Mapping Berlin

Representations of Space in the Weimar Feuilleton

by Frances Mossop (Author)
©2015 Monographs XXIV, 224 Pages


This book was the winner of the 2013 Peter Lang Young Scholars Competition in German Studies.

The Weimar period (1919–1933) generated an immense wealth of writings that recorded impressions of daily life in the German capital of Berlin. Literary journalism, in particular, experienced a surge in popularity at the time and played a vital role in informing the public about the ‘new world’ that was emerging after the First World War.
This book offers an original approach to the German feuilleton of the 1920s and early 1930s by exploring how authors engaged with the space of Berlin on the page. Drawing on recent spatial theory, the author focuses on the role of geography and cartography in the journalistic oeuvres of Joseph Roth, Gabriele Tergit and Kurt Tucholsky. Central to this study is an interdisciplinary and comparative approach to the examination of their feuilleton articles by foregrounding spatiality within the context of literary analysis. The book demonstrates how Roth, Tergit and Tucholsky depict contemporary concerns through spatial representation, thus yielding new insights into the authors’ narration of the history, society and politics of the Weimar Republic.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the Author
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • List of Illustrations
  • Acknowledgements
  • Preface
  • Chapter 1: Introduction
  • Chapter 2: The Prominence of Space: Representative Sites in the Weimar Feuilleton
  • Chapter 3: The Geography of Joseph Roth’s Berlin
  • Chapter 4: Gabriele Tergit’s Personal Topographies
  • Chapter 5: Spatiality in Kurt Tucholsky’s Feuilleton Articles
  • Conclusion
  • Bibliography
  • Index

| vii →


1 Joseph Roth, around 1935 © ÖNB Wien, Bildarchiv NB 506412 B.

2 Alexanderplatz and Scheunenviertel, Pharus Plan, 1929 © by www.dein-plan.de.

3 Gabriele Tergit, London, 1977 © Renate von Mangoldt.

4 Invalidenstraße and Lehrter Bahnhof, Pharus Plan, 1929 © by www.dein-plan.de.

5 Kurt Tucholsky, around 1924 © bpk – Bildagentur für Kunst, Kultur und Geschichte, Berlin.

6 Kurfürstendamm and Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche, around 1930 © akg-images, AKG55567.

| ix →


This study is based on research I completed for a PhD in German at the University of Exeter between 2009 and 2013. My sincerest gratitude goes to my supervisor, Professor Ulrike Zitzlsperger, for her guidance and tireless support. She has been a strong and inspirational adviser to me throughout and beyond my university years, and her assistance and enthusiasm have been a great source of motivation. I am also indebted to my second supervisor, Professor Chloe Paver, for her additional insight and advice. Further special thanks go to my external examiner, Professor David Midgley, as well as my internal examiner, Professor Sara Smart. It was the generous funding provided by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) that enabled me to undertake the research for this project, for which I am most thankful. Further thanks go to the editorial board of the 2013 Peter Lang Young Scholars Competition in German Studies, especially Dr Laurel Plapp at Peter Lang Oxford.

All quotations from the works of Gabriele Tergit are reproduced with the kind permission of the publisher Schöffling & Co., Frankfurt am Main. I also thank Peter Lang Oxford for granting me permission to use material from a previous version of one of the book’s chapters, which has been published in Discovering Women’s History: German-Speaking Journalists (1900–1950), edited by Christa Spreizer (Oxford: Peter Lang 2014), 267–79.

Unless otherwise noted, all translations from the German are my own.

| xi →


Feuilleton articles published during the Weimar period (1919–1933) in major Berlin newspapers captured the dynamics of the era. Germany’s defeat in the First World War and the November revolution of 1918 provoked the hurried transition from Hohenzollern monarchical rule to relatively liberal republican life. The birth of the Weimar Republic gave rise to complex socio-political and cultural transformations in Germany, and Berlin went from being imperial seat to headquarters of a new democratic regime. The contrast between pre-revolutionary Wilhelmine Berlin and the industrial modernity that characterized the Weimar capital was a particularly important subject in journalistic writing. The interwar years were a time of vast change, and feuilleton articles – short, subjective accounts falling between literary narrative and journalism – were granted a privileged position in the wealth of print media available in Berlin. They became one of the vehicles to offer a sense of reorientation in altered times, providing impressions of daily life in interwar Berlin.

