Monday, December 21, 2020

A Lonely Death in Sweden 85 Years Ago

Kurt Tucholsky, born in Berlin into a Jewish family, was one of the most famous writers, journalists, and satirists of the Weimar Republic. 85 years ago today, he took his own life in Swedish exile where he had fled to in 1932 already.

He knew what was coming.

Without an audience, or influence, too depressed to write, and out of money, he overdosed on sleeping pills. His then-girlfriend Gertrude Meyer — or rather, one of his two girlfriends — found him. He was rushed to the hospital where he died the next day. He left three letters to his girlfriends and to his second wife, Mary Gerold, whom he made his sole heir. It was Mary who resurrected his work after 1945.

Tucholsky was a tragic, contradictory figure; very gifted, a brilliant writer, liked by his friends, hated by the ones he trashed mercilessly, funny and entertaining, well-read and well-traveled. But he had trouble staying in a longer relationship. Both of his marriages —  and quite a few courtships before, during, and after them — ended in divorce. He loved France where he lived for years, but France would not take him in after the Nazis came to power.

He did not pledge alliance to any party. He flirted with Communism, but was never willing to toe the party line. He wore fine suits and liked to dine well. He spent most his life criticizing the Social Democrats. He belittled the Conservatives and he despised the Nazis. Naturally, he was among the first ten authors whose books were burned in 1933 at the Opernplatz in Berlin, together with Karl Marx and Sigmund Freud.


Here is a story from the book Hereafter, where Tucholsky muses about the afterlife.

“I Did Not Pass away without a Trace. Except—”

What time …?”—but his hand was already flopping back down. “Oh,” he said. I smiled. When I noticed the expression in his eyes, I straightened my laugh lines again.
“No time,” he whispered. “Still getting used to the fact that there’s no time anymore. Yes, the good old apriorist … ”
I diverged. “Down there, did you picture time geometrically too?” I asked.
“No, how … ?” he said.
“Like you were living forward in space,” I replied. “Like you could slide back and forth in space-time, forward and backward, playing with everything in space: when someone appears back there, he’s small; when he comes toward us, he gets bigger, and then his form diminishes, disappears—you know?”
“Not really,” he said.
“No?” I asked. “It’s like this:
“The little house I used to live in is standing still. Now it starts moving. At night, when we can’t sleep, we can hear what it’s doing. It’s traveling through time. It’s moving forward so fast that the water of time froths up high in front, off its bow; the house splits time, which flows to the right and left of it, whooshing by all around, and we’re lying in our little bedrooms, carried along, helpless, powerless, ever onward. Now and then a hand slides off the bed, dangling limply, and moving—backward? There is no backward. Sometimes the sleeper flinches in the face of what’s yet to come—but it’s all riding along with him. Premonitions don’t help. When you wake up early in the morning, the house has already stopped somewhere else.”
“Yeah, I did feel something like that,” he said. “No one’s very happy about it though.”
“No,” I said. “No one’s very happy about it. In the end, you’re left with the vague sensation of a host of impressions; it would be fun if you could hit fast-forward and the whole life you’re doomed to live came thundering down all at once. But you couldn’t do that.”
“Did you long to … to come here?” he asked.
“Often,” I said. “I was hungry every livelong day. Hungry for money, then hungry for women, then, when that subsided, hungry for stillness. So hungry for tranquility. And more: hungry for completion. Not having to—not having to travel through time.”
“You pass away without a trace,” he said.
“No,” I said, “you don’t pass away without a trace. No, I’m not talking about monuments—that’s ridiculous. And I know what you’re about to say: immortal works. Please … No, something else. I left something there—yes, I did leave something there.”
“What?” he asked, somewhat ironically.
“I left something for the things,” I said. “Since that day when I saw the ancient piano player in Paris, who my father had seen twenty years earlier in Cologne. He was still playing the same pieces, that wandering virtuoso—the very same ones. And I felt like my dead father was speaking through him. And I told the things something as well. I sent my regards through many things that have endured longer than you and I. I attached a greeting here and a wreath there, a curse here and a defensive silence there … and as I did, I noticed that the things were already full of similar greetings from those who had passed away. Almost every one of them had held onto matter, left traces behind; when you roamed by, pleas, supplications, curses, and blessings rained down from those things that people say are dead. I did not pass away without a trace. Except—”
“Except what?” he asked.
“Except people are illiterate,” I said, “They can’t read it.”
He looked at me and touched the place where his wristwatch used to be. “Come on,” he said, “Let’s go have that afternoon coffee.”

