Imperial Berlin

Imperial Berlin

Imperial Berlin

Imperial Berlin

Excerpt

I embarked on this study of imperial Berlin with a certain amount of confidence. Considering my own background, I believed I could expect clear sailing. I was born in the imperial city in the first year of the new century, and into a family of lawyers and physicians, many of whom had served their government faithfully and well. I attended the Kaiser Wilhelm Real Gymnasium, and spent my free hours roaming through the numerous parks that crisscrossed the city—the Tiergarten, the Charlottenburg gardens, the Bellevuepark. Occasionally I saw the Kaiser in his heavy greatcoat walking along the leafy paths of these parks, or riding at the head of the guards when parades filed down the length of Unter den Linden. Early in life I was taken to the museums and concert halls, the theatres and opera houses that made Berlin a prime example of a gilded age. In due time I became a student at the University of Berlin, and eventually began my teaching career in the classrooms of my alma mater. Fortified by such memories, I advanced upon my assignment with some assurance.

But when, after many years of exile, I returned to the city of my birth to engage in the actual research for this book, I soon realized that I had become the victim of illusions. The city of my boyhood no longer existed. It had been first destroyed by the wanton changes inflicted upon it by the megalomania of Adolf Hitler; later the Allied bombs had ravaged it, and finally the Russian artillery had completed the devastation. What is now called Berlin bears no resemblance to the old imperial city. Entire sections have been wiped out; streets and squares have been renamed and monuments have been shifted. The new buildings could fit very naturally into the landscape of Chicago or Iowa City. It came . . .

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