Books in Berlin XVI | fiction

We have two Michael Hofmann translations today. Two early, one mid, and two late 20th-century books…

Döblin, A. (2018 [1929]). Berlin Alexanderplatz (M. Hofmann, Trans.). New York Review Books.

“Berlin Alexanderplatz, the great novel of Berlin and the doomed Weimar Republic, is one of the great books of the twentieth century, gruesome, farcical, and appalling, word drunk, pitchdark. In Michael Hofmann’s extraordinary new translation, Alfred Döblin’s masterpiece lives in English for the first time.

As Döblin writes in the opening pages:

The subject of this book is the life of the former cement worker and haulier Franz Biberkopf in Berlin. As our story begins, he has just been released from prison, where he did time for some stupid stuff; now he is back in Berlin, determined to go straight.

To begin with, he succeeds. But then, though doing all right for himself financially, he gets involved in a set-to with an unpredictable external agency that looks an awful lot like fate.

Three times the force attacks him and disrupts his scheme. The first time it comes at him with dishonesty and deception. Our man is able to get to his feet, he is still good to stand.

Then it strikes him a low blow. He has trouble getting up from that, he is almost counted out.

And finally it hits him with monstrous and extreme violence.

A raging cataract of a novel, one that threatens to engulf the reader in a tumult of sensation. It has long been considered the behemoth of German literary modernism, the counterpart to Ulysses. —Alex Ross, The New Yorker

Because of its use of collage, stream of consciousness, and colloquial speech, Berlin Alexanderplatz has frequently been compared to Joyce’s Ulysses and John Dos Passos’s Manhattan Transfer…Beneath the book’s innovative style, the reader can hear the gears of ancient narrative elements grinding: evocations of folk songs, myths and Old Testament stories, and themes of tragedy and fate. —Amanda DeMarco, The Wall Street Journal

In this new translation, the dissonant voices ring out boldly; we can tell when someone is being mimicked and wickedly sent up, enjoy the black Berlin humor…Döblin is never sentimental, or hysterical. He just gets us to listen to the drumbeat of violence throbbing in this city of the mind. Berlin Alexanderplatz is one of the great anti-war novels of our time. —Joachim Redner, Australian Book Review

The story of Franz Biberkopf is the Éducation sentimentale of the petty thief. The most extreme, dizzying, last, and most advanced embodiment of the old bourgeois bildungsroman. —Walter Benjamin

I found myself reading Berlin Alexanderplatz in a way that you could hardly call reading—more like devouring, gobbling, gulping down. And these expressions still don’t do justice to that way of reading, which dangerously often wasn’t reading at all, but more life, suffering, despair, and fear. —Rainer Werner Fassbinder

[A] major writer who grappled with the roots of darkness in our time… —Ernst Pawel, The New York Times

Without the futurist elements of Döblin’s work from Wang Lun to Berlin Alexanderplatz, my prose is inconceivable…. He’ll discomfort you, give you bad dreams. If you’re satisfied with yourself, beware of Döblin. —Günter Grass

I learned more about the essence of the epic from Döblin than from anyone else. His epic writing and even his theory about the epic strongly influenced my own dramatic art. —Bertolt Brecht” — from New York Review of Books

Walser, R. (2012 [1907-1917]). Berlin stories (J. Greven, Ed.; S. Bernofsky, Trans.). New York Review Books.

“In 1905 the young Swiss writer Robert Walser arrived in Berlin to join his older brother Karl, already an important stage-set designer, and immediately threw himself into the vibrant social and cultural life of the city. Berlin Stories collects his alternately celebratory, droll, and satirical observations on every aspect of the bustling German capital, from its theaters, cabarets, painters’ galleries, and literary salons, to the metropolitan street, markets, the Tiergarten, rapid-service restaurants, and the electric tram. Originally appearing in literary magazines as well as the feuilleton sections of newspapers, the early stories are characterized by a joyous urgency and the generosity of an unconventional guide. Later pieces take the form of more personal reflections on the writing process, memories, and character studies. All are full of counter-intuitive images and vignettes of startling clarity, showcasing a unique talent for whom no detail was trivial, at grips with a city diving headlong into modernity.