Die Weltbühne, January 19, 1926

Author: Kurt Tucholsky
Translator: Cindy Opitz
Preface: William Grimes
Hardcover, 96 pages, 25 Photos
Genre: Short Stories
Dimensions: 5'' x 8''
ISBN: 978-1-935902-89-8
Suggested Retail $14.95 / 12,00 €


Saturday, November 21, 2020

Wunderbare Fahrten und Abenteuer der kleinen Dott

Wer wollte nicht immer schon auf dem Rücken eines Reihers über eine Landschaft voller glitzernder blauer Seen, alter Schlösser und dunkler Wälder fliegen, in denen Elfen und Elliken leben? Oder einen Kobold im Feuer sehen, der einem die Krone des Schlangenkönigs verspricht, sich von Frau Harke drei magische Grashalme schenken lassen oder in die Zeit zurückreisen, um die Leipziger Messe, die ersten Deiche der Elbe oder die Silesier zu sehen, die vor tausend Jahren nach Breslau gewandert sind? 


Natürlich geht das nicht wirklich, aber nun gibt es ein Buch dazu: "Wunderbare Fahrten und Abenteuer der kleinen Dott", von Tamara Ramsay. Es ist ein Abenteuer- und Entwicklungsroman im Reich der Sagen und der Fantasie, der die Leser durch Deutschland und weit zurück in die deutsche Geschichte führt.


Die Heldin ist ein zwölfjähriges Mädchen, die kleine Dott, die zwischen den beiden Weltkriegen in einem Dorf bei Berlin lebt. Als Dott sich hinausschleicht, um das Lagerfeuer der Mittsommernacht zu sehen, fällt die Blüte einer magischen Pflanze, die Rennefarre, in ihre Schuhe. Dadurch wird sie unsichtbar und kann mit Tieren und magischen Kreaturen sprechen. Und gelegentlich wird sie in die Vergangenheit zurückversetzt.


Auf dem Rücken von Gurian, dem Reiher, und Cornix, der Krähe, fliegt sie über das Land und erlebt Abenteuer, von denen andere nur träumen können. Sie spricht mit Friedrich dem Großen in Potsdam, wird Zeugin der Tempelritter an der Grenze zu Polen, betet mit der heiligen Herzogin Hedwig von Schlesien, gerät mit dem Berggeist Rübezahl aneinander, begegnet Elfen und Kobolden und erlebt den Einmarsch von Napoleon in Dresden. Und sie rettet Klaus in Berlin, einen Jungen, der von einem Wassernix in der Spree verzaubert wurde.


Die drei Bücher, die sich an Jugendliche im Alter von 10 bis 16 Jahren richten, sind jetzt im Berlinica-Verlag neu erschienen, mit den Originalzeichnungen und Umschlägen von Alfred Seidel, die lange Zeit verschollen waren. Die drei Bände sind leicht gekürzt, ohne etwas von ihrem Inhalt zu verlieren. Die Sprache wurde behutsam modernisiert. Das Buch fördert die Freundschaft und Verständigung zwischen Kulturen und Völkern, und den Schutz der Tiere.


Wunderbare Fahrten und Abenteuer der kleinen Dott sind überall erhältlich, wo es Bücher gibt. Buchhändler bekommen sie von der GVA in Göttingen, von Libri und KNV. In den USA ist die Soft-Cover-Version auf Amazon und bald auch auf erhältlich.


