I have written a novel, Farewell Berlin. Why write a book? I always wanted to, but never found the time. Retirement eliminated that excuse. I have spent the last four years writing and editing Farewell Berlin, a historical novel, a work of fiction.
More importantly, why this topic? I was always interested in the interwar period, the deadly calm between two devastating wars. Democracy was in its infancy in Europe and there was so much creativity — Berlin was the center of culture: music, art, literature, cinema, and the sciences. And Jews were in the forefront.
Germany was my parent’s world, but unfamiliar to me. My father was born in Berlin, my mother in Zwickau in Saxony. They married in Berlin, leaving in 1939, on the last boat out of Rotterdam. My father was 29, my mother 26. They survived — most of my father’s large family didn’t; my mother’s family emigrated to Palestine. My parents didn’t come from someplace familiar, the Minneapolis north side or Chicago, places I know or could know.
I set out to understand their world, the everyday indignities, what they must have endured from 1933 to 1939. I wanted to feel what they felt. That’s impossible, but I tried. It was at times depressing, but satisfying in that for moments I felt part of their world: the little and not so little indignities, the legal prohibitions, the insults, the shattered relationships. That history is well documented, so I rooted around, researched, read.
My parents wouldn’t talk about it and as a kid I didn’t ask. Sure, there were a few stories; and several are in the book. By then I had endless questions, but both my parent had died. So armed with those few stories; a slim memoir of escape by a relative, Herman Mahlerman, called The Fugitive; and an imagination, I started writing.
I created Sonny, a young man the same age as my father, born in 1909, 23 years old when Hitler came to power in January 1933. He’s not my father — this is not a family memoir. I imagined a Berlin in the 1930s, the end of the Republic, the rise and consolidation of the Third Reich and filled it with fictional people. This is a story of Sonny’s maturation: from a guy who did a little of this, a little of that to something much bigger. In the waning days of the Republic, with Europe on the verge of turning upside down, Sonny turns to smuggling, traveling often to Aachen and over the border to Belgium, to bring contraband back to Berlin. In January 1933, Hitler’s rise to power changes his life and that of thousands of others beyond recognition. Out of the gloom Sonny and his friends hatch a scheme… An adventure story: in part a love story, at times heartbreaking, full of interesting characters, and full of action!
Information on the book, comments by readers, coming events, and how to purchase hard copies and an ebook are on the website: www.farewellberlin.com