BEFORE THE WALL: Berlin Days 1946-1948 by George Clare

BEFORE THE WALL: Berlin Days 1946-1948

By
Email this review

KIRKUS REVIEW

Amusing, rambling, sometimes poignant memoir of the author's years as a British intelligence officer in postwar Berlin, working in the Allied denazification program. Clare (Last Waltz in Vienna, 1982), an Austrian. Jewish refugee and naturalized British citizen, describes his conflicting emotions toward the stricken, self-pitying citizens of bombed-out Berlin when, after WW II, he returns to the city he had last visited eight years earlier. His job now was to serve as a minor functionary with the British occupation forces, licensing German members of the performing arts after they had been cleared by German denazification panels--part of an Allied attempt to help rebuild a cultural bridge between Germany and its victors. Set against a background of growing East-West tensions, much of Clare's book is taken up with random anecdotal accounts of the cases he handled. He draws brief, incisive portraits of members of the subcommittee of the Allied Command Cultural Affairs Committee: his own superior, the snuff-sniffing, gruff Major Kaye Sely; the well-connected and cooperative Soviet captain Alexander Gouliga; and the ""abominable nyet,"" Soviet sublieutenant Levin, among others. Even more engrossing are his character sketches of conductor Wilhelm Furtwangler, whose ambiguous past Clare investigated; film and stage director Gustaf Grundgens, whom he interrogated; former head of the Hitler Youth Movement Baldur von Shirach, whom he interviewed in Spandau Prison; and less prominent Germans he met as well. Clare also reminisces about his childhood, his family, and friends, and his experiences as a refugee in the British 77th Pioneer Corps, a labor battalion. These digressions, however, while adding touching personal insights, interrupt narrative flow. Disorganized, but still worthwhile for its sharp personal view of a war-devastated Berlin and its people.

Pub Date: Oct. 12th, 1990
Publisher: Dutton