Before The Deluge: A portrait of Berlin in the 1920s

Before The Deluge: A portrait of Berlin in the 1920sA detailed and readable historical cultural account of Berlin between WWI and WWII A great read, especially for Berlin enthusiasts or those traveling there, or even if just desultorily in occasional chapters. I suspect that were I to re read this again today I might up this by a star The problem with the book is not what s in it, but what s left out You want Friedrich to give you , because what he gives you is so good Otto Friedrich took a unique approach to popular histories that influenced later writers who often haven t managed to succeed with the same deftness I still think his masterpiece is City of Nets A Portrait of Hollywood in the 1940s which I awarded five stars But this book about the wild Weimar period in Germany between World War I and the early days of Hitler is solid and satisfying Friedrich s approach is to find various snippets of anecdote and string them together into a kaleidoscopic and idiosyncratic blend that provides an unavoidably sketchy but flavorful portrait that further allows him to reflect on the meaning of the historical currents and darker undercurrents In this, his cast of characters includes Christopher Isherwood, Albert Einstein, Adolf Hitler, Marlene Dietrich, Kurt Weill, Fritz Lang, and.There is probably no eminently readable way to toe dip into the culture of the inter war period in Germany than this book KevinR Ky, 2016 Throughout history there have been periods of calm between storms, to use the clich , though these might be better described as illusions or mirages I m thinking of Weimar Germany, specifically of the period from the end of the post war inflation in 1923, a time which saw the revaluation of all values, and the Great Depression of 1929, a time which saw the devaluation of all lives This was the golden age, to use yet another clich , a period when the country flourished, sustained by short term credit allowed for under the Dawes Plan, a scheme to stabilise the German economy and thus secure a continuing stream of reparation payments to the victorious allies The whole thing was built on an absurdity that simply could not last, a belief in no tomorrows But that today, while it lasted, produced a mini renaissance almost without parallel in history It was the time of Walter Gropius and the Bauhaus, the time of George Groz, Albert Einstein, Bertolt Brecht, Kurt Weil, Arnold Schoenberg, Lotte Lenya, Peter Lorre, Marlene Dietrich and so many others, architects, musicians, scientists, writers, actors, singers, players of all sorts who strutted and fretted their hour upon a brilliant stage What players what a theatre.In Before the Deluge A Portrait of Berlin in the 1920s Otto Friedrich comes as a spectator, charmed, captivated and bewildered all at the same time I have mixed feelings about this book, an interesting though somewhat uneven treatment of an important subject Although it is offered as a portrait of Berlin, and a good bit of the action is set there, it s really of a general political and cultural history of Weimar Germany, one not confined to the 1920s It s quite an old book now, originally published as long ago as 1972 at a time when many of the people who witnessed life in Germany before the rise of Hitler were still alive and able to give accounts of their experiences There are artists, intellectuals and scientists But where are the ordinary people, where are the ordinary Germans, the Berliners themselves If you are looking for a fluent social history this is not it.What is it exactly Let me put it this way The chapter dealing with the new scientific theories of the day God Does Not Play at Dice shows how all certainty seemed to vanish, all notions of predictability and Newtonian law Instead the universe was depicted by Werner Heisenberg and others as something quite random, a bit like a Dada montage, after the artistic movement given to anarchy than order Well, this is a Dada book, with bits and pieces falling here and there I hope I m not being too harsh there is certainly a lot here to intrigue and charm, but it lacks focus the overall treatment is far too random Friedrich does not seem clear over what he is trying to achieve There is a bit of everything a bit of political history, a bit of social history, a bit of intellectual history, of the arts, of music, of architecture, of the theatre, of the cinema All are visited but with no real thoroughness The anecdotes of people like Lotte Lenya are certainly interesting but in the end I felt a sense of frustration The lengthy account of the political intrigues and machinations which saw Hitler emerge as Chancellor in January 1933 is really quite pedestrian, material far better handled elsewhere The problem is the author is not true to his subject There is no real intimacy and too much incidental chatter After over three hundred pages I was no closer to understanding what life was like at this time in the German capital than I was at the outset Although far less sweeping in scope, Roger Moorhouses s Berlin at War Life and Death in Hitler s Capital, 1939 45 is a much assured, mole s eye view of life in the city I did enjoy Before the Deluge to a degree but it did not satisfy my hunger, a hunger to know what life was really like in one of the most intriguing