Goodbye to Berlin

Page Quote Location
10 – 11

“At the corner of the Motzstrasse, when the weather is fine, there stands a shabby pop-eyed man beside a portable canvas booth. On the side of the booth are pinned astrological diagrams and autographed letters of recommendation from satisfied clients.”

“Frl. Schroeder goes to consult him whenever she can afford the mark for his fee. In fact, he plays a most important part in her life. Her behaviour towards him is a mixture of cajolery and threats. If the good things he promises her come true she will kiss him, she says, invite him to dinner, buy him a gold watch: if they don’t, she will throttle him, box his ears, report him to the police.”

GO THERE
17

“Frl. Hippi Bernstein, my first pupil, lives in the Grünewald, in a house built almost entirely of glass. Most of the richest Berlin Families inhabit the Grünewald. It is difficult to understand why. Their villas, in all known styles of expensive ugliness, ranging from the eccentric-coco folly to the cubist flat-roofed steel-and-glass box, are crowed together in this dank, dreary pinewood. Few of them can afford large gardens, for the ground is fabulously dear: their only view is of their neighbour’s backyard, each one protected by a wire fence and a savage dog. Terror of burglary and revolution has reduced these miserable people to a state of siege. They have neither privacy nor sunshine. The district is really a millionaire’s slum.”

GO THERE
31

“A few days later, he took me to hear Sally sing. The Lady Windermere (which now, I hear, no longer exists) was an arty ‘informal’ bar, just off the Tauentzeinstrasse, which the proprietor had evidently tried to make look as much as possible like Montparnasse. The walls were covered with sketches on menu-cards, caricatures and signed theatrical photographs – (‘To the one and only Lady Windermere.’ ‘To Johnny, with all my heart.’) The Fan itself, four times life size, was displayed above the bar. There was a big piano on a platform in the middle of the room.”

GO THERE
32

“Then Sally rang up, as she had promised, to invite me to tea. She lived a long way down the Kurfürstendamm on the last dreary stretch which rises to Halensee. I was shown into a big gloomy half-furnished room by a fat untidy landlady with a pouchy sagging jowl like a toad. There was a broken-down sofa in one corner and a faded picture of an eighteenth-century battle, with the wounded reclining on their elbows in graceful attitudes, admiring the prancing of Frederick the Great’s horse.”

GO THERE
69 – 70

“Next morning, Frl. Schroeder woke me in great excitement: ‘Herr Issyvoo, what do you think! They’ve shut the Darmstädter und National! There’ll be thousands ruined, I shouldn’t wonder! The Milkman says we’ll have civil war in a fortnight! Whatever do you say to that!’

As soon as I’d got dressed, I went down into the street. Sure enough, there was a crowd outside the branch bank on the Nollendorfplatz corner, a lot of men with leather satchels and women with strings bags – women like Frl. Schroeder herself. The iron lattices were drawn down over the bank windows. Most of the people were staring intently and rather stupidly at the locked door. In the middle of the door was fixed small notice, beautifully printed in Gothic type, like a page from a classic author. The notice said that the Reichs-president had guaranteed the deposits. Everything was quite all right. Only the bank wasn’t going to open.”

GO THERE
123

“The entrance to the Wassertorstrasse was a big stone archway, a bit of old Berlin, daubed with hammers and sickles and Nazi crosses and plastered with tattered bills which advertised auctions or crimes. It was a deep, shabby cobbled street, littered with sprawling children in tears. Youths in woollen sweaters circled waveringly across it on racing bikes and whooped at girls passing with milk-jugs. The pavement was chalk-marked for the hopping game called Heaven and Earth. At the end of it, like a tall, dangerously sharp, red instrument, stood a church.”

GO THERE
145

“He [Pieps] was a clever pickpocket and worked chiefly in an amusement-hall in the Friedrichstrasse, not far from the Passage, which was full of detectives and getting too dangerous nowadays. In this amusement-hall there were punch-balls and peep-shows and try-your-grip machines. Most of the boys from the Alexander Casino spent their afternoons there, while their girls were out working the Friedrichstrasse and the Linden for possible pick-ups.”

GO THERE
145 – 146

“Pieps lived together with his two friends, Gerhardt and Kurt, in a cellar on the canal-bank, near the station of the overhead railway. The cellar belonged to Gerhardt’s aunt, an elderly Friedrichstrasse whore, whose legs and arms were tattooed with snakes, birds and flowers. Gerhardt was a tall boy with a vague, silly, unhappy smile. He did not pick pockets, but stole from the big department-stores. […] He gave everything he stole to his aunt, who cursed him for his laziness and kept him very short of money.”

