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

Sinclair McKay

St. Martin's Press

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

ISBN10: 1250277507
ISBN13: 9781250277503


464 Pages



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Sinclair McKay's Berlin begins by taking readers back to 1919 when the city emerged from the shadows of the Great War to become an extraordinary by-word for modernity—in art, cinema, architecture, industry, science, and politics. He traces the city’s history through the rise of Hitler and the Battle for Berlin which ended in the final conquest of the city in 1945. It was a key moment in modern world history, but beyond the global repercussions lay thousands of individual stories of agony. From the countless women who endured nightmare ordeals at the hands of the Soviet soldiers to the teenage boys fitted with steel helmets too big for their heads and guns too big for their hands, McKay thrusts readers into the human cataclysm that tore down the modernity of the streets and reduced what was once the most sophisticated city on earth to ruins.

Amid the destruction, a collective instinct was also at work—a determination to restore not just the rhythms of urban life, but also its fierce creativity. In Berlin today, there is a growing and urgent recognition that the testimonies of the ordinary citizens from 1919 forward should be given more prominence. That the housewives, office clerks, factory workers, and exuberant teenagers who witnessed these years of terrifying—and for some, initially exhilarating—transformation should be heard. Today, the exciting, youthful Berlin we see is patterned with echoes that lean back into that terrible vortex. In this new history of Berlin, Sinclair McKay erases the lines between the generations of Berliners, making their voices heard again to create a compelling, living portrait of life in this city that lay at the center of the world.


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

"Great subject, well-researched, brilliantly written. Anyone who wants to understand Berlin's incomparable place at the very center of twentieth century history should begin with Sinclair McKay's remarkable, mesmerizing book."—Keith Lowe, author of Savage Continent and The Fear and the Freedom

"McKay's powerful imagery and magnetic prose combine to produce an electrifying new account of Berlin. 'You cannot understand the twentieth century without understanding Berlin,' claims the author. He makes a compelling case."—Julia Boyd, author of Travelers in the Third Reich

"Powerful. Visceral. Truly revelatory. Beautifully written and utterly compelling. I didn't think Sinclair McKay could top his previous book, which was masterful. He has proven me wrong with Berlin."—Damien Lewis, author of SAS Bravo Three Zero

"Anecdotally rich . . . McKay’s sparkling prose and expert mining of archival material results in a memorable study of a city."Publishers Weekly

Reviews from Goodreads


Read an Excerpt

1. The Dwellers in the Dark

They were living their lives either beneath the ground or deep within concrete. They were buried. Somehow, this was endurable. Across the city of Berlin there were a thousand or so specially constructed...

About the author

Sinclair McKay

SINCLAIR MCKAY is a features writer for The Telegraph and The Mail on Sunday. He is also the acclaimed author of the bestselling The Secret Life of Bletchley Park and The Fire and the Darkness.

Liam Bergin

Sinclair McKay