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What Will Become of the Children?

What Will Become of the Children?: A Novel of a German Family in the Twilight of Weimar Berlin

Claire Bergmann
Translated and with an introduction by Richard Bodek
Copyright Date: 2010
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 154
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7722/j.ctt14brv9h
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  • Book Info
    What Will Become of the Children?
    Book Description:

    1932, the eve of the Nazi seizure of power: Germany beset with street violence, hunger, anti-Semitism, and despair; civil war threatens. The "typical" Deutsch family fights to survive. The story begins with Pitt Deutsch, inventor and self-made millionaire, whose millions evaporate in the hyperinflation, then follows Deutsch's seven children in their struggles with poverty and indignity: Klara, broken by her efforts to support the family; Susi, mistress of a businessman, reduced to bringing home extra food; Peter, an unemployed chemist, suicidally depressed; Max, who falls in love with a Jewish woman, encountering Germany's growing anti-Semitism first hand. The two youngest brothers, unemployed and undereducated, become Nazis. Claire Bergmann's novel was positively reviewed by some of Germany's most prominent critics, including Hans Fallada and Siegfried Kracauer. Not surprisingly, given the work's democratic leanings, it was banned soon after the Nazis began to exert total control. Bergmann never wrote another book, disappearing from sight in 1935. This first English translation will find immediate interest among all readers interested in the end of Weimar and the rise of the Nazis. It is a message in a bottle from the last moment when German democracy's survival seemed possible. Richard Bodek is Professor of History at the College of Charleston, South Carolina. His book Proletarian Performance in Weimar Berlin was published by Camden House in 1997.

    eISBN: 978-1-57113-716-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. ix-xxviii)

    Sometime during autumn 1932, Claire Bergmann’s novel,Was wird aus deinen Kindern, Pitt?appeared in German bookstores. It is fair to say that it enjoyed an immediate, mostly positive critical reception. It is also fair to say that it has fallen into almost complete obscurity. As we will soon see, this work chronicles the travails of the Deutsch family from its rise in the 1890s until the summer of 1932. At the onset, the central character is Pitt Deutsch, a traditional conservative, and, as his name implies, a kind of German Everyman. Loyal to the Kaiser, Deutsch rises from skilled...

  5. CHAPTER ONE THE PATERFAMILIAS IS BROUGHT ONTO THE STAGE AND BECOMES A RICH MAN WITH IDEAS
    (pp. 1-10)

    Worker, peacetime millionaire, and once again, worker. That was and is the life of Herr Deutsch.

    Well, to be precise, he isn’t really a worker today. Getting on in years a bit, and, like all others with neither income nor money, he has to brave the crowds and go to the welfare office to withdraw some of the heavy taxes that he paid to an earlier state. But, as one who was self-employed, he doesn’t receive any unemployment support. He fights — quite understandably — with the welfare office and squabbles about politics with his children and a few other people who...

  6. CHAPTER TWO WAR BREAKS OUT IN A PARK, AND HERR DEUTSCH COMES TO THE AID OF HIS FATHERLAND
    (pp. 11-22)

    And yet, fate’s warning did not seem to be so loud. LACAID enjoyed immediate success. One day Pitt Deutsch decided that he really ought to do something with his family, and decided to take them to an afternoon concert in the Pankow Park.

    He really loved the suburb of Pankow, nestled between two parks. Indeed, he planned to buy a villa here, on the quiet Park Strasse, or perhaps a bit farther out in Niederschoenhausen near the old Schlosspark. He hadn’t told his family about this, not yet. In fact, it brought to mind the 20,000 marks that the court...

  7. CHAPTER THREE THE FAMILY GATHERS ITS EXPERIENCES, AND PITT DOES NOT UNDERSTAND HOW TO STEER HIS SHIP THROUGH THE INFLATION
    (pp. 23-34)

    Pitt Deutsch revered his Kaiser as much as ever. Could it be that he was not getting much information on the Kaiser’s doings? As always, he was either poorly informed or totally uninformed about contemporary politics. Even when some things didn’t add up in his head, his reverent heart could always find reasons to excuse the Kaiser. For one thing, the republic had not yet done much good for him.

    At the very beginning of the revolution, the “Reds” shot out a couple of his factory windows. Pitt couldn’t closely analyze the concept “the Reds” because he never put forth...

  8. CHAPTER FOUR NOW, TO DISCUSS THE FOURTEENTH YEAR AFTER THE END
    (pp. 35-52)

    Fourteen years have passed since the end of the war.

    The gramophone whines on an early morning: “We’d be good, and not so rough, if only circumstances weren’t so tough.”¹

    Max shouts through the door, “Turn off that damned noise box! I’m so sick of ‘we would be gooood!’ We’re crude and without feeling from the start. With little understanding, and don’t add to what we do have. You let your sympathy be aroused by a few fur-coated socialists. It’s only a song. You should have been at the Institute for Politics yesterday. Then you would have seen how far...