GO THERE
151

“In the Wassertorstrasse one week was much like another. Our leaky stuffy little attic smelt of cooking and bad drains. When the living-room stove was alight, we could hardly breathe; when it wasn’t we froze. The weather had turned very cold.”

GO THERE
158

“One afternoon, a few days after Christmas, I visited the Wasserstorstrasse again. The lamps were alight already, as I turned in under the archway and entered the long, damp street, patched here and there with dirty snow. Weak yellow gleams shone out from the cellar shops. At a hand-cart under a gas-flare, a cripple was selling vegetables and fruit. A crowd of youths, with raw, sullen faces, stood watching two boys fighting at a doorway: a girl’s voice screamed excitedly as one of them tripped and fell. Crossing the muddy courtyard, inhaling the moist, familiar rottenness of the tenement buildings, I thought: Did I really live here? Already with my comfortable bed-sitting-room in the West End and my excellent new job, I had become a stranger to the slums.”

GO THERE
160

“Not long after this I got a call from Otto himself. He had come to ask me if I would go with him the next Sunday to see Frau Nowak. The sanatorium had its monthly visiting-day: there would be a special bus running from Hallesches Tor.”

GO THERE
161

“There was a bumpy cart-track winding for several kilometres through snowy pine-woods and then, suddenly, a Gothic brick gateway like the entrance to a churchyard, with big red buildings rising behind. The bus stopped. Otto and I were the last passengers to get out. We stood stretching ourselves and blinking at the bright snow: out here in the country everything was dazzling white. We were all very stiff, for the bus was only a covered van, with packing-cases and school-benches for seats. The seats had not shifted much during the journey, for we had been packed together as tightly as books on a shelf.”

GO THERE
170

“One night in October 1930, about a month after the Elections, there was a big row on the Leipzigerstrasse. Gangs of Nazis roughs turned out to demonstrate against the Jews. They manhandled some dark-haired, large-nosed pedestrians, and smashed the window of all the Jewish shops. The incident was not, in itself, very remarkable; there were no deaths, very little shooting, not more than a couple of dozen arrests. I remember it only because it was my first introduction to Berlin politics.”

GO THERE
176

“We sat for a little in a café near the Zoo Station and ate ice. The ices were lumpy and tasted slightly of potato.”

GO THERE
187

“Bernhard had a flat in a quiet street not far from the Tiergarten. When I rang at the outer entrance, a gnome-like caretaker peeped up at me through a tiny basement window, asked whom I wished to visit, and finally, after regarding me for a few moments with profound mistrust, pressed a button releasing the lock of the outer door. This door was a heavy that I had to push it open with both hands; it closed behind me with a hollow boom, like the firing of cannon.”

GO THERE
202

“The car whirled along the black Avus, into the immense darkness of the winter countryside. Giant reflector signs glittered for a moment in the headlight beams, expired like burnt-out matches. Already Berlin was a reddish glow in the sky behind us, dwindling rapidly beyond a converging forest of pines. […]”

GO THERE
202

“[…] The searchlight on the Funkturm swung its little ray through the night. The straight black rad roared headlong to meet us, as if to destruction. In the upholstered darkness of the car, Bernhard was patting the restless dog upon his knees.”

GO THERE
203 – 204

“‘Very well, I will tell you … we are going to a place on the shores of the Wannsee which used to belong to my father. What you call in England a country cottage’ […]

The car swung to the right, downhill, along a road through silhouette trees. There was a feeling of nearness to the big lake lying invisibly behind the woodland on our left. I had hardly realized that the road had ended in a gateway and a private drive: we pulled up at the door of a large villa. […]

After dinner, we walked the windy garden, in the darkness. A string wind was blowing up through the trees, from over the water. […]

The dark lake was full of waves, and beyond, in the direction of Potsdam, a sprinkle of bobbing lights were comet-tailed in the black water. On the parapet, a dismantled gas-bracket rattled in the wind, and, below, us the waves splashed uncannily soft and wet, against unseen stone.

GO THERE
215

“As we came to the Tauentzeinstrasse, they were selling papers with the news of the shooting on the Bülowplatz. I thought of our party lying out there on the lawn by the lake, drinking our claret-cup while the gramophone played; and of that police-officer, revolver in hand, stumbling mortally wounded up the cinema steps to fall dead at the feet of a cardboard figure advertising a comic film.”

GO THERE
226 – 227

“Tonight, for the first time this winter, it is very cold. The dead cold grips the town in utter silence, like the silence of intense midday summer heat. In the cold the town seems actually to contract, to dwindle to a small black dot, scarcely larger than hundreds of other dots, isolated and hard to find on the enormous European map. Outside, in the night, beyond the last new-built blocks and concrete flats, where the streets end in frozen allotment gardens, are the Prussian plains. You can feel them all round you, tonight, creeping in upon the city, like an immense waste of unhomely ocean […].

