Traveling through Berlin 1947

The Stadtmuseum Berlin has made me very very happy by posting a short video that shows what you would’ve seen if you’d traveled on the Sbahn through Berlin from the Jannowitzbrücke station to Bahnhof Zoo in 1947. Old photographs are blended in at the right moment of the journey, with captions in German.

It’s a great way to see what progress the city had made just 2 years after the end of World War II. The streets look swept clean, trees have been planted here and there, but in places — especially between the Bellevue and Tiergarten stations, the city is a wasteland.

This is a fascinating look at a moment in Berlin’s postwar history.

The German Heiress is here!

My debut novel set in postwar Germany is out in the US and Canada — finally! If you’re more into audiobooks, here’s the link to a sneak excerpt of the US version (The German Heiress, read by Lisa Flanagan)— and the UK version (Finding Clara, read by Honeysuckle Weeks). Which do you like better?

The German Heiress is now available in a whole lot of places: I’ve been getting photos of it at grocery stories in different parts of the US if you crave a physical book during the lockdown. Otherwise, it’s also available (as is Finding Clara) in ebook and audio. Hope you enjoy!

I’ll be doing more regular posts soon, but the last 6 weeks or so have been utterly crazy. Stay safe and healthy!

Losing a piece of old Berlin

I was so sad to hear that Clärchens Ballhaus, my favorite place in all of Berlin, has closed down. Every time I was there, it felt like I stepped back in time to the ballrooms of the 1920s and 1930s. Apparently there’s a new owner and it will be open again after renovations, but *not* renovating was kind of Clärchens’ charm. It looked and felt like the real thing, a nightclub from about 100 years ago. It had the peeling plaster and bullet holes in the mirrors to prove it. It offered tango and cha-cha nights. The waiters wore waistcoats. The last time I was in Berlin, I spent several hours in Clärchens’ various rooms stuffing myself with food and drinks and taking pictures. I’m glad, since Clärchens may never look like this again.

I wasn’t sure what happened  to Clärchens after World War II until I got my hands on the official history, Berlin tanzt in Clärchens Ballhaus by Marion Kiesow. From 1942, the Ballhaus closed down under the Nazis (dancing was forbidden), and was used by German army staff officers needing somewhere to pour over their maps. Once Germany surrendered they left a lot of paper behind that Clärchens – open again! – turned to its blank white side and used as “tablecloth.”

Soon the Red Army appeared, using Clärchens courtyard for their horses. But on Saturday, July 14, 1945, the Ballhaus finally opened again for the business of dancing and having fun. The building was in bad shape from the bombardments and fighting, but people climbed through the rubble for a chance to dance and drink a thin kind of punch. The man shortage meant every man could dance the night with constantly changing partners.

Though Clärchens was in the new Soviet Sector of occupied Berlin, people from all over the city could go there in the early years after the war. Those were hard years for most, and some people sought their escape in “Bonbons” – drugs in sweets wrappers that were sometimes openly sold table to table.

By the way, there really was a Clärchen – Clara Bühler, the wife of the original owner of the dance hall at Auguststr. 24. After World War I, she ran the place herself, and for the rest of the century, it was known as Clärchens.

I hope it reopens one day, and with its old charm and authenticity.

 

Spitfire by M.L. Huie

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SpitfireI’ll be back to normal posts soon, but I can’t resist celebrating the launch of M.L. Huie’s postwar espionage novel Spitfire, out today in the United States. It’s set in 1946 just like my book, so it feels like Spitfire and The German Heiress /Finding Clara are story siblings.

Spitfire is about a female spy and it has Ian Fleming in it too, so I’ve wanted to read it ever since I was lucky enough to meet Michael via a 2020 Debut authors group. Here’s the description from his website:

It’s the day of the London Victory Celebrations 1946. World War II is over, and former spy Livy Nash is celebrating with her third drink before noon. She went to war to kill Nazis. Dropped behind enemy lines as a courier, she quickly became one of the toughest agents in France. But her war ended with betrayal and the execution of the man she loved.

Now, Livy spends her days proofreading a demeaning advice column for little ladies at home, and her nights alone with black market vodka.

But everything changes when she meets the infamous Ian Fleming.

The man who will create the world’s most sophisticated secret agent has an agenda of his own and sends Livy back to France with one task: track down the traitor who killed the only man she ever loved. Livy jumps at the chance, heading back to Paris undercover as a journalist. But the City of Lights is teeming with spies, and Livy quickly learns just how much the game has changed. With enemies on every corner and ever-shifting alliances, she’ll have to learn to fight a new war if she wants to conquer the past.

I just downloaded Spitfire, and as a classic spy novel fan, I’m ridiculously excited to read it. I hope some of you will take a look too. p.s. Book 2 in the Livy Nash series should be coming out later in the year. Congratulations, Michael!