Background – Berlin

Two events at the Book Festival this week have got us thinking about Berlin in the 30s. The first was the event with Martin Davidson to promote his new book “The Perfect Nazi”, which tells the extraordinary true story about his German grandfather, who was a committed Nazi and member of the SS.

A Berlin dentist, he joined the party in 1926 when he was 19, and remained true to Hitler and the Nazi ideology throughout his life. He loved being in the SS, and worked in intelligence, never actually getting blood on his hands, but certainly involved in decision making and intelligence. He regarded being a Nazi as “The biggest adventure of my life”, and after the war, after a few years lying low, was surprisingly able to return to Berlin and his dental practice. Davidson has done painstaking research on his grandfather’s life, searching the Bundesarchiv in Berlin for information and documents. He has uncovered a fascinating history about the life and beliefs of this middle-ranking Nazi. Davidson’s mother left Germany when she was 18 and came to Edinburgh, where she studied, worked and married. Davidson was brought up in Edinburgh, with occasional visits to his grandparents in Berlin, and the occasional visit from his grandfather to Edinburgh. The war was something not to be discussed – it was forbidden territory. It took many years, with the perspective of time, before Davidson felt able to pursue this story, and the result is an absorbing account of family history and the ideas behind Nazi thinking.
The second Book Festival event was with Philip Kerr, another author originally from Edinburgh, who has written a series of detective novels set in 30s Berlin. His anti-Nazi detective is Bernie Gunther, who pounds the mean streets solving crime and trying to remain politically unnoticed. Kerr too has had to do a lot of research to try and recreate 30s Berlin as accurately as possible – the streets, the bars, the people, the attitudes. The work promoted at the Book Festival “If the Dead Rise Not” finds Bernie forced into retirement since the Nazis took control of Berlin and working for security in the Adlon Hotel. There are two murders to solve, one involving a Jew, and Bernie becomes involved with Nazi officials and the building of the new Olympic Stadium. Good on atmosphere, and rich in detail, Bernie Gunther books are a great read about a fascinating city at a fascinating time.

The Perfect Nazi: Uncovering My SS Grandfather’s Secret Past and How Hitler Seduced a Generation
and If the Dead Rise Not: A Bernie Gunther Mystery:
are available from Amazon

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