cities in one of the most intriguing times in history I want to know what it was like to be there on the opening night of Die Dreigroschenoper The Three Penny Opera specifically at the point when the Kanonen Song was heard for the first time, turning the mood of the audience, the creation of one of the theatre s greatest spectacles That would have been something Alas, I shall just have to wait. Before the Deluge is a social history of Berlin during the Weimar Republic from 1919 to 1933, covering traditional politics, economics, social conditions, cultural politics, the arts, and the lives of ordinary Berliners and the movers and shakers It s rich, dense, insightful, and full of interesting commentary and anecdotes based on the author s experiences, documentary research, and interviews with key actors still alive in the late 1960s Rapidly expanding in population size, Berlin during the 1920s was a city of turbulent and vibrant change governments coming and going unions and the army vying for power communists, socialists and fascists fighting running battles, assassinating rivals, and waging propaganda wars the currency crashing to worthlessness followed by an economic boom and then another crash cabaret, theatre, movies and music flourishing social order becoming liberalised with widespread naturism and promiscuity at the same time that anti semitism grows steadily crime, prostitution and drug taking becoming rife and the intellectual elite in psychoanalysis, physics, architecture and other disciplines flocking to the city.What Friedrich s book makes very clear is that there was nothing predestined about the rise of Nazism and the collapse of the Weimar Republic It was the culmination of a complex set of contingent, relational process, not some teleological inevitability, and in Berlin the National Socialists never received than 25 percent of the vote despite Goebbels best efforts nor than 44 percent nationally Criminals have always found a route to political power Usually it is through some kind of coup Hitler tried this in the earlier 1920s and failed Where he succeeded was through the democratic process Ultimately ordinary, innocent people voted criminal minds into office thus ensuring the end of democracy and the descent into megalomaniacal nationalism What that has tended to do is blind us to the fact that Germany was a cauldron of competing ideologies through the whole period of the Third Reich we fall into the trap of seeing Germans at that time as a monolithic nation of fanatical fascists And that s what is so refreshing about Philip Kerr s novels Gunther is an anti Nazi cop trying to get by in a corrupt regime If you want to get a sense of Germany in the 1920s and the path to fascist power, then Friedrich s book is a great place to start. In the decade or so following the turmoil betwixt World Wars, the city of Berlin considered itself to be a land of Denker und Dichter thinkers and poets Of course, these years of rampant inflation and mandatory war reparations in the vicinity of 3 billion marks per year until the ultimate monetary cost of World War I was completely repaid singularly by Germany , the imminent possibility of collapse lurked behind shadowy corners at all times But after 1924 or so, once the German mark had somewhat stabilized, things began to take on a less lugubrious tone The arts began to flourish, and the market began to show prosperity The people were beginning to show signs of relief, and as long as the trains were running it was said at the time then life in Berlin was always going to be tolerable.Otto Friedrich studies Berlin year by year, from the beleaguered end of World War I 1918 through the rise of the Nazi Party 1933 , thus covering the basis of the 1920s without omitting the prelude to the decade, nor the aftermath And it is not just a military history he presents in Before the Deluge in fact, the details presented herein are enough to paint the political landscape of the day with all the necessary elements the abdication of Kaiser Wilhelm II, the violence of the infamous Spartakist Week, the various assassinations, etc , but do not overshadow the cultural developments which took place during and after each pinnacle event Friedrich interviews some of the familiar faces of the day some 50 years later, in many cases as well as presents the reader with a map of both the Berlin of the 1920s, and of the year Before the Deluge was published in 1972, when there was still a Berlin Wall to consider.Perhaps as best as any documentarian is able, Friedrich brings the ruined streets of old Berlin back to their former state, filled with the rambunctious theatre rioters and dope pushers The faces are brought back to their shining vibrancy Albert Einstein, Fritz Lang, Bertolt Brecht, and the lovely Lotte Lenya, for instance While one cannot negate the negativism which engulfed the torn, shattered city of Thinkers and Poets, the innate beauty and power of Berlin is strongly reflected upon the effect made upon the entire world Before the Deluge is not another war chronicle, though it does not look away from the root causes of what led Germany into World War II, either While Friedrich is careful not to speculate or to place blame on why the Nazis came to power so easily, the reality portrayed can lead one who was not there to see some of