Read Susan Bernofsky’s letter about Robert Walser and Berlin Stories.


I think it was Herman Hesse who said that if you can stomach Robert Walser’s prose, you can’t help but fall in love with it, and I fell in love with it pretty quickly. He’s guileless but not stupid, an admiring observer of the inconsequential… He became a chronicler of the ordinary (interestingly, at around the same time Joyce, on the other side of Europe, was doing the same). And in this unbelievably delightful and timeless collection of short pieces, we can recover the delight of ordinary, uncondescending appreciation, places where the vacant-minded stroller can take ‘peculiar pleasure.’ —Nicholas Lezard, The Guardian

The magnificently humble. The enormously small. The meaningfully ridiculous. Robert Walser’s work often reads like a dazzling answer to the question, How immense can modesty be? If Emily Dickinson made cathedrals of em dashes and capital letters and the angle of winter light, Walser accomplishes the feat with, well, ladies’ feet and trousers, and little emotive words like joy, uncapitalized. —Rivka Galchen, Harper’s

Walser’s fictions are charged with compassion: awareness of the creatureliness of life, of the fellowship of sadness. He is a truly wonderful, heartbreaking writer. —Susan Sontag

A writer of considerable wit, talent and originality …. recognized by such impressive contemporaries as Kafka, Brod, Hesse and Musil …. [and] primarily known to German literary scholars and to English readers lucky enough to have discovered [his work] …. [Walser’s tales] are to be read slowly and savored …. [and] are filled with lovely and disturbing moments that will stay with the reader for some time to come. —Ronald De Feo, The New York Times” — from New York Review of Books

Regener, S. (2007 [2001]). Berlin blues [Herr Lehmann] (J. M. Brownjohn, Trans.). Vintage.

“It’s 1989 and, whenever he isn’t hanging out in the local bars, Herr Lehmann lives entirely free of responsibility in the bohemian Berlin district of Kreuzberg. Through years of judicious sidestepping and heroic indolence, this barman has successfully avoided the demands of parents, landlords, neighbours and women. But suddenly one unforeseen incident after another seems to threaten his idyllic and rather peaceable existence. He has an encounter with a decidedly unfriendly dog, his parents threaten to descend on Berlin from the provinces, and he meets a dangerously attractive woman who throws his emotional life into confusion.

Berlin Blues is a richly entertaining evocation of life in the city and a classic of modern-day decadence.” — from Goodreads

Fallada, H. (2010 [1947]). Alone in Berlin [Jeder stirbt für sich allein] (M. Hofmann, Trans.). Penguin.

“Inspired by a true story, Hans Fallada’s Alone in Berlin is a gripping wartime thriller following one ordinary man’s determination to defy the tyranny of Nazi rule.

Berlin, 1940, and the city is filled with fear. At the house on 55 Jablonski Strasse, its various occupants try to live under Nazi rule in their different ways: the bullying Hitler loyalists the Persickes, the retired judge Fromm and the unassuming couple Otto and Anna Quangel. Then the Quangels receive the news that their beloved son has been killed fighting in France. Shocked out of their quiet existence, they begin a silent campaign of defiance, and a deadly game of cat and mouse develops between the Quangels and the ambitious Gestapo inspector Escherich. When petty criminals Kluge and Borkhausen also become involved, deception, betrayal and murder ensue, tightening the noose around the Quangels’ necks…” — from Penguin

Timm, U. (1998 [1996]). Midsummer night (P. Tegel, Trans.). New Directions.

“If this, Uwe Timm’s enchanting novel, were a cautionary tale, the tag line would go something like this: Should you plan to be in Berlin on Midsummer Night, the time of the summer solstice – Watch Out! The narrator of Timm’s story is a writer who simply can’t get started on his next book. So he accepts a commission to write an article about potatoes. He has some interest in the subject because of an uncle who could, remarkably, from taste alone, differentiate one species of potato from another. Since one of the authorities on the subject worked in East Berlin, our hero takes off to do some research. Rushing around the newly united city, he becomes involved in a series of madcap adventures, strange entanglements, and odd, sometimes threatening encounters. Uwe Timm spins a fascinating tale here, one filled with surprise, magic, comedy, and hope.” — from New Directions

Books around Berlin XV

As the number of books increases, the contextual relationship with Berlin unwinds. The ones from now on have an oblique relationship with the city.