  9. CHAPTER FIVE PARENTS SINK, AND LITTLE CHILDREN HAVE BIG WORRIES
    (pp. 53-66)

    Poor suffering Elsa; she’s barely able to keep going. The cursed need to be young is wearing her down. Nobody wants to acknowledge this, but it’s true. Ironically, everybody seems to be aging even faster. She tries to stay young with the various drugs and concoctions of the day, everything that’s advertised in the newspaper. In other words, if it shows up in a circular, she’ll try it. She takes hormones, does exercises, even sits under a sunlamp. For days she seems to be refreshed. Indeed, she has succeeded in looking terrific, even though she’s working more than twelve hours...

  10. CHAPTER SIX POLITICS MAKES A SHOCKING ENCROACHMENT
    (pp. 67-70)

    The fate of the Family Deutsch was already sealed at the movies once. This was when Herr Deutsch saw a film, a form still in its infancy, and pondered what could become of an encircled “Fort Germany.”

    This next time, in front of his family, he flew into empty-headed for getfulness.

    Today, the entire family, except for Elsa and Helmut, have also decided to escape themselves by fleeing into the cinema. Susi was able to engineer this by means of some discount tickets she’d come across. Even though it’s a third-run theater, the program is interesting, varied, and long — a...

  11. CHAPTER SEVEN THE ONE MOST ABLE TO SURVIVE PULLS NEW HOPE OUT OF CHAOS
    (pp. 71-78)

    Max runs around in his gray suit, a black band tied on the sleeve. Even proper mourning is impossible in these days. All the children are broke, and it makes no sense for Elsa to spend her last money on this. Did Helmut want to die for his beliefs? Did Mother love them all as much as she did him? Such brooding makes one sick. Maybe if he could have found an upright, sensible, adult Party man to speak with, maybe it all would have made some sense. Maybe he could have learned something reasonable.

    With their bravura and their...

  12. CHAPTER EIGHT MAX ESCAPES INTO LOVE
    (pp. 79-96)

    A fast train carries two happy people, freed from the everyday. The door to their sorrows is locked, not to be reopened for ten days. Max sits facing Maria, beset by all kinds of concerns. Is her seat comfortable? At least he’s wiped out the corner so that she won’t be sitting in soot. She’s going to avoid the corridor, where there’s a stuck-up, military twit, staring in at her through the window.

    “Bow wow,” says Maria.

    Max responds with a playful insult, and returns to his newspaper. Quickly, though, his cigarette burns a small hole through it, letting him...

  13. CHAPTER NINE A SUMMER DAY COMES TO AN END
    (pp. 97-104)

    All searches must come to an end. It’s good, then, when they conclude as successfully as Maria’s and Max’s. Even the most peaceful of summer days will slip away, surviving only as a memory.

    Our pair wanders in the area for a few more days, here and there, freed from the everyday. Then, Hamburg — and once again, life shows its normal side. First, they happen into a city district that is quite stirred up: just now, yet again, a bank has been held up for its payroll deposits.

    “Do you think need caused it?,” asked Max. “No. If someone’s in...

  14. CHAPTER TEN LIFE HAS SO MANY ASPECTS
    (pp. 105-112)

    The next morning, her face tear-stained, Susi wakes Max while he was still in the middle of his most beautiful sleep.

    Sitting on the side of his bed, she whispers heartbreakingly: “Oh, Max!,” and again the tears start to flow down her crumpled face.

    “What’s wrong, little Susi? What kind of hopes have you had dashed? Even last night you seemed so quiet.”

    And now Max can learns the upsetting story of how Uncle Otto was arrested.

    “Why?” asked an astonished Max, “Did he do some shady deals?” After all he’s heard from Susi about her Otto, he can’t imagine...

  15. CHAPTER ELEVEN JÜRGEN FINDS SOMETHING IN LAUSANNE THAT HE DID NOT SEEK
    (pp. 113-118)

    Germany’s political violence has claimed the lives of many over the years, drop by drop. These drops are edging the country towards insanity, just as drop after drop of ether falling on a particular spot on a person’s head would do.

    For the few who still have jobs, their incomes don’t suffice even before taxes. Those who are still working have as much anxiety about losing their jobs as the others do about their poverty.

    At this very moment in time two men, neither of whom is in possession of a dark red press card, find themselves on a train...

  16. CHAPTER TWELVE HERR DEUTSCH ONCE MORE CALLS HIMSELF TO ORDER, AND THEN THERE ARE MORE FLASHES OF LIGHTNING
    (pp. 119-126)

    Once more, our man pitt deutsch wakes himself from his gouty stupor. Is it the feverish times that wake him up, or is it the odd circumstances that his neighbors have told him about, the trouble the civil servants have caused in the stairwell? This time, Max even wants to hold his father back. He says: “Just let it be. With a little luck we soon won’t need it any more. I’m probably going to do the PITTILIT thing with Maria’s uncle, who’ll loan us the machinery. Just hold off a little while, we’ll get by until then.” But Pitt...

  17. Back Matter
    (pp. 127-127)