Berlin is a skeleton which aches in the cold: it is my own skeleton aching. I feel in my bones the sharp ache of the frost in the girders of the overhead railway, in the iron-work of balconies, in bridges, tramlines, lamp-standards, latrines. The iron throbs and shrinks, the stone and the bricks ache dully, the plaster is numb. […]

Berlin is a city with two centres – the cluster of expensive hotels, bar, cinema, shops round the Memorial Church, […]”

GO THERE
227

“[…] a sparkling nucleus of light, like a sham diamond, in the shabby twilight of the town; and the self-conscious civic centre of buildings round the Unter den Linden, carefully arranged. In grand international styles, copies and copies, they assert our dignity as a capital city – a parliament, a couple of museums, as State bank, a cathedral, and opera, a dozen embassies, a triumphal arch; nothing has been forgotten. And they are all so pompous, so very correct – all except the […]”

GO THERE
227

“- all except the cathedral, which betrays in its architecture, a flash of that hysteria which flickers always behind every grave, grey Prussian façade. Extinguished by its absurd dome, it is, at first sight, so startlingly funny that one searches for a name suitably preposterous – the Church of the Immaculate Consumption. […]”

GO THERE
227

“[…] But the real heart of Berlin is a small damp black wood – the Tiergarten. At this point of the year, the cold begins to drive the peasant boys out if their tiny unprotected villages into the city, to look for food, and work. But the city, which glowed so brightly and invitingly in the night sky above the plains, is cold and cruel and dead. Its warmth is an illusion, a mirage of the winter desert. It will not receive these boys. It has nothing to give. The cold drives them out if its streets, into the wood which is its cruel heart. And there they cower on benches, to starve and freeze, and dream of their far-away cottage stove.”

GO THERE
230

“At the far end of the Potsdamerstrasse, there is a fair-ground, with merry-go-rounds, swings, and peep-shows. One of the chief attractions of the fair-grounds is a tent where boxing and wrestling matches are held. You pay your money and go in, the wrestlers fight three or four rounds, and the referee then announces that, if you want to see anymore, you must pay an extra ten pfennings.”

GO THERE
242 “Today is ‘Silver Sunday’. The streets are crowed with shoppers. All along the Tauentzeinstrasse, men, women, and boys are hawking postcards, flowers, song-books, hair-oil, bracelets. Christmas-trees are stacked for sale along the central path between the tram-lines. Uniformed S.A. men rattle their collecting-boxes. In the side-streets, lorry-loads of police are waiting; for any large crowd, nowadays, is capable of turning into a political riot. […]” GO THERE
243

“Early this evening I was in the Bülowstrasse. There had been a big Nazi-meeting at the Sportpalast, and groups of men and boys were just coming away from it, in their brown or black uniforms. Walking along the pavement ahead of me were three S.A. men. They all carried Nazi banners on their shoulders, like rifles, rolled tight around the staves – the banner-staves had sharp metal points, shaped into arrow-heads. […]”

GO THERE
245

“Today, January 22nd, the Nazis held a demonstration on the Bülowplatz, in front of the Karl Liebknecht House. For the last week the communists have been trying to get the demonstration forbidden: they say it is simply intended as a provocation – as, of course, it was. I went along to watch it with Frank, the newspaper correspondent.”

“As Frank himself said afterwards, this wasn’t really a Nazi demonstration at all, but a Police demonstration – there were at least two policemen to every Nazi present. Perhaps General Schleicher only allowed the march to take place in order to show who are the real masters of Berlin. Everybody says he’s going to proclaim a military dictatorship.

GO THERE
247

“Every evening, I sit in the big half-empty artists’ café by the Memorial Church, where the Jews and left-wing intellectuals bend their heads together over the marble tables, speaking in low, scared voices. Many of them know that they will certainly be arrested – if not today, then tomorrow or next week. So they are polite and mild with each other, and raise their hats and inquire after their colleagues’ families. Notorious literary tiffs of several years’ standing are forgotten.”

GO THERE
249

“This morning, as I was walking down the Bülowstrasse, the Nazis were raiding the house of a small liberal pacifist publisher. They had brought a lorry and were piling it with the publisher’s books. The driver of the lorry mockingly read out the titles of the books to the crowd: ‘Nie Wieder Krieg!’ he shouted, holding up on of them by the corner of the cover, disgustedly, as though it were a nasty kind of reptile. Everybody roared with laughter. “’No More War!’” echoed a fat, well-dressed woman, with a scornful, savage laugh. ‘What an idea!’”

GO THERE

Source

Isherwood, Christopher. Goodbye to Berlin. London: Vintage. 1998.