This book examines the depictions of Berlin in feuilleton articles of the 1920s and early 1930s in order to determine how individual authors ‘map’ the city on the page. Informed by concepts from contemporary spatial theory, the study embarks on a close reading of the journalistic oeuvres of Joseph Roth (1894–1939), Gabriele Tergit (1894–1982) and Kurt Tucholsky (1890–1935) to gain fresh insights into the authors’ narration of the history, society and politics of the Weimar Republic. The three writers under discussion make for compelling case studies. As composers of texts for the city’s democratic broadsheets and periodicals, Roth, Tergit and Tucholsky were key players in the production and dissemination of images of life in Berlin in the 1920s. Their feuilleton articles constitute an important cultural-historical source and contribute significantly to our epistemology of the interwar years in Germany, generally, and Berlin, specifically. ← xi | xii →

Joseph Roth, Gabriele Tergit and Kurt Tucholsky were among a group of Jewish writers (Roth was born in Brody, in what was then East Galicia, part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, while Tergit and Tucholsky were born in Berlin to highly assimilated German-Jewish families) at the heart of Weimar Berlin’s thriving literary and press scene. All three wrote for liberal, Berlin-based newspapers. The exceptions were the Frankfurter Zeitung and Prager Tagblatt,1 the latter a German-language newspaper issued in Prague between 1876 and 1939 and a vital refuge after 1933 for exiled authors, including Gabriele Tergit. The Frankfurter Zeitung, founded in 1856, employed both Joseph Roth and Kurt Tucholsky, alongside Siegfried Kracauer, Walter Benjamin, Alfred Döblin and Erich Kästner, and was renowned for its left-wing press during the period of the Weimar Republic. Roth, Tergit and Tucholsky also worked for the newspapers Vossische Zeitung (with Moritz Goldstein and Paul Schlesinger), the Berliner Tageblatt (in the company of Fred Hildenbrandt, Alfred Kerr, Alfred Polgar, Alice Salomon, Kästner and Kisch), and the periodical Die Weltbühne (with Kästner, Lion Feuchtwanger, Carl Zuckmayer and Ernst Toller).2 While Roth and Tucholsky worked for the Social Democrats’ political paper Vorwärts, Roth and Tergit had in common their contributions to the Berliner Börsen-Courier.3 Some of the lesser known papers and literary ← xii | xiii → journals were the Neue Rundschau (Döblin), Das Tage-Buch (Roth, Polgar, Benjamin, Kisch and Anton Kuh) and the Münchner Neueste Nachrichten, a pro-monarchist paper, published in Munich between 1848 and 1945. Its readership extended beyond South Germany, and though conservative and nationalist in nature, Joseph Roth was contracted to the paper for one year between 1929 and 1930, driven by financial incentives rather than political sympathies.

The three authors knew of each other and are most likely to have read each other’s work, but the degree of personal contact between them is not easy to trace. Michael Hofmann, translator of a number of Joseph Roth’s works, states that ‘For some reason, Roth always loathed [Tucholsky]’; Hofmann refers to Tucholsky as Roth’s ‘bête noire’,4 seemingly on account of his colleague’s more radical politics and those of the Weltbühne, Tucholsky’s main employer. Just whether or to what extent these feelings were reciprocal is not known; Roth’s antipathy was, however, rather surprising given that both men were driven by a similar objective, which was to observe and comment on political, social and cultural developments in Berlin after the First World War. Roth’s tone softened, in any case, in September 1933, when he (in exile in Paris) published the essay ‘Das Autodafé des Geistes’ in the French journal Cahiers Juifs. It addresses the burning of books by Jewish authors, and those considered to have written ‘un-German’ works, under the Nazi regime in May 1933, as well as the expulsion of Jewish writers and intellectuals from Germany. Roth includes Peter Panter (i.e. Kurt Tucholsky, ‘der vor Geist sprühende Polemiker’) on his list of authors of Jewish descent whom he described as having made vital contributions to German literature since the beginning of the twentieth century, but who were now being persecuted.5 These were clearly conciliatory feelings towards Tucholsky in threatening times for Jews in Germany. ← xiii | xiv →

My strategy of selection was to read feuilletonist accounts offering different approaches to representing the city, highlighting the diversity of literary constructions of space in Weimar Berlin’s urban literature. Here, it is not so much the authors’ Jewish backgrounds that inform the choice of case studies (there were, after all, a significant number of prolific non-Jewish feuilleton writers at the time, including Anton Kuh, Fred Hildenbrandt, Erich Kästner, Walther Kiaulehn, Robert Musil, Karl Scheffler, Bernard von Brentano, to name but a few), but rather their distinctive perspectives on Berlin: Roth’s as a new arrival in the city from Vienna, Tergit’s as a woman and a Berliner, and Tucholsky’s as a political observer.

