Berlin: Life and Death in the City at the Center of the World

St. Martin’s. Aug. 2022. 464p. ISBN 9781250277503. $29.99. HIST
Berlin is outstanding among cities for its unique industrial, intellectual, scientific and artistic vigor. Journalist McKay (The Fire and the Darkness: The Bombing of Dresden) traces the spirit and history of Berlin from the end of World War I through the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. The city’s novel culture is illustrated through Berlin luminaries like Albert Einstein, film director William Wyler, actress Hildegarde Knef, and artist George Grosz. The lives of everyday Berliners, especially during World War II, are also explored through memoirs and diaries. The city’s contradictory mix of tradition, avant-garde, rich, poor, obedient, anarchy, history, and modernity thrives, despite being at the heart of global geopolitics for most of the 20th century. The Nazis caused near destruction of the city by 1945, and the Soviets literally split it with a wall. But when it was torn down 44 years later, Berlin’s spirit as a whole was triumphant.
VERDICT Readers with an interest in the life of cities, 20th-century European history, World War II, and the Cold War will appreciate McKay’s well-researched book.
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