Book Review: Berlin Diaries 1940-1945 by Marie Vassiltchikov

Marie Vassiltchikov was born in St.Petersburg, Russia on the 11 January 1917. Her family left Russia in 1919, and then lived in Lithuania until 1940. Marie and her sister Tatiana immigrated to Berlin, Germany in late 1939--early 1940. World War II had just began. Marie and her sister felt fortunate to both find good jobs and a reputable apartment to live in.
Their parents, older sister and younger brother would spend most of the war years spread out in Italy, France, and Germany.
Marie's family was apart of White Russian royalty. Their family, friends and acquaintances were wealthy and aristocratic. From 1940-1945 Marie faithfully kept a diary, most of it survived the war, some was misplaced or accidentally destroyed. Later Marie in reminiscing re-wrote those periods where the diary was absent. Marie died of Leukemia in 1978 and her diary became a published book in 1988.

What stands out the most in Marie's diary is the dramatic, turbulent period when the bombings in Berlin happened. Marie called them Bombenteppich or bomb carpet. Bomb Carpet is the definition for the allied bombs that were dropped in order to create a firestorm that destroyed and killed more people. Marie wrote of the anticipation of what would come when the air-raid sirens would sound, the physical jarring when the bombs were dropped, wet towels that would be used to cover the face because of smoke, and of course the fear of pain and death. Fear was a constant companion during these years. Fear not only of the bombings and destruction, but fear of not having enough to eat, fear of how her family was and if they were alive, fear of the Russian's advancement in to Germany. She also feared the Gestapo. She worked in a government office and as a private secretary for one of the men involved in the plot to assassinate Hitler. Maybe you've seen the movie Valkyrie? Reading her diary of the people she knew that were involved in this conspiracy as she called it, was more than interesting, it was difficult for me to lay the book aside. She writes in great detail of the aftermath of the conspiracy and of Hitler's revenge. The ending of the book alluded that Marie may have known more about the conspiracy that her diary expresses. Marie writes of the destruction of cities in Germany such as Hamburg, Dresden; and Vienna, Austria. Some of the book, especially in the beginning gives details about Marie's after work hours parties and events that she attended often. On one hand some reader's may feel she is not the norm for a civilian living in Germany during the war years, it is true she was from the wealthy class of people, when so many were homeless, starving, maimed. Yet, her diary gives the best (that I've read so far) in what it was like living during the war years in Germany.
I highly recommend this book to anyone that is a reader of World War II.
Her diary is a Technicolor view of the war, destruction and aftermath of Germany. 
It is also a personal account from a young woman that lived through the horror and trepidation of war.

Destruction of Rotterdam

Destruction of Wesel

Above 2 photographs of post war Berlin

Published by Vintage a division of Random House June 12, 1988

368 pages
Non-Fiction/Memoir/World War II/Conspiracy to Kill Hitler/Post War Europe/Nazi Germany

Link @ publisher:

Link @ Amazon:
Paperback $9.71

Blissful Reading!


  1. Regardless of whether or not she can be considered an "ordinary" German, her story is important and fascinating. I'll link to your review on War Through the Generations.


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