Sunday, May 31, 2015
I just returned from a wonderful weekend in Berlin. I met some awesome teachers from around the United States and learned so much about the history of Berlin and experienced the unique German culture. It was amazing. The German people are so nice and friendly. The public transportation system is awesome, the food is good and the history is memorable.
The are a multitude of books and films that take place in Berlin. If you can't travel there in person, you can always take a literary journey.
Here are some of the books I found:
The Good German by Joseph Kanon
This is the book I took to Germany with me. I always read a book that takes place in the area I am traveling to. I knew I wanted a book that started after WWII and this was it. It was perfect. I visited many of the places I was reading about in the book. It was so cool. I learned so much about the occupation of Germany after the war and the devastation that permeated Berlin.
Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:
With World War II finally ending, Jake Geismar, former Berlin correspondent for CBS, has wangled one of the coveted press slots for the Potsdam Conference. His assignment: a series of articles on the Allied occupation. His personal agenda: to find Lena, the German mistress he left behind at the outbreak of the war.
When Jake stumbles on a murder -- an American soldier washes up on the conference grounds -- he thinks he has found the key that will unlock his Berlin story. What Jake finds instead is a larger story of corruption and intrigue reaching deep into the heart of the occupation. Berlin in July 1945 is like nowhere else -- a tragedy, and a feverish party after the end of the world.
As Jake searches the ruins for Lena, he discovers that years of war have led to unimaginable displacement and degradation. As he hunts for the soldier's killer, he learns that Berlin has become a city of secrets, a lunar landscape that seethes with social and political tension. When the two searches become entangled, Jake comes to understand that the American Military Government is already fighting a new enemy in the east, busily identifying the "good Germans" who can help win the next war. And hanging over everything is the larger crime, a crime so huge that it seems -- the worst irony -- beyond punishment.
At once a murder mystery, a moving love story, and a riveting portrait of a unique time and place, The Good German is a historical thriller of the first rank.
Joseph Kanon has a new book out called Leaving Berlin, released in April 2015. This one takes
Here is the synopsis from Goodreads:
From the bestselling author of Istanbul Passage, called a "fast-moving thinking man's thriller" by The Wall Street Journal, comes a sweeping, atmospheric novel of postwar East Berlin, a city caught between political idealism and the harsh realities of Soviet occupation.
Berlin 1948. Almost four years after the war's end, the city is still in ruins, a physical wasteland and a political symbol about to rupture. In the West, a defiant, blockaded city is barely surviving on airlifted supplies; in the East, the heady early days of political reconstruction are being undermined by the murky compromises of the Cold War. Espionage, like the black market, is a fact of life. Even culture has become a battleground, with German intellectuals being lured back from exile to add credibility to the competing sectors.
Alex Meier, a young Jewish writer, fled the Nazis for America before the war. But the politics of his youth have now put him in the crosshairs of the McCarthy witch-hunts. Faced with deportation and the loss of his family, he makes a desperate bargain with the fledgling CIA: he will earn his way back to America by acting as their agent in his native Berlin. But almost from the start things go fatally wrong. A kidnapping misfires, an East German agent is killed, and Alex finds himself a wanted man. Worse, he discovers his real assignment is to spy on the woman he left behind, the only woman he has ever loved. Changing sides in Berlin is as easy as crossing a sector border. But where do we draw the lines of our moral boundaries? Betrayal? Survival? Murder?
Filled with intrigue, and the moral ambiguity of conflicted loyalties, Joseph Kanon's new novel is a compelling thriller and a love story that brings a shadowy period of history vividly to life.
Psychological thriller set in Berlin during the Cold War, based on an actual (but little known) incident which tells of the secret tunnel under the Soviet sector which the British and Americans built in 1954 to gain access to the Russians' communication system. The protagonist, Leonard Marnham, is a 25-year-old, naive, unsophisticated English post office technician who is astonished and alarmed to find himself involved in a top-secret operation. At the same time that he loses his political innocence, Leonard experiences his sexual initiation in a clandestine affair with a German divorcee five years his senior. As his two secret worlds come together, events develop into a gruesome nightmare, building to a searing, unforgettable scene of surrealist intensity in which Leonard and his lover try to conceal evidence of a murder. Acting to save himself from a prison sentence, Leonard desperately performs an act of espionage whose ironic consequences resonate down the years to a twister of an ending. Though its plot rivals any thriller in narrative tension, this novel is also a character study--of a young man coming of age in bizarre circumstances, and of differences in national character: the gentlemanly Brits, all decorum and civility; the brash, impatient Americans; the cynical Germans.
