The real resonances, and warnings, of Weimar Germany

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Berlin Alexanderplatz. By Alfred Döblin. Translated by Michael Hofmann. NYRB Classics; 480 pages; $18.95. Penguin Classics; £14.99.

EARLY in “Babylon Berlin”, a lavish new television series, Gereon Rath, a police detective from Cologne, is sent to the German capital in 1929 to investigate a mafia pornography ring. Extremists have taken to the streets. The parallels between then and now are glaring. Moka Efti, the meticulously recreated nightclub where much of the action plays out, stands for louche contemporary society. As a review in the Times put it, “for the National Socialists, read Alternative for Germany” (AfD), the insurgent far-right party; “for the League of Nations, the European Union”; and for the Weimar Republic, modern Germany.

Weimar is a popular reference point these days, in Germany and beyond. A retrospective on its cinema was a highlight of last month’s Berlinale, the capital’s international film…Continue reading

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