Wunderbare Fahrten und Abenteuer der kleinen Dott

Autorin: Tamara Ramsay

Zeichnungen: Alfred Seidel

Genre: Jugendbuch/Fantasie

Gebunden; 272 Seiten

Format: 15,2 x 22,4 cm / 6 x 9''

Ladenpreis: 16,00 € / $20.00



ISBN Band 1: 978-3-96026-036-3

ISBN Band 2: 978-3-96026-037-0

ISBN Band 3: 978-3-96026-038-7


ISBN Band 1: 978-3-96026-044-8

ISBN Band 2: 978-3-96026-045-5

ISBN Band 3: 978-3-96026-046-2




Friday, May 8, 2020

Berlin 1945. World War II: Photos of the Aftermath

May 8, 1945: The Red Army marches into Berlin; World War II is over in Europe. They bring photographers with them, Among them were Mark Redkin and Jewgenij Chaldej.The latter took the iconic photographs of the Red Flag flying over the Reichstag and the Brandenburg Gate. But the photographers also captured images of shelled rubble, rotting corpses, and lost children, heart-wrenching photographs, most never seen before, of Berlin after World War II. They reveal a city in ruins and were taken when half of its five million inhabitants had left or been killed and hundreds of thousands of refugees from the East were stranded among its bombed-out buildings.

The Soviets ruled Berlin for two months before being joined in July 1945 by American, British, and French troops. At that point, the corpses had been buried, the fires quenched, and the Red Cross had set up soup kitchens. The pictures ended up in the archives of Berliner Zeitung, licensed by the Soviet Military Administration (SMAD)  just two weeks after the capitulation of Berlin, followed by the tabloid BZ am Abend. The SMAD also had its own army paper, Tägliche Rundschau. The papers printed these photos taken by Soviet soldiers, along with photos taken by Germans, most notably Otto Donath. Born in Berlin in 1898, Donath died there in 1971, after a long career as a gifted photographer.

The image archives were located on the second floor, where the photos—many rumpled, stained, scratched, and printed on pulpy, low-quality paper—were stored in drawers on long rows of metal shelving. Eventually, they were forgotten. In 1989, the Berlin Wall was torn down. One day in the 1990s, Peter Kroh, then photo editor of the BZ am Abend— meanwhile renamed Berliner Kurier—had a look in those drawers. Kroh sifted through thousands of photos, many of them not properly categorized or credited. Nevertheless, Kroh knew that he had found a treasure trove and soon decided to publish them in a book. This turned into the English-language book Berlin 1945, The author of the text is Dr. Michael Brettin, managing editor of the Sunday issue of Berliner Kurier. It is part of the history of World War II that has never been shared before in America.

Friday, March 6, 2020

Why We Celebrate International Women's Day

Many of you celebrate the women in your lives (or the women you admire) during International Women's Day on March 8.

But did you know that the origins of this global day of observance can be at least partially traced back to German women?

The earliest Women's Day was held in New York City in 1909 in concurrence with an 11-week strike for women's rights, but it wasn't until 1910 that other countries got involved. In August of that year, an International Socialist Women's Conference was organized in Copenhagen, Denmark.

During this meeting, German Socialists Luise Zietz, Clara Zetkin and Käte Duncker advocated for the establishment of an annual Women's Day. They had been inspired by the American observance during the prior year. "When the men are silent, it is our duty to raise our voices on behalf of our ideals," Zetkin said.

One year later, on March 19, 1911, the world's first International Women's Day was marked, with participating countries including Austria, Denmark, Germany, and Switzerland (the United States held its observance on a different day). Women in Europe took to the streets with posters and signs, advocating for their right to vote and hold office, among other topics.

Although several women played a role in the establishment of International Women's Day, Zetkin is perhaps the most well-known. Zetkin was active in the Social Democratic Party of Germany, the Independent Social Democratic Party of Germany and later the Communist Party of Germany, which she represented during the Weimar Republic from 1920 to 1933.

Although the roots of International Women's Day were tied to socialism, the day of observance has evolved over time. This changed when the United Nations began celebrating the day in the year 1975 (the "International Women's Year"). Two years later, the UN General Assembly invited all of its member states to declare March 8 as the UN Day for women's rights.

At the German Embassy in Washington, we have many wonderful women in leadership positions - including our very own German Ambassador, Emily Haber!

To celebrate Women's History Month, a group of us will be running a 5K on the National Mall this weekend, alongside our EU colleagues and American friends. Called the "Her Story 5K", this run recognizes the accomplishments of women across the world. Take a look at the articles in this week's edition of TWIG to read more about some of the women who have changed the world we live in today.

