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BEFORE THE DELUGE: A Portrait of...

BEFORE THE DELUGE: A Portrait of Berlin in the 1920s by Otto Friedrich (HarperPerennial: $15.; 418 pp., illustrated). An Atlantis of beauty and decadence doomed to perish in the fires of the Nazi regime, the Weimar Republic holds a morbid fascination for Americans. In this exceptional history, the author of “City of Nets” interweaves an account of the extraordinary efflorescence in the arts and physics with the sorry tale of Hitler’s rise to power. Although Otto Friedrich notes that the flamboyant hedonism of the era seems tame by contemporary standards, he allows the reader to draw his own parallels between Germany in the ‘20s and America in the ‘90s. He sadly ponders how a sophisticated society could possibly believe that “Adolf Hitler, a semiliterate incompetent, a failure in everything he had ever attempted, somehow had the skill and intelligence to solve all the nation’s problems.”


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