The writers’ Jewish backgrounds without a doubt made them specially aware of, and sensitive to, political and social issues given the levels of antisemitism in Germany well before the Nazis assumed power, but the extent to which this background explicitly shaped the way they visualized and wrote about Berlin spatially differs in each case. Gabriele Tergit, one of the Weimar Republic’s most eminent female legal case reporters as well as a feuilleton author, was raised in the Jewish faith and remained a professed Jew throughout her life but she does not refer explicitly to her Jewishness in her articles. It was only later on in her life that Tergit engaged in greater depth with issues relating to Judaism.6 A recent biography notes that the stance adopted towards Jews by Tergit’s Berlin surroundings ‘sei keine Angelegenheit gewesen, die ihr Leben furchtbar beeindruckt oder beeinflusst habe’ [was never an issue that greatly imposed itself on or influenced ← xiv | xv → her life].7 She reported that she had been on the whole exempt from antisemitic persecution, for the main reason that she was hardly ever taken to be Jewish. In her memoirs, Tergit describes the eight years spent working at the Berliner Tageblatt as ‘die sieben fetten Jahre einer ganzen Generation’8 [the seven fattest years of an entire generation], a feeling that was likely the result of her close working relationship with her colleagues Rudolf Olden (1885–1940) and Walther Kiaulehn (1900–1968).9 Tergit recalls leisurely lunchtime meetings in cafés and restaurants in Berlin with her co-workers and other regular guests of all political hues. Gabriele Tergit was spared being made to feel like an outsider or alien, despite having been acutely conscious of antisemitic tendencies in Berlin at the time she was writing.10 Neither Olden nor Kiaulehn were Jewish, but Tergit drew no line between herself and them when she described the trio in 1932 as ‘Vertriebene’ [expellees] upon seeing their former restaurant haunt frequented by SA men.11 She was eventually a victim of National Socialism: not long after the Nazis assumed power in January 1933, Tergit narrowly avoided being detained by ← xv | xvi → the SA [Brownshirts] after a raid on her apartment in Tiergarten. Judged ‘undesirable’ by the Nazis on account of her Jewish background and political persuasions, Tergit was forced to flee Germany for Czechoslovakia in March 1933. In 1938, after a stay of five years in Palestine, Tergit moved to London and adopted British citizenship. Between 1957 and 1981 she was the secretary of the London PEN-Centre of expatriate German-language writers and continued to publish a number of books.12 However, Tergit had been an ardent city dweller, with Berlin very much at the centre of her being, and integral to her writing throughout her life. As Fiona Sutton notes, like many of Tergit’s contemporaries in exile, she ‘found it difficult to re-establish herself with her audience in her native country once dislocated from the context, material, and readership that had stimulated her writing’.13 Gabriele Tergit was the only one of the three authors to witness the Second World War, Cold War and Germany’s division into East and West. She died in London in 1982.

Joseph Roth and Kurt Tucholsky felt much less enthusiasm for Berlin and both men left the city considerably earlier than Tergit, moving to Paris in 1925 and 1924, respectively. France was regarded by them as the antithesis to Germany, a place of greater democracy, humanity and genuine cosmopolitanism.14 Roth was a Jewish transmigrant, having arrived in Berlin from ← xvi | xvii → Vienna in 1920. He continually observed in his feuilleton articles the change of mood taking hold in German society, especially after 1925, when the former Prussian-German field marshal Paul von Hindenburg was elected Reichspräsident. This confirmed for Roth the anti-republican tendencies that were on the rise, and that year he left Germany to work in Paris, never again to return to Berlin on a permanent basis. Upon emigrating for good in January 1933 after the appointment of Hitler as Reichskanzler [Reich Chancellor], Roth continued his itinerant existence, moving between France, the Netherlands, Poland and Austria, further issuing novels (with Dutch publishing houses) and writing articles about the disquieting situation in National Socialist Germany, especially the victimization of Jews. Roth died in Paris in May 1939 as a result of chronic alcoholism.