Nicole Glass, Editor, The Week in Germany

This is Rosa Luxemburg, also an early icon of the Women's Movement. The picture is from the book: Kurt Tucholsky: The Short Fat Berliner Who Tried to Stop A Catastrophe With A Typewriter, by Harold L. Poor, about the Weimar Republic.

Friday, February 21, 2020

Fat Tuesday and Rose Monday

Germany is celebrating its so-called "Fünfte Jahreszeit" ("Fifth Season"), which is a reference to Carnival! The Fifth Season officially began on November 11 at 11:11 a.m., but in actuality, Carnival's events take place during one week in February with highlights including Fat Thursday and Rose Monday.

On February 20, Germans celebrated "Weiberfastnacht" (Fat Thursday), which marks the last Thursday before Lent. In the Rhineland - which is where Carnival is celebrated most intensely – work often ends before noon and people wear costumes out on the streets and in local bars.

But men who wear ties on Weiberfastnacht need to be prepared: one of Germany's unique Carnival traditions is that women cut off men's ties with scissors on Fat Thursday, leaving them with nothing but a stump. After all, Weiberfastnacht means "women's carnival night", and this ritual allows them to symbolically strip men of their statuses.

But the biggest celebration of Carnival is still to come next week on "Rosenmontag" (Rose Monday) - a day marked with large parades and street parties. An estimated 1.5 million people watch the Rosenmontag parade in Cologne each year. Although Rose Monday celebrations take place in Germany, Austria, Switzerland, and Belgium, the region with the heaviest celebrations is the Rhineland, particularly in the major cities along the Rhine. The southern part of the Rhineland, however, has its own unique tradition called "Fastnacht", which comes with its own unique customs. Be sure to read about the history of Carnival in this week's edition of TWIG! A number of us are going to be celebrating Carnival tonight - and maybe some of you are, as well!

Nicole Glass, Editor, The Week in Germany

Saturday, February 8, 2020

Skying in Germany

Are you passionate about skiing or snowboarding? Well, so are Germans! In fact, Germany has more skiers than any other country in Europe, with more than 14.6 million Germans partaking in the sport.

But where did this winter sport originate?

Archeological research suggests that ski-like objects date back to 6000 BC, used primarily as tools to cross frozen wetlands and marshes in the wintertime. But recreational skiing is a much more recent activity.

In the 1700s, the Norwegian army held competitions where soldiers would learn how to shoot while skiing. Those races were the precursors to skiing as an Olympic sport. And it didn't take long for it to spread through Europe. Downhill skiing gained popularity in the 1800s and in 1924, the first Winter Olympics were held in Chamonix, France and featured cross-country skiing.

In 1936, downhill skiing was included for the first time in the Winter Olympics, held in Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Germany. Soon thereafter, people began constructing chair lifts and ski resorts, which caused recreational skiing to grow in popularity - especially in the 1950s and 60s.

Today, Germany has about 700 ski resorts, 1,384 ski lifts and 864 miles of slopes, making it a perfect wintertime destination for ski lovers. Many of these lie in the mountainous state of Bavaria. But other regions of Germany - including the Ore Mountains in Saxony - also have their share of winter sports destinations. With that being said, we hope you have a great weekend, potentially on the slopes!

Nicole Glass, Editor, The Week in Germany

Monday, January 27, 2020

Thinking of Rheinsberg on Holocaust Rememberance Day

Kurt Tucholsky's first novel Rheinsberg takes place in a small town of the same name north of Berlin with tinder houses, cobblestone streets, and an old castle. The author, who calls himself Wolfgang, spends a weekend in August 1911 at a lakeside hotel with his girlfriend Claire. Not much is happening in this lighthearted story, but the two young lovers, strolling the town, have a lot of fun.

Claire's real name was Else Weil. She was a medical student from Berlin who would soon become one of Germany's first female doctors. She would also marry Tucholsky but keep working, very unusual at this time. But the marriage with Tucholsky, the unruly spirit and literary genius who had his eyes already set on this second wife Mary Gerold would not last.

In 1933, when the Nazis came to power, Tucholsky, who was Jewish, fled to Sweden. Two years later, stranded without money and without a long-term residency permit and guilt-ridded about his bad choices about the women in his life, he killed himself.

