THE BERLINERS by Walter Henry Nelson


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Berliners are tough, cynical, brash, detached, pragmatic, and more strongly committed to civic pride than national patriotism. (The opening characterization is based on Mr. Nelson's ""half a ton of research"" papers worked into this popularized history-perspective, comparable to his earlier books on the Volkswagen and the discount houses.) Later he says that Berliners love ""work, beer, entertainment, cakes, chic, sausages, modernity and strong coffee"" but could not that be said of most Germans however you may question the chic. In any case based on some 1000 interviews and the popular media (and without the benefit of a bibliography) he zeroes in on Berlin East and West, spending perhaps a quarter of the book on the city's 700 years of emergence and another considerable part on Berlin during the Hitler era (only one out of four were pro-Hitler at the start) and the war. Mr. Nelson makes many comparisons between East and West Berlin, some differing to a degree with Jean Edward Smith's Germany Behind the Wall (p. 89) where East Berlin was shown as less backward and deprived than it is here. The liveliest sections predictably are on life in the city today, the overconsumption and cheapness of liquor, entertainment, sex, crime, etc., although aspects of its present day economic and industrial recovery are not neglected. Since so much of this is based on what individuals said or experienced, it is difficult to evaluate except as an overview.

Pub Date: April 21st, 1969
Publisher: McKay