A Dance Between the Flames: Berlin Between the Wars

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Anton Gill brilliantly recaptures the Berlin of the twenties and thirties, where the world's most creative talents flourished against a background of decadence, corruption, hyperinflation, and finally fear. For a few, the twenties really were golden. Max Reinhardt, Bertolt Brecht, Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo and Josephine Baker electrified the stage. Berlin became the nightclub capital of the world - just as in the film Cabaret, inspired by Christopher Isherwood who was there with W.H. Auden and Stephen ...
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Overview

Anton Gill brilliantly recaptures the Berlin of the twenties and thirties, where the world's most creative talents flourished against a background of decadence, corruption, hyperinflation, and finally fear. For a few, the twenties really were golden. Max Reinhardt, Bertolt Brecht, Marlene Dietrich, Greta Garbo and Josephine Baker electrified the stage. Berlin became the nightclub capital of the world - just as in the film Cabaret, inspired by Christopher Isherwood who was there with W.H. Auden and Stephen Spender. Berlin rivaled Hollywood, where Fritz Lang, Josef von Sternberg, Ernst Lubitsch and Billy Wilder all started their careers. For most Berliners, though, life was harsh. While the rich danced there was fighting in the streets. When the mark crashed, those with hard currency lived like princes, but middle-class Germans prostituted their own daughters to make ends meet. As the twenties became the thirties, politics veered from farce to tragedy in the face of the Nazi terror. After 1933 those who could escape left for London, Paris, or New York. Others threw in their lot with the new regime. Leni Riefenstahl created the greatest pieces of film propaganda in history. Werner von Braun developed the rockets that would later fall on London and contribute to the U.S. space program. Nazi victory would condemn Berlin, one of the world's greatest capitals, first to destruction and then to fifty years in the cultural and political wilderness. This book coincides with its return to capital status and, perhaps, its former elan.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
This fast-paced, wonderfully evocative chronicle of interwar Berlin opens with the Communist revolution of 1918, which nearly took over Germany; it closes on Kristallnacht , Nov. 9, 1938, when Nazis burned and pillaged Jewish property and synagogues. Drawing primarily on German sources, British writer Gill re-creates the creative frenzy of a city that nurtured Bertolt Brecht, Max Reinhardt, Josephine Baker, Kathe Kollwitz, George Grosz, Arnold Schonberg, Christopher Isherwood, satirical journalist Kurt Tucholsky and dozens more against a backdrop of economic chaos and rising Nazism. He charts the Weimar Republic's doomed attempt to introduce democratic ideas to a wrecked, disillusioned people craving order, and he includes a wealth of fresh material on Berlin's cafe society, criminal underworld, theater, arts and its regimented university system--which emphasized militarist nationalism and actively harassed Jewish students and teachers. Photos. (Apr.)
Library Journal
Gill ( Berlin to Bucharest , LJ 11/1/90) here collects wonderful anecdotes from Berliners who remember the Weimar era. A master raconteur who knows Berlin and Berliners well, he captures the Zeitgeist from the collective memory of a city that was both exhilarating and terrifying. Gill doesn't tell how Germany descended into a nightmare, but he shows how Berlin remembers the descent. This work is the perfect complement to the current explosion of books in Germany on the Weimar Republic, which consider whether there is anything to be learned from the pre-Hitler era concerning Germany's present difficulties. There is no fresh scholarship here, however, and Gill gets sloppy with his facts. For example, he cites the controversy about the republic's flag but describes the flag backward. Still, this book will be a good addition to public and undergraduate collections.-- Randall L. Schroeder, Augustana Coll. Lib., Rock Island, Ill.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786700639
  • Publisher: Avalon Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 4/1/1994
  • Edition description: 1st Carroll & Graf ed
  • Pages: 320

Table of Contents

Illustrations
Acknowledgements
Author's Note
Maps
Twilight 1
1 Gotterdammerung 3
Morning 19
2 Death and Resurrection 21
3 A Phoenix Arisen 40
4 Comedy, Tragedy, Politics and Money 58
5 Centre of the World 84
6 Berlin Alexanderplatz 118
Noon 137
7 In the Jungle of the Cities 139
8 House of Bricks, House of Straw 155
9 The Crystallizing Arts 172
10 Stopping a Catastrophe with a Typewriter 190
11 Sportpalast, Speedway and Ring 210
Night 219
12 House of Cards 221
13 Under the Third Reich 238
14 A Cloud across the Sun 251
15 Towards War 261
Notes 268
Bibliography 283
Index 287
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