A review of Kurt Tucholsky's Berlin! Berlin! Dispatches from the Weimar Republic, by Fred Roberts, for Ragazine CC - The Online Magazine of Art, Information & Entertainment
When I was in high school in the 70’s, I had a book called “Prelude to War”, the first in a Time-Life series about World War II. The most fascinating chapter of the book was a collage of photos documenting the Weimar
Republic days of Germany’s capital, “Dizzy, Decadent Berlin”. The collage of photos, many of them rather risqué, portrayed the gaiety and wildness of Berlin’s nightlife. My newly found interest led me to two films of the era. “Der blaue Engel” (1930) with Marlene Dietrich captured the decadence and perhaps cold-bloodedness of that cabaret scene. Fritz Lang’s “M” (1931) showed another side of Berlin, as the police and the underworld raced against each other to capture a child murderer. These ran on PBS at the time, and both left lasting impressions on me. A pair of silent movies “Berlin: Die Sinfonie der Großstadt” (1927), a film collage of one day in the life of that metropolis and “Menschen am Sonntag” (1930) – co-written by Billy Wilder, showing the typical Sunday pastimes of Berlin’s residents, complete a well-rounded cinematic documentation of 1920s’ Berlin. Add to that Berthold Brecht’s film “Kuhle Wampe” (1932) which is more political and portrays the working class experience of that era. If you never felt a fascination for this unique period in history a viewing of these films will whet your appetite for an important English-language book release “Berlin! Berlin! Dispatches from the Weimar Republic”, writings of Kurt Tucholsky in Berlinica, translated by Cindy Opitz and edited by Eva C. Schweitzer.
It is surprising that someone as brilliant as Kurt Tucholsky (1890-1935) could be virtually unknown in the English language. Tucholsky, a Berliner himself, was a leading satirist in Germany whose keen cultural, social, and especially political observations were unparalleled for the time, and maybe even today. His political satires, compelling and prescient warnings against the right wing tendencies of the time, would be enough to cement his reputation. The statements he made are so honest that they somehow set themselves above agenda, they are more in service to justice and democracy than to a transient political whim. It is not about preaching to the converted but rather making the guilty uncomfortable. Perhaps that is why the Nazi’s hated him so much. The Berlinica collection establishes that feeling early on in the piece “Three Biographies”:
And here is the book (and the ebook):