Hugues, P. (2017). Hannah’s dress: Berlin 1904-2014 (C. J. Delogu, Trans.). Polity Press.

“Hannah’s Dress tells the dizzying story of Berlin’s modern history. Curious to learn more about the city she has lived in for over twenty years, journalist Pascale Hugues investigates the lives of the men, women and children who have occupied her ordinary street during the course of the last century. We see the street being built in 1904 and the arrival of the first families of businessmen, lawyers and bankers. We feel the humiliation of defeat in 1918, the effects of economic crisis, and the rise of Hitler’s Nazi party. We tremble alongside the Jewish families, whose experience is so movingly captured in the story of two friends, Hannah and Susanne. When only Hannah is able to escape the horrors of deportation, the dress made for her by Susanne becomes a powerful reminder of all that was lost.

In 1945 the street is all but destroyed; the handful of residents left want to forget the past altogether and start afresh. When the Berlin Wall goes up, the street becomes part of West Berlin and assumes a rather suburban identity, a home for all kinds of petite bourgeoisie, insulated from the radical spirit of 1968. However, this quickly changes in the 1970s with the arrival of its most famous resident, superstar David Bowie. Today, the street is as tranquil and prosperous as in the early days, belying a century of eventful, tumultuous history.

This engrossing account of a single street, awarded the prestigious 2014 European Book Prize, sheds new light on the complex history not only of Berlin but of an entire continent across the twentieth century.” – from Wiley

Frank, S. (2017). Wall memorials and heritage: the heritage industry of Berlin’s Checkpoint Charlie (J. Spengler, Trans.). Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.

“Analysing the transformation of Berlin’s former Allied border control point, “Checkpoint Charlie,” into a global heritage industry, this volume provides an introduction to, and a theoretically informed structuring of, the interdisciplinary international heritage debate. This crucial case study demonstrates that an unregulated global heritage industry has developed in Berlin which capitalizes on the internationally very attractive – but locally still very painful – heritage of the Berlin Wall. Frank explores the conflicts that occur when private, commercial interests in interpreting and selling history to an international audience clash with traditional, institutionalized public forms of local and national heritage-making and commemorative practices, and with the victims’ perspectives.

Wall Memorials and Heritage illustrates existing approaches to heritage research and develops them in dialogue with Berlin’s traditions of conveying history, and the specific configuration of the heritage industry at “Checkpoint Charlie”. Productively integrating theory with empirical evidence, this innovative book enriches the international literature on heritage and its economic and political contexts.” – from Routledge

Gökberk, U. (2020). Excavating memory: Bilge Karasu’s Istanbul and Walter Benjamin’s Berlin. Academic Studies Press.

“This study moves the acclaimed Turkish fiction writer Bilge Karasu (1930 – 1995) into a new critical arena by examining his poetics of memory, as laid out in his narratives on Istanbul’s Beyoğlu, once a cosmopolitan neighborhood called Pera. Karasu established his fame in literary criticism as an experimental modernist, but while themes such as sexuality, gender, and oppression have received critical attention, an essential tenet of Karasu’s oeuvre, the evocation of ethno-cultural identity, has remained unexplored: Excavating Memory brings to light this dimension. Through his non-referential and ambiguous renderings of memory, Karasu gives in his Beyoğlu narratives unique expression to ethno-cultural difference in Turkish literature, and lets through his own repressed minority identity. By using Walter Benjamin’s autobiographical work as a heuristic premise for illuminating Karasu, Gökberk establishes an innovative intercultural framework, which brings into dialogue two representative writers of the twentieth-century over temporal and spatial distances. ” – from Academic Studies Press

Antill, P. D. (2005). Berlin 1945: End of the Thousand Year Reich. Osprey.

“Hitler’s Third Reich was on the brink of total ruin in mid-April 1945, and the Red Army was poised less than 60 miles to the east and ready to seize the German capital. Peter Antill describes the events in this engaging history, examining the Soviets’ march towards Berlin and the Germans’ final resistance. This book, supplemented with a host of maps and illustrations, provides a vivid portrayal of the death throes of the Third Reich and the end of the war in Europe, exploring the strategy of both sides and the tactics of impromptu urban warfare.” – from Osprey

Zitzlsperger, U. (2021). Historical dictionary of Berlin. Rowman & Littlefield.

