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Friday, February 9, 2018

Babylon Berlin

Babylon Berlin is a great show, it's got guys and dolls and heroes and villains and murder and mayhem. But it's also great because it portrays a country going through very trying times, struggling to find its way. And that, I think, is the more important part. It's entertaining and subconsciously instructive.

A bunch of stuff gets mentioned in the show which sound like they might be real things, but who knows? Maybe it was all made up, so I did a little checking, and it all turned out to be true. Okay the dates might not align perfectly, but they all happened in the period between World Wars 1 and 2, so close enough for the purposes of this story.

In the foreground we have vice cops chasing after pornographers and blackmailers, while in the background the nationalists are building a secret army.
Black Reichswehr was the name for the illegal paramilitary formations promoted by the German Reichswehr army during the time of the Weimar Republic; it was raised despite restrictions imposed by the Versailles Treaty.
Secret German airbase in Lipetsk Russia
A reporter claims that hundreds of people have been murdered by the nationalists. Pushed to extremes, or maybe just encouraged by demigogues, people resort to violence.

Schloss Drachenburg
Some of the conspirators have ties to large industrial firm that holds their board meetings in a fabulous castle (above). The place looks almost too perfect, too fabulous to be real, but it is not someone's CGI fantasy, it is a real castle.

There is an attempted coup in the show, which sounds a whole lot like the K├╝strin Putsch. In the show, the coup revolves around assassinating French Foreign Minister Aristide Briand and German Foreign Minister Stresemann, who were both real people.

The assassinations are to take place at Theater am Schiffbauerdamm during a performance of Brecht's Threepenny Opera.

die moritat von mackie messer
from the 1931 film
Songs from The Threepenny Opera have been widely covered and become standards, most notably "Die Moritat von Mackie Messer" ("The Ballad of Mack the Knife") . . . 
The song "Mack the Knife" was witten by Kurt Weill for his wife Lotte Lenya. The leading lady of Babylon Berlin is called Lotte, short for Charlotte.

Phosgene WW2 Warning Poster
The evil princess Svetland Sorokin conspires with some anti-Stalinist conspirators to smuggle a fortune out of Russia disguised as just one more railroad tank car of Phosgene gas. The conspirators hook their treasure car onto the back of the train in Novorzhew, now in Russia, formerly part of the Soviet Union (map). Phosgene is some nasty shit.
In May 1924, eleven tons of phosgene escaped from a war surplus store in central Hamburg. Three hundred people were poisoned, of whom 10 died.
The Visit Berlin web site has a page devoted to some of buildings used in the show.

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