The Struggle for the Streets of Berlin
Politics, Consumption, and Urban Space, 1914-1945
Cambridge University Press 2018
New Books in European StudiesNew Books in GeographyNew Books in German StudiesNew Books in HistoryNew Books in Peoples & PlacesNew Books in Politics & SocietyNew Books in Sociology August 26, 2020 Michael E. O’Sullivan
Who owns the street? This is the question that animates The Struggle for the Streets of Berlin: Politics, Consumption, and Urban Space, 1914-1945 (Cambridge University Press) by Molly Loberg.
Interwar Berliners faced this question with great hope yet devastating consequences. In Germany, the First World War and 1918 Revolution transformed the city streets into the most important media for politics and commerce. There, partisans and entrepreneurs fought for the attention of crowds with posters, illuminated advertisements, parades, traffic jams, and violence.
The Nazi Party relied on how people already experienced the city to stage aggressive political theater, including the April Boycott and Kristallnacht. Observers in Germany and abroad looked to Berlin’s streets to predict the future. They saw dazzling window displays that radiated optimism. They also witnessed crime waves, antisemitic rioting, and failed policing that pointed toward societal collapse.
Recognizing the power of urban space, officials pursued increasingly radical policies to ‘revitalize’ the city, culminating in Albert Speer’s plan to eradicate the heart of Berlin and build Germania. The book was awarded the prestigious Hans Rosenberg Book Prize of 2018 and has recently been released in paperback.
Michael E. O’Sullivan is Professor of History at Marist College where he teaches courses about Modern Europe. He published Disruptive Power: Catholic Women, Miracles, and Politics in Modern Germany, 1918-1965 with University of Toronto Press in 2018. It was recently awarded the Waterloo Centre for German Studies Book Prize for 2018.
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