“After World War II Berlin became one of the playgrounds of the Cold War; the Berlin Wall made the division between East and West, between ‘capitalism’ and ‘communism’ in 1961 highly visible, though it did remove Berlin from front-line politics. East and West Berlin had turned into shop-windows of ideologies – West Berlin representing the lure of a market economy, East Berlin the promise of socialism. It is, then, fitting that the fall of the Wall in 1989 awarded Berlin such a prominent role. It was here that the development after Reunification of East and West became a closely observed event – and, well beyond Germany, Berlin appeared to represent fundamental developments throughout Europe at the time. Today, Berlin is the capital of reunified Germany and therefore one of the key political players in the European Union (EU) and it’s now a desirable destination for young entrepreneurs.

The Historical Dictionary of Berlin contains a chronology, an introduction, and an extensive bibliography. The dictionary section has more than 300 cross-referenced entries on important personalities, places, institutions, and events. This book is an excellent resource for students, researchers, and anyone wanting to know more about Berlin.” – from Hugendubel

Books on Berlin XIV

This one has a book translated by the legendary translator Anthea Bell.

Haakenson, T. O. (2021). Grotesque visions: The Science of Berlin Dada. Bloomsbury Academic.

“Grotesque Visions focuses on the radical avant-garde interventions of Salomo Friedländer (aka Mynona), Til Brugman, and Hannah Höch as they challenged the questionable practices and evidentiary claims of late-19th- and early-20th-century science. Demonstrating the often excessive measures that pathologists, anthropologists, sexologists, and medical professionals went to present their research in a seemingly unambiguous way, this volume shows how Friedländer/Mynona, Brugman, Höch, and other Berlin-based artists used the artistic grotesque to criticize, satirize, and subvert a variety of forms of supposed scientific objectivity.

The volume concludes by examining the exhibition Grotesk!: 130 Jahre Kunst der Frechheit/Comic Grotesque: Wit and Mockery in German Arts, 1870-1940. In contrast to the ahistorical and amorphous concept informing the exhibition, Thomas O. Haakenson reveals a unique deployment of the artistic grotesque that targeted specific established and emerging scientific discourses at the turn of the last fin-de-siècle.” – from Bloomsbury

McKay, S. (2022). Berlin: life and death in the city at the center of the world. St. Martin’s Press.

“Sinclair McKay’s portrait of Berlin from 1919 forward explores the city’s broad human history, from the end of the Great War to the Blockade, rise of the Wall, and beyond.

Sinclair McKay’s Berlin begins by taking readers back to 1919 when the city emerged from the shadows of the Great War to become an extraordinary by-word for modernity—in art, cinema, architecture, industry, science, and politics. He traces the city’s history through the rise of Hitler and the Battle for Berlin which ended in the final conquest of the city in 1945. It was a key moment in modern world history, but beyond the global repercussions lay thousands of individual stories of agony. From the countless women who endured nightmare ordeals at the hands of the Soviet soldiers to the teenage boys fitted with steel helmets too big for their heads and guns too big for their hands, McKay thrusts readers into the human cataclysm that tore down the modernity of the streets and reduced what was once the most sophisticated city on earth to ruins.

Amid the destruction, a collective instinct was also at work—a determination to restore not just the rhythms of urban life, but also its fierce creativity. In Berlin today, there is a growing and urgent recognition that the testimonies of the ordinary citizens from 1919 forward should be given more prominence. That the housewives, office clerks, factory workers, and exuberant teenagers who witnessed these years of terrifying—and for some, initially exhilarating—transformation should be heard. Today, the exciting, youthful Berlin we see is patterned with echoes that lean back into that terrible vortex. In this new history of Berlin, Sinclair McKay erases the lines between the generations of Berliners, making their voices heard again to create a compelling, living portrait of life in this city that lay at the center of the world.” – from macmillan

Simon, M. (2015). Underground in Berlin: a young woman’s extraordinary tale of survival in the heart of Nazi Germany (A. Bell, Trans.). Little, Brown and Company.

