the berlin story


Berlin’s image as an outpost of America within Germany was established long before the 1920s. Mass spectator sport in the form of six-day cycle races antedated the war; the first such event was held in New York in 1896, and they were introduced into Berlin in 1909. In Georg Kaiser’s Expressionist drama Von morgens bis mitternachts (From Morning to Midnight, probably written in 1912), the mass excitement aroused by a cycle race leads the protagonist briefly to hope that such collective feeling can form the basis for a new society. The editors take a gloomier view, seeing in such large-scale sporting events the prototype for the mass spectacles organized under the Third Reich; the Berlin Olympics of 1936 come readily to mind. The narrative that emerges from the extracts assembled by Frisby and Boyd Whyte inevitably terminates in the Third Reich. Hitler’s state did not reject the modernity typified by Berlin, but adapted and redirected it. For example, the factory of the Borsig engineering company in Tegel was used to produce anti-aircraft guns instead of locomotives. Light effects like those at Karstadt were further developed so that Mussolini, paying a state visit in 1937, was greeted as he drove along Unter den Linden by the semblance of hundreds of golden eagles.

more from Ritchie Robertson at the TLS here.