Magazine article The Spectator

High Living

Magazine article The Spectator

High Living

Article excerpt

Occasionally, one stumbles across something delightfully quirky on Radio Four that one knows would never be aired anywhere else; such was the case with The Reichsmarschatt's Table, produced by Dennis Sewell and tucked away on Monday evening last week. The table in question was for the Nazi general Hermann Goering in the 1930s and 40s at Berlin's renowned restaurant Horcher's, named after the family that owned it. It was here that Goering courted industrialists for their support for the Nazi cause while, at another table, members of the German resistance were plotting to arrest Hitler to consign him to a lunatic asylum. The plot failed, because the day Hitler was due back in Berlin, Neville Chamberlain chose to visit him in Bavaria.

The presenter, historian Giles MacDonogh, traced the history of this restaurant from its opening in Berlin in 1904 to the present day where, incongruously, it survives in Madrid serving food with Spanish names but of German origin, including Goering's favourite dish, Viennese fried chicken. Like the original Horcher's, it favours elites and royalty. There was a personal element to MacDonogh's research for this programme. When Germany annexed Austria, Otto Horcher, the son of the founder, bought a fashionable restaurant in Vienna; its owners were Jews who were banned from running businesses and members of MacDonogh's family. Later, the sybaritic Goering took over Maxim's in Paris whose owner asked Horcher to run it during the occupation so as to protect the restaurant's fine cellars from the Germans.

A tussle between Dr Goebbels, an austere Marxist who hated the high-living, flamboyant Goering, a flying hero from the first world war, led to the closure of the Berlin Horcher's in 1943, and the family, who weren't Nazis, were helped by Goering to escape to Spain. Photographs of its famous customers - not Goering, incidentally - adorn the walls. They include members of the Spanish and Dutch royal families and King Hussein. So, a restaurant steeped in grim, modern history, even more so had Hitler been arrested and war prevented. I found The Reichsmarschall's Table a fascinating programme about a little-known aspect of Nazi Germany.

There comes a time when the one-sidedness of the debate about the war in Iraq and the Bush administration becomes wearying on BBC radio. I thought this on Monday morning this week when the first part of Start the Week was given over to a less excitable than Michael Moore but almost as deranged-sounding American film-maker called Eugene Jarecki, whose film Why We Fight appeared on the digital television station BBC Four this week. …

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