“A thrilling piece of undiscovered history, this is the true account of a young Jewish woman who survived World War II in Berlin.

In 1942, Marie Jalowicz, a twenty-year-old Jewish Berliner, made the extraordinary decision to do everything in her power to avoid the concentration camps. She removed her yellow star, took on an assumed identity, and disappeared into the city.

In the years that followed, Marie took shelter wherever it was offered, living with the strangest of bedfellows, from circus performers and committed communists to convinced Nazis. As Marie quickly learned, however, compassion and cruelty are very often two sides of the same coin.

Fifty years later, Marie agreed to tell her story for the first time. Told in her own voice with unflinching honesty, Underground in Berlin is a book like no other, of the surreal, sometimes absurd day-to-day life in wartime Berlin. This might be just one woman’s story, but it gives an unparalleled glimpse into what it truly means to be human.” – from Little, Brown

Millar, P. (2014). 1989: The Berlin Wall: My Part in Its Downfall. Arcadia Books Limited.

“It was an event that changed history and Peter Millar was in the middle of it. For over a decade Millar had been living in East Berlin, as well as Warsaw and Moscow, and in this engaging memoir we follow him to the heart of Cold War Europe. We relive the night that it all disintegrated, and its curious domino-like effect on Eastern Europe. We see Peter as he opens his Stasi file and discovers which of his friends had – or hadn’t – been spying on him. A compelling, amazingly insightful, and entertaining read, this book brings Peter Millar’s characteristic wit and insight to one of the most significant moments in history. Peter Millar has worked for Reuters, the Telegraph Group and the Sunday Times as a foreign correspondent. For the latter he covered the Fall of the Berlin Wall and was named Foreign Correspondent of the Year.” – from Amazon

Parker, J. (2016). Tales of Berlin in American literature up to the 21st century. Brill Rodopi.

“Of all European cities, Americans today are perhaps most curious about Berlin, whose position in the American imagination is an essential component of nineteenth-century, postwar and contemporary transatlantic imagology. Over various periods, Berlin has been a tenuous space for American claims to cultural heritage and to real geographic space in Europe, symbolizing the ultimate evil and the power of redemption. This volume offers a comprehensive examination of the city’s image in American literature from 1840 to the present. Tracing both a history of Berlin and of American culture through the ways the city has been narrated across three centuries by some 100 authors through 145 novels, short stories, plays and poems, Tales of Berlin presents a composite landscape not only of the German capital, but ofshifting subtexts in American society which have contextualized its meaning for Americans in the past, and continue to do so today” – from Brill

Books on Berlin XIII

Jordan, J. A. (2006). Structures of memory: understanding urban change in Berlin and beyond. Stanford University Press.

“In many different parts of the world people cordon off sites of great suffering or great heroism from routine use and employ these sites exclusively for purposes of remembrance. The author of this book turns to the landscape of contemporary Berlin in order to understand how some places are forgotten by all but eyewitnesses, whereas others become the sites of public ceremonies, museums, or commemorative monuments. The places examined mark the city’s Nazi past and are often rendered off limits to use for apartments, shops, or offices. However, only a portion of all “authentic” sites—places with direct connections to acts of resistance or persecution during the Nazi era—actually become designated as places of official collective memory. Others are simply reabsorbed into the quotidian landscape. Remembering leaves its marks on the skin of the city, and the goal of this book is to analyze and understand precisely how.”  – from Stanford University Press

Lachmund, J. (2013). Greening Berlin: the co-production of science, politics, and urban nature. MIT Press.

“How plant and animal species conservation became part of urban planning in Berlin, and how the science of ecology contributed to this change.

Although nature conservation has traditionally focused on the countryside, issues of biodiversity protection also appear on the political agendas of many cities. One of the emblematic examples of this now worldwide trend has been the German city of Berlin, where, since the 1970s, urban planning has been complemented by a systematic policy of “biotope protection”—at first only in the walled city island of West Berlin, but subsequently across the whole of the reunified capital. In Greening Berlin, Jens Lachmund uses the example of Berlin to examine the scientific and political dynamics that produced this change.

