A Princess in Berlin
In 1922 and 1923, the German capital was trying to recover from defeat, the fall of the Kaiser, and a Communist revolution. brutally put down by private armies--the Freikorps. Forced to sign the Versailles Treaty, the Germans experienced the worst inflation in history, and the destruction of the middle class. However, the very rich preserved their exquisite lives: boating parties, summer palaces. chamber music in great townhouses on Sunday afternoons…and the city pulsed with new concepts of art, theatre, literature --and politics.
Into this feverish society comes Peter Ellis, a young man from a Philadelphia Quaker family. Peter drove an ambulance on the Western Front, was felled by shellshock, has gradually recovered and is trying to become a painter in Paris. There he runs into Christoph Keith a former German officer whose life Peter saved at Verdun. Christoph now works for Waldstein & Co. Berlin bankers whose Jewish ancestors converted to the Protestant church, rode in the Prussian cavalry against Napoleon, produced a famous 19th century poet, financed the industrial revolution in Germany, and received titles of nobility.
Christoph Keith and Bobby von Waldstein bring Peter to Berlin, and introduce him to their different worlds.
The Keiths are Prussian officers, members of a class that used to rule Germany, now poor, and seething about Germany's defeat. Christoph has a good job at Waldstein's,-- and is in love with a real princess --but his brother Kaspar, unemployed Freikorps veteran, joins with other right-wing extremists to destroy the Weimar Republic--and to murder its Jewish Foreign Minister, Walther Rathenau.
Peter Ellis continues to paint, taking lessons from Fritz Falke, cynical Communist whose savage cartoon-like pictures show Berliners at their worst, whose voluptuous wife and sister-in-law pose for Peter--and sleep with him. But Peter is in love with young Lili von Waldstein…
A Princess in Berlin is a superb novel of cumulative power--a vivid panorama of the heedless German-Jewish aristocracy blind to the coming disaster, --and two bittersweet love stories.
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