The same year, Else Weil lost permission to practice medicine. She worked as a nanny for her cousin, who took her in. In 1938, after Kristallnacht, she fled to the Netherlands and then to Paris. Here, she met Friedrich Epstein, also a refugee from Nazi Germany. After the Wehrmacht conquered  Paris, they escaped to the — yet unoccupied — south of France. They were rounded up by Vichy authorities, locked up in the concentration camps of Gurs and Les Milles.

In 1942, Else was brought to Drancy, on the outskirts of Paris. She was deported to Auschwitz in September of the same year. Her recorded date of death is December 31, 1942. She was fifty-three years old. Epstein died in Auschwitz one year later.

This is the day we remember the liberation of Auschwitz. But let's also remember a young woman, full of life and compassion, who was made immortal by a weekend-long summer vacation in a small town, with a castle, and a lake, and a lover long gone.

Wednesday, January 22, 2020

Hinkemann, A Tragedy by Ernst Toller, and a Reading

Berlinica is proud to publish Hinkemann, a drama written by the late German playwright Ernst Toller. The book, set in post-WWI Germany is the first in a series on German dramas translated into English.

This Saturday, there will be a dramatic reading at the art gallery Lichtandfire, in Downtown Manhattan. The translator, Mr. Peter Wortsman, will be present.

Date: Saturday, January 25, 2020 at 6:30 PM – 8:30 PM EST
Place: 175 Rivington St, New York, New York 10002

Here is more about the book:

Like Eugene Hinkemann, the main character of his play, Ernst Toller had enlisted in the Kaiser’s army in World War I. And like Hinkemann, he witnessed the horrors of war and got seriously wounded. In 1919, Toller embraced revolutionary change and joined the leadership of the short-lived Bavarian Soviet Republic. He was tried for treason and sentenced to five years. In prison, he completed several of his best plays, including Hinkemann. He established his reputation as one of the foremost German dramatists in the tradition of Jakob Lenz, Georg Büchner, and the young Bertolt Brecht. High profile persona non grata in 1933 when the Nazis came to power, Toller fled to London. Convinced that the world as he knew it had succumbed to the forces of darkness, he took his own life in 1939 in New York.

About Ernst Toller:
Ernst Toller was a playwright, born in the Province of Posen in 1893, then part of Prussia, today under Polish dominion. Upon hearing of the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Ernst Toller, who had been studying law in Grenoble, rushed home to enlist in the Kaiser’s army. But after witnessing the horrors of war firsthand, getting seriously wounded, and suffering a complete physical and psychological collapse, he was disabused of his youthful nationalist political leanings and embraced revolutionary change. In 1919 he joined the leadership of the short-lived Bavarian Soviet Republic in Munich, serving six days as its president, before being captured, tried for treason, and sentenced to five years in prison.

Toller applied the imposed “leisure” of his incarceration in the German prison Niederschönenfeld, 1921-1922, to the completion of several of his best known plays, including Hinkemann, establishing his reputation as one of the foremost young German dramatists at a time when Bertolt Brecht was still a virtual unknown. It was, however, only following his release from prison in 1925 that he got to see his plays performed. Conceived in the German theatrical tradition of Jakob Michael Reinhold Lenz’s Die Soldaten (The Soldiers) and Georg Büchner’s Woyzeck, Toller’s devastating tragedy Hinkemann is a painfully poetic plaidoyer for the overlooked vision and voice of the victim.

Given his notoriety, his Jewish ancestry, political position, and avant-garde artistic stance made him an immediate high profile persona non grata in 1933 when the Nazis came to power. Toller fled to London, went on a lecture tour to the U.S. in 1936, and tried to make a go of it in Los Angeles, where he took an unsuccessful stab at screenwriting. Moving to New York City, he joined a group of like-minded literary émigrés, including Klaus and Erika Mann, the son and daughter of Thomas Mann, both writers in their own right. Though two of his plays were staged in English, they were not well received. Dispirited, despondent upon learning that his brother and sister had been sent to a concentration camp, and convinced that the world as he knew it had succumbed to the forces of darkness, Toller was found dead by hanging, a presumed suicide, in Manhattan in his room at the Hotel Mayflower on May 22, 1939.