After describing a tradition of urban greening in Berlin that began in the late nineteenth century, Lachmund details the practices of urban ecology and nature preservation that emerged in West Berlin after World War II and have continued in post-unification Berlin. He tells how ecologists and naturalists created an ecological understanding of urban space on which later nature-conservation policy was based. Lachmund argues that scientific change in ecology and the new politics of nature mutually shaped or “co-produced” each other under locally specific conditions in Berlin. He shows how the practices of ecologists coalesced with administrative practices to form an institutionally embedded and politically consequential “nature regime.”

Lachmund’s study sheds light not only on the changing place of nature in the modern city but also on the political use of science in environmental conflicts, showing the mutual formation of science, politics, and nature in an urban context.”  – from MIT Press

Tamagne, F. (2004). A history of homosexuality in Europe: Berlin, London, Paris, 1919-1939. Algora.

“The period between the two world wars was crucial in the history of homosexuality in Europe. It was then that homosexuality first came out into the light of day. Charting the early days of the homosexual and lesbian scene, Florence Tamagne traces the different trends in Germany, England and France in the period leading up to the cataclysm of World War II and provides important background to any understanding of the later events. In this 2-volume scholarly treatise the author weaves together cultural references from literature, songs and theater, news stories and private correspondence, police and government documents to give a rounded picture of the evolving scene.

Tolerance for homosexuality followed different trends in Germany, England and France in the period leading up to the war. Tamagne’s work outlines the long and arduous journey from the shadows toward acceptability as the homosexual and lesbian community finds a new legitimacy at various levels of society.

Volume I introduces the first glimmerings of that new openness and explores the scenes in three very different cities. Berlin became the capital of the new culture and the center of a political movement seeking rights and protections for what we now call gays and lesbians. In England, the struggle was brisk to undermine the structures and strictures of Victorianism; whereas in France (which was more tolerant, overall), homosexuality remained more subtle and nonmilitant.

Volume I introduces the first glimmerings of tolerance for homosexuality around the turn of the last century, quickly squelched by the trial of Oscar Wilde which sent a chill throughout the cosmopolitan centers of the world. Just crawling out from under the Victorian blanket, Europe was devastated by a gruesome war that consumed the flower of its youth.

Then, in the aftermath of World War I, a variety of factors came together to forge a climate that was more permissive and open. Tamagne dissects the strands of euphoria, rebellion, exploration, nostalgia and yearning, and the bonds forged at school and on the battlefront. The Roaring Twenties are sometimes seen, in retrospect, as having been a golden age for homosexuals and lesbians; and the literary output of the era shows why.

However, the social and political backlash soon became apparent, first of all in Germany. (Volume 2, ISBN 0-87586-278-0, focuses on the decline, and the counter-trend, from 1933 to 1939.) Repression arrested the evolution of the new mores, and it was not until the 1960s that the wave of liberation could once again sweep the continent.” – from Amazon

Comack, M. (2012). Wild socialism: workers councils in revolutionary Berlin, 1918-21. University Press of America Inc.

“Wild Socialism examines the rise, development, and decline of revolutionary councils of industrial workers in Berlin at the end of the First World War. This popular movement spread throughout Germany, and was without precedent in either the theory or practice of the Social Democratic party and the trade unions allied to it.

These workers councils were most highly developed in Berlin, within its particular industrial, political, and cultural milieu. The Berlin Shop Stewards group provided a hard core of militant revolutionaries within the movement, many of whose adherents were more moderate or ambiguous in their views. Externally, the councilists faced a hostile Social Democratic-trade union bureaucracy who characterized council rule as “wilde Sozialismus,” a reconstituted and repressive state power, and a revolutionary rival in the rise of German Bolshevism. This work considers the experience of the Berlin councils as alternative institutions outside of traditional union, party, and governmental structures.” – from Rowman & Littlefield

Sarotte, M. E. (2015). The collapse: the accidental opening of the Berlin Wall. Basic Books.

“On the night of November 9, 1989, massive crowds surged toward the Berlin Wall, drawn by an announcement that caught the world by surprise: East Germans could now move freely to the West. The Wall — infamous symbol of divided Cold War Europe — seemed to be falling. But the opening of the gates that night was not planned by the East German ruling regime — nor was it the result of a bargain between either Ronald Reagan or George H.W. Bush and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

It was an accident.

