The Berlin series of comic books are a historic look at the city of Berlin in the Great Depression. In total there have been 22 issues across three books, the first of which is featured on the 1001 list. I plan to read the follow ups (City of Smoke and City of Light) now I have finished off the first book, but wanted to write this now before my view is too coloured by later issues.
In the first issues that make up Berlin: City Of Stones we are focused mainly on 1928-29 – with Blutmai – a bloody massacre executed by the police on members of the Communist Party of Germany as they went on a peaceful march through the streets – being the end point. Whilst there are a number of through-lines, there are no real main characters – although the death of one of the ensemble at the end of City of Stones was pretty shocking as she was shot through the heart.
The boiling pot of Germany in this era of history is one that I learned about in history class and of which much has been written about. I imagine that City of Light will go even further into the rise of the National Socialist party, something that does appear in these earlier volumes but only to give us a sense of what was brewing in terms of sentiment and not yet as a major threat.
Given what happened next, it is hard to forget that in this time period Berlin was still a massive cultural centre with their cabaret, art movements and even some more liberal attitudes towards homosexuality (at least compared to previous time periods and to other cities around the world).
To see this beginning to collapse due to the economic hardships and the poison of the different political movements fighting for the country’s soul is profoundly sad. In City Of Stones we see this reflected through the large ensemble cast who take different levels of ownership of the destinies of themselves and their country. It’s an interesting series and I am interested to see how far into the rise of the Nazi party it ends up going.