the driving forces behind its rise to absolute power, and to perhaps understand a little better some of the docility in accepting the Party s mandates of the 1930s.In 1932, as Germany s own democratic system began to facilitate the entry of one of the world s most cataclysmic regimes into power for some period of time, the trains in Berlin ceased running. The Goodreads algorithm that predicts books that you might like is getting to know me exceptionally well I used to ignore the recommendations that Goodreads made for me, because they seemed totally off But increasingly, I find that I check out the book summary, and it is entirely up my alley Dang Kudos to you, Goodreads programmers.I love to read up on German history, ever since my LDS mission there in 2009 But I m very particular about the kind of books I read It seems all Americans want to know about Germany is World War II but there is SOO much there than Hitler and Nazis and Blitzkrieg I do enjoy learning about World War II history as well, but I want to capture an image of Germany as a whole This book certainly does discuss aspects of World War II and Hitler, but I was intrigued by the author s approach the book is about Berlin in the interlude period between World War I and World War II in the era of the fragile democracy between Imperial Germany and the Third Reich So the events leading up to Nazi Germany And you would be surprised the events in the book show that Nazism was by no means a foregone conclusion In addition, the author covers than politics and military matters the important stuff that most history books focus on, with maybe a tad of economics Brecht tries to capture a complete picture of Berlin the arts, including film, drama, architecture, art, and music, and literature science you have to mention Einstein, right crime scandals of the era and entertainment It s probably the closest you could be to experiencing 1920s Berlin that you can get It s massive in scope, and very well executed.The book is organized chronologically, with each chapter being dedicated to a year between 1918 and 1933 But superimposed on this apparently linear structure is a series of interviews with former residents of post war Berlin, quite similar to the last book on Germany on read Stasiland Some are still living in Germany, while others are in America and Britain Interesting to note that when the book was written, the Berlin Wall was still up, and a couple interviewees mention experiences behind the wall as well As such, the reader should be warned to keep track of when they are The mix of interviews and history bring the portrait of Berlin to life that the author is seeking to achieve The first revelation for me was the leftovers from Imperial Germany For some reason, I have always felt that after WWI, Germany became an insta democracy Well, it did It happened nearly overnight But Germans themselves still felt a national pride, and they felt that it was missing once the Kaiser abdicated The new democracy was looked on as weak and despicable The conservative movement was essentially a desire to go back tot the old imperial days Remnants of the old Imperial order got carried over into the new democratic government, perhaps best exemplified in the form of President Hindenburg, the former general and war hero under Kaiser Wilhelm during WWI These citizens weren t Nazis by any means In fact, they found Hitler despicable But as the current government apparently failed and failed again at solving foreign and domestic issues, including runaway inflation and resolution of war reparations, the Nazis increasingly seemed to be the only ones who could get things done.Building off the previous note, I also learned how fragile the Weimar republic actually was, as the government of that era was known I learned it s called the Weimar republic because that s where the constitutional convention was held due to unrest in Berlin And for several reasons First, the fall of the empire brought a call for Revolution with a capital R Before the Nazis were even on the scene, Communists were trying to claim Germany for Bolshevism Immediately after the Kaiser fell, a Communist named Liebknecht nearly walked into the Reichstag and declared a People s Republic as a satellite of the USSR Secondly, the mixture of both conservative imperialists and radical leftists left very few middle of the road types to keep a democracy running I liked this summary of the situation from the author The troubles that were to come stemmed not from the Constitution, which, like all Constitutions, was simply a piece of paper, but from the society that the Constitution was supposed to represent It was a society fiercely divided against itself, divided not only between extremes of radical and conservative ideology but between classes, regions, and religions Richard Watts has observed, The constitution drafted at Weimar began and would end as a document in search of a people I really liked Friedrich s analysis of the Weimar Constitution Built into the apparently democratic Constitution were some fatal flaws that ultimately led to the republic s demise I suppose you can t blame everything on the Constitution, but it sure sped up the process It had been drafted by Hugo Preuss, a professor of law at the University of Berlin, a liberal, and a Jew Since Germany had had little