In The Collapse, prize-winning historian Mary Elise Sarotte reveals how a perfect storm of decisions made by daring underground revolutionaries, disgruntled Stasi officers, and dictatorial party bosses sparked an unexpected series of events culminating in the chaotic fall of the Wall. With a novelist’s eye for character and detail, she brings to vivid life a story that sweeps across Budapest, Prague, Dresden, and Leipzig and up to the armed checkpoints in Berlin.

We meet the revolutionaries Roland Jahn, Aram Radomski, and Siggi Schefke, risking it all to smuggle the truth across the Iron Curtain; the hapless Politburo member Günter Schabowski, mistakenly suggesting that the Wall is open to a press conference full of foreign journalists, including NBC’s Tom Brokaw; and Stasi officer Harald Jäger, holding the fort at the crucial border crossing that night. Soon, Brokaw starts broadcasting live from Berlin’s Brandenburg Gate, where the crowds are exulting in the euphoria of newfound freedom — and the dictators are plotting to restore control.

Drawing on new archival sources and dozens of interviews, The Collapse offers the definitive account of the night that brought down the Berlin Wall.” – from Basic Books

Books on Berlin XII

Mesch, C. (2018). Modern art at the Berlin Wall: demarcating culture in the Cold War Germanys. I.B.Tauris & Co. Ltd.

“At the height of the Cold War, art produced in divided Germany contested the cultural demarcation of East and West. Here Claudia Mesch shows how a wide group of artists struggled to take visual art beyond the crude separations of the ‘Iron Curtain’, and to transcend the first global cultural divide of the twentieth century. Artists in Berlin produced artworks-including painting, performance and film-that engaged critically with imposed national and global identities, and with issues of memory and trauma. ‘Around the Berlin Wall’ presents a new picture of the Cold War border between East and West as a dynamic and international cultural space, and is essential for all those interested in art history, modernism, the Cold War and the cultural history of the twentieth century.” – from Bloomsbury

Fuechtner, V. (2011). Berlin Psychoanalytic: psychoanalysis and culture in Weimar Republic Germany and beyond. University of California Press.

“One hundred years after the Berlin Psychoanalytic Institute was established, this book recovers the cultural and intellectual history connected to this vibrant organization and places it alongside the London Bloomsbury group, the Paris Surrealist circle, and the Viennese fin-de-siècle as a crucial chapter in the history of modernism. Taking us from World War I Berlin to the Third Reich and beyond to 1940s Palestine and 1950s New York—and to the influential work of the Frankfurt School—Veronika Fuechtner traces the network of artists and psychoanalysts that began in Germany and continued in exile. Connecting movements, forms, and themes such as Dada, multi-perspectivity, and the urban experience with the theory and practice of psychoanalysis, she illuminates themes distinctive to the Berlin psychoanalytic context such as war trauma, masculinity and femininity, race and anti-Semitism, and the cultural avant-garde. In particular, she explores the lives and works of Alfred Döblin, Max Eitingon, Georg Groddeck, Karen Horney, Richard Huelsenbeck, Count Hermann von Keyserling, Ernst Simmel, and Arnold Zweig.” – from University of California Press

Zierenberg, M. (2015). Berlin’s black market,1939-1950. Palgrave Macmillan.

““This fascinating book responds to a strange paradox in the history of Germany after 1945. … Zierenberg’s book gives readers a rich cultural and social as well as economic history of Berlin’s black markets. … the publishers clearly made the right decision when they decided to have Zierenberg’s book translated into English … thus making it available to a wider audience of English-speaking readers. I think they will find this book as fascinating and thought provoking as I did.” (David F. Crew, Journal of Modern History, Vol. 89 (4), December, 2017)

“Central Europeanists with a focus on urban history, the history of everyday life, and the culture of consumption in Berlin during the first half of the twentieth century will read Malte Zierenberg’s recent monograph with keen interest and appreciation. … Berlin’s Black Market offers a fresh perspective on Berliners’ experiences through several transitional periods with an emphasis on the micro-level economy and the culture of consumption. The book’s sophisticated methodological approach is to be applauded.” (Matthew Berg, H-German, H-Net Reviews,, November, 2016)

