BEFORE THE DELUGE: Berlin in the 1920's by Otto Friedrich

BEFORE THE DELUGE: Berlin in the 1920's

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Feverish, turbulent, and recklessly hedonistic"" -- that was Berlin in the days of the Weimar Republic. Friedrich simulates the vertigo of culture and politics in this splashy panoply of Weimar personalities, i.e., strong on atmosphere and weak on analysis. Brecht sleuthing with Mac Heath; Dietrich showing her legs; Rosa Luxemburg brutalized by the Freikorps; Friedrich Ebert, the Social Democrat, pusillanimously protesting that he hated revolution ""like sin""; Hindenburg plotting the Kapp Putsch and the mounting roar of National Socialism. . . in short, Weimar Germany doing its decadent dance of death while the barbarian hordes gathered their forces. Like Peter Gay (Weimar Culture, 1968) Friedrich acknowledges the chasm between the sterile, lifeless politics of Weimar and the tremendous vigor and creativity of artistic and intellectual life, but he is far less effective than Gay in explaining this fateful paradox. Instead we are swept from the government offices on the Wilhelmstrasse to the cabarets and back again on a breathless year-by-year digest of events, some minor, others momentous. The delirium tremors of the 1923 inflation come through but the long-range impact on the economy -- and the psyche -- of the German middle class is not pursued. Political history is treated as no more than a rather tedious sideshow tucked in between the reminiscences of the expatriates, enigres, and tourists who visited Berlin during that ominous Golden Age. One more bittersweet chorus of the Bilboa song -- or as the black marketeer said to George Grosz, ""Prosit, my dear. Long live this fool's paradise.

Pub Date: May 3rd, 1972
Publisher: Harper & Row