Roth was vocal about his Jewish background, and a good deal of his work is marked by his engagement with Judaism,15 especially his own East European Jewish roots, a subject that remained complex and contradictory throughout his life (he was, for example, spiritually attracted to Catholicism but would repeatedly refer to himself as an Ostjude [Eastern European Jew]). Despite being a quintessential urban resident, he adopted an outsider’s perspective which spreads through much of his journalistic writing: he was drawn to areas in Berlin far removed from the capital’s famed café culture, nightlife and entertainment industry, and he also demonstrated a heightened concern for everyday Berliners, those from working-class backgrounds heading to factories or seeking work, for poor and marginalized persons (including Eastern European Jewish migrants), demographic groups that are relatively underrepresented in customary accounts of Weimar Germany. Joseph Roth’s preoccupation in this regard has been attributed to the loss felt by the writer as a result of lacking a father figure (his father was absent for the majority of his childhood because of mental illness) and the division of the Austro-Hungarian Empire in 1918, resulting in the loss of his place ← xvii | xviii → of birth (Brody was claimed by Ukraine in 1918).16 This keen sense of disorientation upon losing one’s Heimat or home is evident in Roth’s novels published in the 1930s.17 He also thematized feelings of Heimatlosigkeit [homelessness or rootlessness] in his journalistic work, which is of special interest in the framework of this study, which examines Roth’s articles concerning homeless persons and Eastern European Jewish life in Berlin. The themes of homelessness and mobility were motives that came to define his own life; he long led a peripatetic existence, opting to forego a fixed abode and instead lived on a temporary basis in a string of hotels.

Kurt Tucholsky spent only eleven years of his adult life living in Berlin before relocating to Paris to work as a correspondent for the Vossische Zeitung. His move to France in 1924 had been precipitated by intermittent episodes of depression, caused in part by the disturbing changes to the political landscape in the Weimar capital. Tucholsky left Germany permanently in 1929 and ceased writing altogether in 1932. His avoidance of the country was due in some measure to the threats of legal action for articles considered slanderous.18 His ultimate disengagement with Germany was, however, the result of his resignation and feelings of impotence at the rise and eventual take-over of power by the Nazis. Tucholsky’s books were banned and burned under the regime, and he was expatriated. He died in Sweden in 1935. Tucholsky was repeatedly subject to antisemitic attacks by conservatives and National Socialists as a result of his intensely political writings and his Jewish background,19 although he was a secular Jew who ← xviii | xix → distanced himself fairly early on from the Jewish faith and was baptized as a Protestant in 1918. His own Jewishness was of little personal interest to him,20 and I would argue that Tucholsky’s Jewish origins play a minor part in his discussion of Berlin and its environment. Although he engages with the subject of antisemitism in his work, he addresses the undercurrent of antisemitic feeling which he believed was pervasive among the German people, rather than its effect on him personally, focusing on what it stood for: exclusionary violence and contempt for fellow man.

The particular focus of this study is on how perceptions of the ‘new world’ in Berlin after the First World War are articulated in the three authors’ feuilleton articles through the use of space and spatial categories. Some writers allude to the city’s material form – in terms of precise urban geography, landmarks and real events – while others, in an attempt to understand and convey to the readership a sense of the post-imperial city, concentrate on representative urban spaces. Others again employ visions, comparisons and allegories, at the same time retaining at least an element of realism which readers were able to relate to. The investigation will thus be ← xix | xx → primarily concerned with literary depictions of space in feuilleton articles rather than with actual urban change in Weimar Berlin.


XXIV, 224
ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2015 (September)
Republic of Weimar 1933 Tucholsky Roth Gabriel golden twenties
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien, 2015. XXIV, 224 pp., 5 b/w. ill., 1 coloured ill.

Biographical notes

Frances Mossop (Author)

Frances Mossop holds a PhD in German from the University of Exeter. She was a recipient of a doctoral studentship awarded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Her interests include twentieth-century European history, literary journalism of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in Germany, and German literature and culture of the interwar period.


Title: Mapping Berlin
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