Part Two: The Story
Jay, a handsome young emissary of the Bank of Ontario, arrives in Frankfurt to look into the possibility of acquiring a German bank. After a casual meeting in a bar, he makes friends with Hans, who runs a company selling old books on the Internet. Jay has always had historical interests and, while pursuing his investigations, is drawn into a publishing project that follows the discovery of old diaries and documents of various kinds. They were left behind by the grandparents of one of Hans’s companions, and by a friend of theirs, when they left Frankfurt to emigrate to New York in the ’thirties, the Nazis having found them racially undesirable. These papers are the basis of the novel.
The grandparents are Hanni and Hermann Geisel, and their friend, Erwin Herzberg. The novel is divided into three parts. Part One: Hanni’s diaries, written during the International Exhibition of Music, which was held in the summer of 1927 in Frankfurt to observe the centenary of Beethoven’s death. Part Two: excerpts of Erwin’s memoirs written years later, and Part Three, Hermann’s assorted letters and papers, under the title The Anti-Republic.
Hanni was an amateur musician with literary interests and a prominent hostess, Erwin a well known journalist specializing in popular culture and Hermann a pacifist lawyer who chronicled the miscarriages of justice carried out by the right-wing judiciary. Many judges had condoned the hundreds of murders committed by early Nazis between 1919 and 1923, including the murder of Rosa Luxemburg.
The centerpiece of the novel is a short detective story written by Hanni revolving around the theft of a lock of Beethoven’s hair, which was to be shown at the Exhibition.
Readers will recognize many well-known characters from the arts and politics. The novel demonstrates that by 1927 the Weimar Republic was stabilizing. It implies that it would have survived had it not been for the crash of 1929, which launched Hitler who, up to then, had been a marginal figure. One running theme is the traumatic shock suffered by the German military in 1918 when their last offensive collapsed. Having believed in the inevitability of victory, they were unprepared for defeat.
During the course of the novel Hanni falls in love with Erwin. It is not clear to the reader, until the end, what Hanni’s husband Hermann has to say about this.
The resolution suggests that among the many contributions to modernity made by the Weimar Republic, the concept of triangular marriage under certain conditions was among the more interesting.
Tomorrow: a review of the novel by the author
A series of videos about the Weimar Republic and The Weimar Triangle have been posted at YouTube.