A fascinating new book on the Roaring 20s in Berlin
As the capital of Germany's former Weimar Republic, the city became a symbol of art, leisure and crime. A new book recalls a golden era that is celebrating an artistic comeback.
Dance on a grand stage
The large-sized book published by Germany's Taschen Verlag relies on the illustrations of acclaimed designer Robert Nippoldt. The pictures are mostly in black-and-white, tinged with bronze. Accompanied by texts written by Boris Pofalla, the work "Es wird Nacht im Berlin der Wilden Zwanziger" (Night Falls in Berlin of the Roaring Twenties) has turned out to be a literary delight.
Berlin was notorious for its wild night-life
After the end of the devastating First World War, Berliners felt an urgent need to have some fun again. Leisure, amusement and diversion were top priorities, and the best time to enjoy them was at night when the neighbors couldn't see you. The pictures and texts of the book reflect Berlin's nightly splendor and glamor.
Berliners were sports enthusiasts
Sports events were also important leisure activities. Boxing stars such as Max Schmeling drew huge crowds into the stadiums. Biking races in the sports palace at Potsdamer Strasse were an absolute must for the young and the old, for the rich and not-so-rich. They all assembled in the pompous sports location, sipping huge amounts of champagne.
Spot on the grand stage
Performances by famous stars and dance combos in Berlin's "Wintergarten" stood in the limelight. To quote author Boris Pofalla: "It's dark in the Wintergarten, only visible is the light of two huge projectors. An audience of 3,000 is listening to the voice of Claire Waldoff. The singer with a repertoire of 300 pieces has reached the climax of her fame."
A rather dubious scene — prostitutes all over the place
A record number of 130,000 women and men were alleged to have been "employed" in the hustling business. "The Whore Berlin" is the title of this illustration in the book which includes texts explaining what often went on in Berlin's bars and lvenues.
Political conventions and gatherings
The Weimar Republic also became known for its social and political tensions. Speakers of various political parties and movements tried to convince the population of their views both on the streets and in huge halls and stadiums. These tensions continued to grow and ultimately exploded.
A calamitous pact
In spite of its title referring to the 1920s, the book by Nippoldt and Pofalla doesn't end with December 31st, 1929, but also grapples with the years until 1933. The golden era came to an abrupt end when the Nazis seized power. No other image could better illustrate the upcoming disaster than President Paul von Hindenburg shaking hands with future dictator Adolf Hitler.
A fateful fire engulfs Germany's parliament at the Reichstag
One of the book's illustrations depicts the "Reichstagsbrand," a fire engulfing the German parliament building on February 28, 1933. Hitler's takeover not only spelled disaster for Europe and the world, but also for German culture. Countless artists were arrested, assassinated or expelled. The new book about Berlin highlights one of Germany's greatest periods, but one that ended in catastrophe.