chapter  17
‘In Case the Worst Comes to the Worst’ : Letters home from Berlin, 1942-1945
ByCaroline Bland Bland
Pages 16

‘If the worst comes to the worst’: the phrase appears several times in the letters of a young woman, Maria H., writing from Berlin to her sisters in rural East Frisia during the latter part of the Second World War. 1 The worst scenario itself is not specified, but probably refers to the possible capture of Berlin by the Allies, since it was usually preceded by descriptions of contingency plans for reaching safety and salvaging some personal belongings. In the knowledge of the author’s tragic death at the end of the war, the phrase takes on a terrible poignancy, but in the context of the letter collection as a whole, the phrase raises several questions: hadn’t life already reached its lowest ebb for an independent, intelligent and ambitious young woman under the National Socialist dictatorship in wartime? Conversely, how could the sister of a convinced National Socialist and decorated soldier show so little faith in a successful outcome for the war? Just these initial reactions begin to highlight the ambivalence which characterized the experience of National Socialism, an ambivalence which was emphasized for women by the conflicting messages they received about their role in society.