Alone in Berlin by Hans Fallada
Translated by Michael Hoffman
This book was suggested by one of my tour guides in Berlin.
"The greatest book ever written about German resistance to the Nazis." -Primo Levi
This never-before-translated masterpiece-by a heroic best-selling writer who saw his life crumble when he wouldn't join the Nazi Party-is based on a true story.
It presents a richly detailed portrait of life in Berlin under the Nazis and tells the sweeping saga of one working-class couple who decides to take a stand when their only son is killed at the front. With nothing but their grief and each other against the awesome power of the Reich, they launch a simple, clandestine resistance campaign that soon has an enraged Gestapo on their trail, and a world of terrified neighbors and cynical snitches ready to turn them in.
In the end, it's more than an edge-of-your-seat thriller, more than a moving romance, even more than literature of the highest order-it's a deeply stirring story of two people standing up for what's right, and each other.
Hans Fallada was one of Germany's best-selling authors-ranking with Thomas Mann and Hermann Hesse-prior to the rise of the Nazis. But while those writers fled Germany, Fallada stayed. Refusing to join the Nazi Party, he suffered numerous difficulties, including incarceration in an insane asylum. After the war, he wrote Every Man Dies Alone based on an actual Gestapo file. He died just before its publication in 1947.
There is excellent Non-Fiction as well. Several of the books here were suggested by one of my tour guides in Berlin.
Berlin Diaries, 1940-1945 by Marie Vassiltchikov
The secret diaries of a twenty-three-year-old White Russian princess who worked in the German Foreign Office from 1940 to 1944 and then as a nurse, these pages give us a unique picture of wartime life in that sector of German society from which the 20th of July Plot -- the conspiracy to kill Hitler -- was born.
In The Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's Berlin by Erik Larson
The time is 1933, the place, Berlin, when William E. Dodd becomes America’s first ambassador to Hitler’s Germany in a year that proved to be a turning point in history.
A mild-mannered professor from Chicago, Dodd brings along his wife, son, and flamboyant daughter, Martha. At first Martha is entranced by the parties and pomp, and the handsome young men
of the Third Reich with their infectious enthusiasm for restoring Germany to a position of world prominence. Enamored of the “New Germany,” she has one affair after another, including with the suprisingly honorable first chief of the Gestapo, Rudolf Diels. But as evidence of Jewish persecution mounts, confirmed by chilling first-person testimony, her father telegraphs his concerns to a largely indifferent State Department back home. Dodd watches with alarm as Jews are attacked, the press is censored, and drafts of frightening new laws begin to circulate. As that first year unfolds and the shadows deepen, the Dodds experience days full of excitement, intrigue, romance—and ultimately, horror, when a climactic spasm of violence and murder reveals Hitler’s true character and ruthless ambition.
Suffused with the tense atmosphere of the period, and with unforgettable portraits of the bizarre Göring and the expectedly charming--yet wholly sinister--Goebbels, In the Garden of Beasts lends a stunning, eyewitness perspective on events as they unfold in real time, revealing an era of surprising nuance and complexity. The result is a dazzling, addictively readable work that speaks volumes about why the world did not recognize the grave threat posed by Hitler until Berlin, and Europe, were awash in blood and terror.
Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600–1947
by Christopher Munro Clark
Iron Kingdom traces Prussia's involvement in the continent's foundational religious and political conflagrations: from the devastations of the Thirty Years War through centuries of political machinations to the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire, from the enlightenment of Frederick the Great to the destructive conquests of Napoleon, and from the "iron and blood" policies of Bismarck to the creation of the German Empire in 1871, with all that implied for the tumultuous twentieth century.
Here are some movies and documentary films that one of the tour guides suggested to watch if you
want to learn more about Germany and Berlin.
The Good German was made into a film in 2006.
Girls in Uniform (also a book) was made into a film in the 1930s.
BBC- Behind Closed Doors on World War II
BBC - Frederick the Great and the Enigma of Prussia
The BBC films can be found on YouTube.
Are there other books and film you suggest?
Enjoy your literary journey to Berlin.