Monday, September 12, 2011

Berlin, 1938

[Berlin in Bildern]

Cool dinosaur skeleton, huh?

But - oh, whoopsie! Look down there on the left-hand side of the photo. What's that little flag doing there?

[Berlin in Bildern, ed. Dr. Robert von Wahlert. Berlin: Verlag Scherl, 1938.]

The other day I was snouting around the Hospice shop in Takapuna when I came across this book, Berlin in Bildern [Berlin in pictures]. It cost the princely sum of $2. Even so, I was about to put it back on the shelf when I noticed the date:

Die Reichshauptstadt ist in einen entscheidenden neuen Abschnitt ihrer Geschichte getreten. Nach dem Willen des Führers wird die vor einiger Zeit in Angriff genommene städtebauliche Neugestaltung ihr innerhalb weniger Jahre ein in wesentlichen Zügen durchaus anderes, ein schöneres und klareres Gesicht geben.

Das Berlin von heute aber, innerhalb kurzer Menschenalter in stürmischer Entwicklung zur Weltstadt emporgewachsen, ist Millionen zur Heimat geworden, in der sie wurzeln, wie nur ein Mensch in seiner Heimat wurzeln kann. Berlin ist darüber hinaus unserem Volke und der ganzen Welt als politischer Mittelpunkt Deutschlands ein wesentlicher Ausdruck deutschen Wesens und Deutscher Art.

Die räumlichen Ausmasse der Stadt und die Vielfalt der Umstände, die auf ihre bauliche, wirtschaftliche, verkehrspolitische, auf ihre gesamte kulturelle Entwicklung eingewirkt haben, machen es dem Besucher der Reichshauptstadt, ja schon dem Berliner selbst oft nicht leicht, ein einheitliches, übersichtliches Bild von ihr zu gewinnen.

Ich begrüsse es daher, wenn es in dem vorliegenden Buch in Wort und Bild unternommen wurde, eine Darstellung der Reichshauptstadt zu geben, so wie sie heute ist, und zugleich in ihrem Erícheinungsbild die Buntheit ihres Entstehens zu deuten.

Berlin, im Juni 1938

Oberbürgermeister und Stadtpräsident

It's quite difficult to make out the signature. A bit of research reveals, however, that it's that of Dr. Julius Lippert (1895–1956), Mayor of Berlin between 1937 and 1940.

Here he is again, collecting money for some patriotic purpose (the flowers they appear to be handing out suggests that it might be the German equivalent of Poppy Day):

["The capital of the Reich has entered a decisive new phase in its history. According to the Führer's will, some time ago a redevelopment project was launched, which has succeeded in creating in a few short years ... a better and clearer face for the city.

The Berlin of today, however, within a short lifetime ... has become home to millions. They are rooted here, as a man can only be rooted in his homeland.

I welcome, therefore, what has been done in this book in words and pictures to give an account of the imperial capital as it is today, and also to indicate in this beautifully rich way the variety of its structures.

Berlin, June 1938

Dr. Lippert

Mayor and State President"

Or words to that effect, at any rate ...

Yep, June 1938. After the Berlin Olympics (which Lippert helped to organise), after the March Anschluss with Austria, but before the Munich conference in September and (more to the point) the Kristallnacht pogrom on the night of 9th-10th November 9-10 - the so-called “Night of the Broken Glass” ...

It's a bit like that Hitchcock scenario about the two men meeting in the cafe and having a very boring conversation about nothing in particular. On and on they drone. There's nothing interesting about it at all.

Except that the cinema audience saw a man leaving a suitcase under the table shortly before they sat down, and we've been shown that there's a bomb in it.

The longer the excruciating chatter of the two men goes on, the greater grows our anticipation that the bomb will go off and kill them ...

The clock is ticking ... will they get up and go away in time? Who knows? All may yet be well, they could still be saved ...

But no real salvation is possible. As Hitchcock concludes, "The bomb must always go off." That's his first rule of narrative.

For "Hitchcock", read "History".

It's a pretty bizarre book, not that that's exactly surprising. On the one hand it's full of pastoral scenes of people enjoying themselves in parks and bars:

On the other hand there are a fair few hints of what's to come:

Better get used to rolling out those hoses, guys ...

And whose noble tomb is this, beside the floodlit dome?


Nice little Wagnerian echo there, a boat called the Rheingold ...

What a lovely, atmospheric city.


April 9
The Mayor of Berlin orders public schools not to admit Jewish children until further notice.


January 5
The Law on the Alteration of Family and Personal Names forbids Jews from changing their names.

April 22
The Decree against the Camouflage of Jewish Firms forbids changing the names of Jewish-owned businesses.

April 26
The Order for the Disclosure of Jewish Assets requires Jews to report all property in excess of 5,000 reichsmarks.

November 9-10
Kristallnacht (“The Night of Broken Glass”)

Yes, life is fantastic in the new Berlin. Just one or two little readjustments of the borders of the greater Reich to be made, and the future is assured ...


Richard said...

I searched for that book - there seem to be only about 5 for sale anywhere. In Germany only. Strange how it got here...I have picked up some really strange stuff in op shops and s/h shops.

That's a great find and will be valuable especially as part of other books related. Valuable to you as for what you see in it...and indeed ticking bomb is a brilliant example! Hitchcock...I recall watching a whole series of his films on TV in the late 70s I think it was. (Also series of Bogart movies but I forget what they were.) He also ran or hosted a series of Horror movies. Funnyman he is...but just right!

Fascinating. The price I would put on it if with a d/w? About $60.00

Or even without a d/w...the thing is, it is quite unique in its way and very hard to get here. Point is also to have a higher rather than lower price on any book so you can negotiate your total value more flexibly if ever youself off your books or auction them (or some of them). My view in any case.

Dr Jack Ross said...

I'm well aware that the above comment is simply site-advertising spam, but it seemed a bit better written than the generality of such messages ... I therefore thought I'd pusblish it anyway. Why not, after all?