A brief synopsis of the book is that it's the history of a lake house built next to a small lake just outside Berlin. The writer starts out talking about the people who bought the land around the lake in the very late 1800s. Later, they started renting plots of land to people to build summer houses next to the lake. The house in question passed through 5 different families after originally being built. The history of those families involves the suppression of Jews in Nazi Germany, the problems of surviving in World War II, the Soviet occupation of Berlin, the Berlin wall, and the reunification of Germany in the 1990s.
Barb was impressed by the extensive amount of research that the author had to do in order to write the book.
The following is a collection of the comments made by all of us.
While the book was focused on this one house and the people who had lived in it, the story ends up providing insight into many aspects of German history in the 20th century. One of the owners of the house, while not Jewish himself, ran a music publishing business which had problems because most of their original artists were Jewish.
After the end of World War II and again after reunification several of the families laid claims to the house and/or land on which it stood because of it being taken away by the government at various times.
Because the house stood right outside Berlin it ended up being just on the East Berlin side of the Berlin wall when it was built. The discussion of the wall, how it was built, how it was guarded, and what happened when it was torn down all provide very interesting reading. One little story which is included concerns one of the men who was living in the house. One night, after a heavy round of drinking, he and a friend decided to escape over the wall into West Berlin. After a harrowing trip, including climbing over two walls and swimming 500 yards across the lake, they successfully made it! After being warmed up and given dry clothes by a restaurant owner on the West Berlin side of the wall, they decided that it was time to go back home! Their wives would be too upset if they didn't, so they swam back over the lake and went home.
The book discusses how the hundreds of thousands of people who crossed from East Germany into West Germany triggered the building of the Berlin wall in the first place.
The book ends up with a discussion of how the author, a descendant of the original owner of the house, was able to get the house to be declared a historical monument and then persuaded several of his extended family and people from the nearby town to help him to restore it.
You can read more about the restoration project and see pictures of the house on the web site alexanderhaus.org.
For November the book that we will be discussing is "Rebel Land: Unraveling the Riddle of History in a Turkish Town" by Christopher de Bellaigue. The meeting will be organized by Andrea.
I hope to see you then.