The original cover of Haffner’s novel, left; new interest in it has led to a reissue and an English translation, right.
SONNY FIGUEROA / THE NEW YORK TIMES
In the Saturday, February 14 edition of The New York Times, culture reporter William Grimes explores the fascinating history behind Blood Brothers: the novel’s ban from the Nazis, its years of disappearance, its rediscovery, and its road to publication. He writes:
For many German readers, it seemed as though a time capsule had been unearthed, transmitting a live report from the final days of the Weimar Republic…All the more intriguing, then, that the novel… had lain hidden for so many years…Haffner, who has the eye of a documentarian and a keen interest in particulars, describes the grim workings of welfare offices, cheap lodging houses, jails and youth detention centers as well as the public warming stations where, in desperation, freezing Berliners could escape the damp and the cold for a few hours.
Grimes speaks to Eric Weitz, Dean of Humanities and Arts and Distinguished Professor of History at the City College of New York, who speculates as to why the Nazis banned the book:
The fact that it depicted an underworld milieu that was not nationalistic, not upright in the Nazi view of things, would have been enough reason to burn it
He also speaks to Rolf Lindner, who provides insights into Haffner’s possible influences:
As a journalist, he knew the literature and the contemporary discourse on the youth question very well…In the book, you will find elements of Lampel’s reports as well as traces of Döblin’s Alexanderplatz and, at least in my opinion, of Fritz Lang’s movie M.