About Peter Wortsman:

Peter Wortsman is the author of two stage plays, Burning Words, premiered in 2006 by the Hampshire Shakespeare Company at the Northampton Center for the Arts, MA., and in 2014 in German translation by the ensemble of the Kulturhaus Osterfeld, in Pforz­heim, Germany; and The Tattooed Man Tells All, premiered by the Silverthorne Theater in Greenfield, MA, in 2018. He is the author of three books of short fiction, A Modern Way To Die (1991), Footprints in Wet Cement (2017), and Stimme und Atem/Out of the Breath, Out of Mind, a bilingual German-English

collection, forthcoming in 2019;  a travel memoir, Ghost Dance in Berlin, A Rhapsody in Gray (2013); a novel, Cold Earth Wanderers (2014); and a work of nonfiction, The Caring Heirs of Dr. Samuel Bard, forthcoming in 2019. His critically acclaimed translations from German into English include Posthumous Papers of a Living Author, by Robert Musil, now in its third edition (1988, 2005, 2009); and Tales of the German Imagination, From the Brothers Grimm to Ingeborg Bachmann (2013), an anthology which he also edited and annotated; and Konundrum. Selected Prose of Franz Kafka (2016). Recipient of a 2014 Independent Publishers Book Award (IPPY), he was a fellow of the Fulbright Foundation (1973), the Thomas J. Watson Foundation (1974), and a Holtzbrinck Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin (2010).

Sunday, January 12, 2020

Welcome to 2020 and Happy Beethoven Year!

The year 2020 marks the 30th anniversary of German reunification, which we will celebrate and reflect upon in October. This year also marks the 250th anniversary of Ludwig van Beethoven’s birth year. Although we don’t know the actual date of his birth, we know that the German composer was born in Bonn and baptized on December 17, 1770. And due to his worldwide influence and contributions, the German government declared Beethoven a “matter of national importance” in 2016 and established funding for the 2020 anniversary celebrations.

Throughout the year, Germany will host a number of events in honor of Beethoven, with some of the biggest ones taking place in Bonn – the city of his birth. As the epicenter of the anniversary celebrations, Bonn will host more than 300 events in honor of the composer. Throughout Germany, there will be around 1,000 concerts, opera performances, festivals and exhibitions surrounding Beethoven.

But the celebrations don’t end in Germany; Beethoven’s influence can be seen worldwide, and many other countries – including the US – are honoring him throughout the year.

Beethoven is most famous for his nine symphonies, which have been called the cornerstones of Western civilization. His two most famous ones are the Fifth Symphony and the Ninth Symphony. Although his early years were spent in Germany, he eventually studied in Vienna under Mozart and Haydn and called the city his home. The city of Vienna is preparing to mark the 200th anniversary of his death in the year 2027.

To celebrate the life and works of one of the world’s most famous composers, we will be sharing music, history, and information about this legendary figure throughout the year! 

Nicole Glass, Editor, The Week in Germany

Picture: The Beethoven House in Vienna


Wednesday, January 1, 2020

Happy New Year, and an Invitation to Kurt Tucholsky's Birthday in Berlin

Happy New Year, everybody! This is 2020, and so the Golden Twenties begin ... anew! (or so I hope). The era of music, dance, cabaret, movies, sex, and booze.

Speaking of the Twenties; Kurt Tucholsky, the most famous German Jewish journalist and satirist to write about them would be turning 130 years in January 2020, were he still alive. To celebrate the occasion, Berlinica teamed up with the Projektraum Kurt-Kurt, an art installation space in the house where Tucholsky was actually born, in Berlin-Moabit, at Lübecker Strasse 13.

On the occasion of the birthday, on January 10 — or, actually, one day after the birthday — Professor Ian King, the Chairman of the Tucholsky Foundation will give a talk about Tucholsky — in English — read from his books, and also take questions (as will I). There will be wine and cake, and the opportunity to get Tucholsky's books, in English, but also in German.

Come all and tell all your English-speaking friends in Berlin!

Kurt Tucholsky's Birthday Party
January 10, 2020, 7pm
Lübecker Str. 13
10559 Berlin-Tiergarten
U-Birkenstrasse or Turmstrasse

And here is the invitation in German!

Your Publisher, Eva C: Schweitzer


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