mirjam Pressler, tr. Susan Massotty, London: Penguin, 1997.
6 See Susanne zur Nieden, ‘From the forgotten everyday life of tyranny: The diaries of Victor Klemperer’ in Marginal Voices, Marginal Forms: Diaries in European Literature and History, ed. Rachel Langford and Russell West, Amsterdam: Rodophi, 1999.
Introduction Klemperer’s diaries are repeatedly cited in the history of The Third Reich by Richard J. Evans and the study of Nazi Germany and the Jews by Saul Friedländer. This signalled a qualitative shift as the historian’s narrative is brought down to earth and humanized. Highlighting the value of the ‘voices of diarists’ in the introduction to his second volume, Friedländer observes: ‘By its very nature, by dint of its humanness and freedom, an individual voice suddenly arising in the course of an ordinary historical narrative of events such as those presented here can tear through seamless interpretation and pierce the (mostly involuntary) smugness of scholarly detachment’.7 The diary is the most intimate of narrative modes, offering scope for intense self-reflection. To reach out to a wider audience the writer must bridge the gap between the private and the public spheres, a particularly challenging task under the pressures of a totalitarian regime. Under such conditions, keeping a diary may become a means of emotional survival, as a study of women confronting the Holocaust has shown: ‘Putting the situation in words empowers the victim, because her voice breaks the stillness of apocalyptic destruction. At the same time, the word that shapes reality endows a sense of control that distances the horror’.8 In studying the diaries of ordinary Germans we are faced with different variables. How was it possible for a nation of well-educated citizens and outstanding cultural achievements to support a regime that made it a crime to think for yourself ? This was the key question for the Stuttgartbased author Anna Haag (1888–1982), the democratic feminist and pacifist who forms the subject of the present book. Like Klemperer, she found ways of weaving into her diaries an analysis of propaganda, pinpointed by revealing snippets of conversation. Indeed, she goes further by giving her commentary a gendered focus, challenging the cult of tough-minded masculinity that sustained the Nazi regime.
Anna Haag’s findings deserve special attention because her diaries, secretly written during the years 1940–5 in twenty notebooks now preserved at the Stuttgart City Archive, remain virtually unknown. Initially concealed in the cellar to avoid detection, they were later buried at Meßstetten in the Swabian countryside. After the war, assisted by her schoolteacher husband Albert, Anna Haag prepared for publication a transcript running to over 500 typewritten pages, but no publisher could be found for her unsparing account of the darkest days of modern German history. When a volume of her memoirs appeared in 1968 under the title Das Glück zu Leben (The Happiness of Being Alive), only thirty pages from her war diary were included. A further selection was added when an expanded edition of her memoirs was published after her death by her son Rudolf Haag.9 The initial research for this book focused on the 500-page typescript, a copy of which has been deposited at the University of Sussex. It soon became clear that a scholarly account would also require access to the handwritten originals. ‘Back to the manuscript!’ is easier said than done for an author whose mobility is impaired by Multiple Sclerosis. Fortunately, through the Student Employment website of the University of Sussex, it proved possible to enlist the help of a gifted bilingual research assistant, Jennifer Bligh. During a visit to the City Archive in Stuttgart she was able to scan all twenty handwritten diaries, including the numerous newspaper cuttings that Anna Haag pasted into the notebooks, together with loose-leaf letters.
Now that the manuscript is available for research in electronic format, it becomes possible to take account of variants between the two versions, measuring the compressed post-war typescript against the cornucopia of handwritten originals. A pioneering study by Britta Schwenkreis, published in the Backnanger Jahrbuch in 2005–6, provides an overview of the manuscript’s principal themes. However, it is misleading to suggest that the work was only slightly shortened when the typescript was prepared Anna Haag, Das Glück zu leben: Erinnerungen an bewegte Zeiten, Stuttgart: Verlag Adolf Bonz, 1968, pp. 201–30: ‘Annas Kriegstagebuch’. See also the extended edition of her memoirs edited by her son Rudolf Haag, Leben und gelebt werden: Erinnerungen und Betrachtungen, Tübingen: Silberburg Verlag, 2003, pp. 220–83.
Introduction for publication.10 The handwritten diaries, including the insertions, run to over two thousand pages.
The double focus on typescript and original authenticates Anna’s diary as a response to National Socialism that is unswerving in its critique of crimes against humanity. The post-war typescript is not one of those problematic texts that have been rewritten so as to give the impression of exceptional wisdom. Anna really was resolute and far-sighted during a period when the majority of her compatriots were opportunistic and purblind.
Minor amendments in the post-war typescript served to make her narrative more accessible without altering its meaning, and when she omitted passages from the original, the aim was to reduce the diary to publishable proportions. There is no sign that she ‘doctored’ the entries after 1945 in order to make them politically correct.
Anna Haag could commit herself to democracy without any compromising past. She was not one of those post-war opportunists who sought to conceal their Nazi sympathies behind a façade of anti-fascism.11 The interest of her diaries is further enhanced by their documentary quality. We find her continuously clipping news items from the Nazi press so as to reveal the inhumanity of the regime through its own words. ‘Actually it would suffice to paste in newspaper clippings,’ she observed on 18 July 1941.12 This collage technique enabled her to create a compelling panorama of history in the raw, highlighting the arrogance of the leadership and the complicity of educated Germans – from doctors and teachers to lawyers and judges.
To cite a case that has been identified by historians as the nadir of political justice: on 23 June 1942 a 26-year-old Polish agricultural labourer named Jan Michalski was executed in Stuttgart for ‘having intimate relations’ with 10 Britta Schwenkreis, ‘Politik und Alltag im Zweiten Weltkrieg: Das “Kriegstagebuch” der Anna Haag’ (Teil 1) in Backnanger Jahrbuch, Band 13 (2005), pp. 170–200 and (Teil 2) Band 14 (2006), pp. 191–216 (for ‘leicht gekürzt’, see Band 13, p. 170).
11 Among women authors the prime example is Luise Rinser, who erased pro-Nazi sympathies from her autobiography, Den Wolf umarmen (1981). See Jose Sanchez de Murillo, Luise Rinser: Ein Leben in Widersprüchen, Frankfurt/Main: S. Fischer, 2011.
12 ‘Eigentlich würde es genügen, Zeitungsausschnitte einzukleben’ (HA 5, 6; TS 106).