The Weimar era (1918-33) in Berlin was a time and place like no other. For many, especially fans of Cabaret or Babylon Berlin, a mere mention of the city’s roaring twenties calls to mind glamour, artistic and sexual freedoms, a pioneering LGBT movement, and astonishing, even nihilistic decadence. Yet this was also a time of bloody revolution, of hyperinflation and of the galvanization of the National Socialist movement for which Berlin was a most undesirable capital. Let’s explore this remarkably paradoxical time with the Essential Weimar Berlin tour.
On this tour, we’ll explore the turbulent history of what was, a century ago, the second Communist city of the world after Moscow. In Potsdamer Platz, we’ll see where the November Revolution of 1918 transpired in the wake of utter chaos at the end of World War One, Kaiser Wilhelm II having abdicated and abandoned his capital – and we’ll find the last glimpses of the old square which remain, concealed in plain sight within the modern business district. We’ll see where Karl Liebknecht, comrade of ‘Red’ Rosa Luxemburg, denounced the Kaiser, where Adolf Hitler breakfasted, and where Annie Oakley nearly changed history. We’ll visit the remains of the grand Hotel Esplanade (home to American Ambassador William Dodd of In The Garden of Beasts fame) and see where beloved characters from Philip Kerr’s Bernie Günther (in the Berlin Noir series) to Volker Kutscher’s Commissioner Gereon Rath (in Babylon Berlin) cast wry glances over a city in transition. We’ll find traces of the 1920s on Potsdamer Strasse with its touches of Art Deco, and have a snack in the Joseph-Roth-Diele, a perfect time capsule.
It was in this city that Josephine Baker performed her ‘Dance of the Savages’ and rode in her ostrich-driven cart through streets peopled with tycoons, veteran soldiers-turned-paupers, and sex workers. It was here that Marlene Dietrich caught the eye of Joseph von Sternburg and won the part in ‘The Blue Angel’ which launched her career as one of the most versatile, tenacious, and libidinous stars of the 20th century. Dadaism and Futurism flourished, and Sebastian Droste, erstwhile lover of Anita Berber (who loved chloroform-dipped roses for breakfast), cut a striking figure in his hat made of spoons..! We’ll see where the Moka Efti nightclub once stood, and where astonished observers such as Christopher Isherwood and Stefan Zweig scribbled the copious notes to the memoirs of their Berlin years.