Cover image for In a cold crater : cultural and intellectual life in Berlin, 1945-1948
In a cold crater : cultural and intellectual life in Berlin, 1945-1948
Schivelbusch, Wolfgang, 1941-
Uniform Title:
Vor dem Vorhang. English
Publication Information:
Berkeley : University of California Press, [1998]

Physical Description:
xiii, 230 pages ; 24 cm.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
DD866 .S3513 1998 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area

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Although the three conspicuous cultures of Berlin in the twentieth century--Weimar, Nazi, and Cold War--are well documented, little is known about the years between the fall of the Third Reich and the beginning of the Cold War. In a Cold Crater is the history of this volatile postwar moment, when the capital of the world's recently defeated public enemy assumed great emotional and symbolic meaning.

This is a story not of major intellectual and cultural achievements (for there were none in those years), but of enormous hopes and plans that failed. It is the story of members of the once famous volcano-dancing Berlin intelligentsia, torn apart by Nazism and exile, now re-encountering one another. Those who had stayed in Berlin in 1933 crawled out of the rubble, while many of the exiles returned with the Allied armies as members of the various cultural and re-educational units. All of them were eager to rebuild a neo-Weimar republic of letters, arts, and thought. Some were highly qualified and serious. Many were classic opportunists. A few came close to being clowns. After three years of "carnival," recreated by Schivelbusch in all its sound and fury, they were driven from the stage by the Cold War.

As Berlin once again becomes the German capital, Schivelbusch's masterful cultural history is certain to captivate historians and general readers alike.

Author Notes

Wolfgang Schivelbusch is an independent scholar who divides his time between New York and Berlin. His books include The Railway Journey (California paperback, 1986), Disenchanted Night (California, 1988), and Tastes of Paradise (1992). Kelly Barry is a scholar and translator living in Baltimore.

Reviews 1

Choice Review

Schivelbusch, an independent cultural historian, is best known in this country for his imaginative books on the transformation of time and space through lighting and railroad travel in the early industrial age and the popularization of stimulants and intoxicants. Here he has combined his earlier work on German opera and theater to re-create the peculiar cultural milieu of Berlin during the interlude between the grips of Hitler and the Cold War. In a remarkably Romantic, postmodern gaze on the ruins of 1945 Berlin he finds a majesty and promise for creativity almost reminiscent of a fascist aesthetic and Albert Speer's "ruin value." Although he concedes that the actual production in literature, theater, film, radio, and the periodical press never reached the greatness of the pre- and post-WW I decades, he celebrates this brief period when Berlin was a last window of cultural openness in a Europe rapidly constricted by the narrowing confrontation of the Cold War. In contrast to the extensive evidence of David Pike's massive The Politics of Culture in Soviet-Occupied Germany, 1945-1949 (1992), Schivelbusch believes that the Kulturbund, led by the prominent communist writer Johannes R. Becher, was a genuine attempt to create a nonpartisan forum for all nonfascist intellectuals and not a communist attempt to lure intellectuals. Upper-division undergraduates and above. D. Prowe; Carleton College