“This is a work of scholarly elegance and sprawling erudition. It offers a striking vision of a war-torn Berlin remarkably different from traditional histories, leading us through the corridors of Nazi power and then down winding neighborhoods and into cafes, restaurants, homes, and even brothels to the black markets that flourished under and after Nazi rule. Along the way, Malte Zierenberg, who is a remarkably surefooted guide through a most chaotic period, provides insightful explanations of the economic forces motivating illicit trade, draws attention to the new social relations that sprang up around it, and provides astute interpretations of the symbolic meanings Germans attached to their experiences of dictatorship, war, occupation, and national division.” (Jonathan Zatlin, Professor at Boston University, USA)

“This is a wonderful book. It presents an ethnography of Berlin’s black market from 1939 to 1950. It shows how a massive illicit trade in goods and services developed according to its own rules and rituals, which adjusted with agility and ingenuity to the changing political and economic circumstances of dictatorship, war, occupation, and the city’s division. In attending to the connotations that the black market acquired in the eyes of opponents as well as participants, the book offers as well a fascinating cultural analysis of daily life in the big city during these turbulent times.” (Roger Chickering, Professor Emeritus of History, Georgetown University, USA)” – from Springer Link

Richie, A. (1999). Faust’s metropolis: a history of Berlin. Carroll & Graf.

“In ”Faust’s Metropolis” Alexandra Richie surmounts some of these obstacles and stumbles over others. She has written a very long, pear-shaped book. About 165 pages of text and notes deal with the first 600 years of Berlin. Slightly more than 200 pages cover the next 70 years or so, and nearly 700 pages, almost two-thirds of the book, the years from the Weimar Republic to reunification. This allotment may reflect the interests of the author, who knows a great deal about Berlin’s recent past. But it is more difficult to write a good concise account of hundreds of years than an expansive study of a much briefer period, and with a few exceptions — for example, a fine discussion of the deplorable working-class housing built in Berlin from the 1850’s on — the first third of her book is not very good history.

For one thing, it is out of balance. The horrors of the Thirty Years’ War are treated at length and somewhat repetitively, but an event of great significance in Berlin’s history, the acquisition by the Hohenzollern dynasty of the Duchy of Prussia at the beginning of the war, goes unmentioned. Several paragraphs are devoted to a confusing discussion of the Prussian or German Army — it is not made clear which — under Emperor William II, but nothing is said about the Berlin garrison at the time, its strength, its impact on the population and the economy, its political functions, its links with the police. The interpretations of some of the Hohenzollern rulers border on caricature. Generalizations and stereotypes abound.” – from NY Times

Rottman, G. L., & Taylor, C. (2008). The Berlin Wall and the Intra-German Border, 1961-89. Osprey.

“The border between East and West Germany was closed on 26 May 1953. On 13 August 1961 crude fences and walls were erected around West Berlin: the Berlin Wall had been created. The Wall encircled West Berlin for a distance of 155km, and its barriers and surveillance systems evolved over the years into an advanced obstacle network. The Intra-German Border ran from the Baltic Sea to the Czechoslovak border for 1,381km, and was where NATO forces faced the Warsaw Pact for the 45 years of the Cold War. This book examines the international situation that led to the establishment of the Berlin Wall and the IGB, and discusses how these barrier systems were operated, and finally fell.

Gordon L Rottman entered the US Army in 1967, volunteered for Special Forces and completed training as a weapons specialist. He was assigned to the 7th Special Forces Group until reassigned to the 5th Special Forces Group in Vietnam in 1969-70. Gordon worked as a civilian contract Special Operations Forces Intelligence Specialist at the Army’s Joint Readiness Center, Ft Polk, until 2002. A highly respected and established author, who is a recognised expert on this subject, he now devotes himself to full-time writing and research. Chris Taylor was born in Newcastle, UK, but now lives in London. After attending art college in his home town, he graduated in 1995 from Bournemouth University with a degree in computer graphics. Since then he has worked in the graphics industry and is currently a freelance illustrator for various publishing companies. He has a keen interest in filmmaking and is currently co-producing a movie.” – from Osprey Publishing