1932, the eve of the Nazi seizure of power: Germany beset with street violence, hunger, anti-Semitism, and despair; civil war threatens. The "typical" Deutsch family fights to survive. The story begins with Pitt Deutsch, inventor and self-made millionaire, whose millions evaporate in the hyperinflation, then follows Deutsch's seven children in their struggles with poverty and indignity: Klara, broken by her efforts to support the family; Susi, mistress of a businessman, reduced to bringing home extra food; Peter, an unemployed chemist, suicidally depressed; Max, who falls in love with a Jewish woman, encountering Germany's growing anti-Semitism first hand. The two youngest brothers, unemployed and undereducated, become Nazis.
Claire Bergmann's novel was positively reviewed by some of Germany's most prominent critics, including Hans Fallada and Siegfried Kracauer. Not surprisingly, given the work's democratic leanings, it was banned soon after the Nazis began to exert total control. Bergmann never wrote another book, disappearing from sight in 1935. This first English translation will find immediate interest among all readers interested in the end of Weimar and the rise of the Nazis. It is a message in a bottle from the last moment when German democracy's survival seemed possible.
Richard Bodek is Professor of History at the College of Charleston, South Carolina. His book Proletarian Performance in Weimar Berlin was published by Camden House in 1997.