experience with a constitutional government neither had most other nations, for that matter Preuss had pieced together what he considered the best features of all functioning systems Like America, the new Weimar Republic would have a strong president, elected by the people like Britain, it would have a Chancellor responsible to the legislature like France, it would protect minority interests through proportional representation like Imperial Germany, it would retain, though on a limited scale, the autonomy of the provincial state governments In retrospect, we know that the Weimar Constitution had dangerous weaknesses Provincial autonomy permitted the Nazis to flourish in Bavaria under the protection of compliant state authorities proportional representation caused such a proliferation of small parties at the end there were forty groups in the Reichstag that representative government came to a standstill and the famous Article 48 which empowered the President to rule by decree, eventually led to the installation of Adolf Hitler in the Chancellery.I loved learning as the story of Berlin unfolded In addition to Hitler, the only names most people know are the big Nazis Goebbels, Goering, Himmler You do learn a little of their backstories But for me, this gives you a false impression that the Germans just like of gave up and accepted Hitler s regime It was a lot gradual Hitler had to play by the rules kind of at first I was surprised that Hitler was still electable after, you know, overthrowing a state government Bavaria That would kind of be held against you in a national election, right You learn of Dadaism, the artistic movement that rejected meaning Tazar, Breton, Pacabia You learn about musicians pushing the boundaries Shoenberg, Busoni You learn Communist writers of the day discontented with the current system, but also dedicated to a kind of submission Brecht, Piscator You learn about the leaders of the Communist movement calling the massive strikes that Berliners were so good at Liebknecht, Luxembourg You learn of some of the unpopular politicians who took the blame for the government s failures Rathenau, Erzberger You learn of the former imperial generals and commanders who played a big role in the next regime Groener, Hindenberg, Ludendorff You learn of the machinations in the military Seeckt, Schleicher, Luettwitz You learn of the competent and the very incompetent Chancellors Ebert, Scheidemann, Streseman, Bruening, von Papen You learn about internal power conflicts within the Nazi party Roem, Strasser OK, clearly I was interested in the politics and power struggles Some of the discussion of arts and literature is fascinating, but other times I felt like a novice and couldn t appreciate it fully The most engaging parts in these sections were where I already had an in like learning of the production of The Cabinet of Dr Caligari, which I had the opportunity of seeing But some of these folks seem long forgotten I tried finding some of the mentioned authors on Goodreads, and hardly any titles appear Still, I liked the big picture approach and seeing how ideas developed over time.Excellent book The favorite book I have read on Germany thus far Bowie Book Club has been a great excuse to read books I maybe wouldn t otherwise have read I don t think I would have stumbled upon Otto Friedrich s Before the Deluge, but I m glad I did The book filled in some gaps in my education about the period between the end of WWI and the start of WWII The book balances the political landscape and developments and characters in the arts and sciences in Berlin at the time, which makes for a great schizophrenic portrait of the city and time.http www.bowiebookclub.com episodes This book blew me away I think it s hard to provide a disinterested view of Weimar years replete with the difficulties that Berliners encountered, and yet didn t fail to find the beautiful and the strange which is what we live for a testament to the human spirit.Of course, all before it went to shit This was a terrific read, highly evocative of politics and culture in 20s Berlin The perspective from the post war divided city is dated and I m sure scholarship has advanced in some areas, but that doesn t detract from its high level of interest. Best E Book, Before The Deluge A Portrait Of Berlin In The 1920s By Otto Friedrich This Is Very Good And Becomes The Main Topic To Read, The Readers Are Very Takjup And Always Take Inspiration From The Contents Of The Book Before The Deluge A Portrait Of Berlin In The 1920s, Essay By Otto Friedrich Is Now On Our Website And You Can Download It By Register What Are You Waiting For Please Read And Make A Refission For You

Otto Friedrich was born in Boston and graduated from Harvard, where his father was a political science professor He took a while to find his literary stride His career took him from the copy desk at Stars and Stripes to a top writing job at Time, with stops in between with the United Press in London and Paris and with The Daily News and Newsweek in New York.But it was the seven years he spent wi

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  • Paperback
  • 464 pages
  • Before The Deluge: A portrait of Berlin in the 1920s
  • Otto Friedrich
  • English
  • 24 January 2017
  • 9780060926793

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