Status: Wait List

Berlin Noir

Two detective novels set in the 1930s

Spring 2024
Tuesday Afternoon
Moderators: Barbara Hyams, Nancy Denig



The purpose of this seminar is to enjoy reading fast-paced, well-plotted historical detective fiction while gaining a deeper understanding of the gritty forces at play in the late Weimar Republic and pre-WWII Nazi Germany.


In this seminar we will read and discuss two detective novels set in Berlin in the late 1930s. Our first novel, Goldstein, by German author Volker Kutscher, features Berlin Police Inspector Gereon Rath in 1931, before Hitler was legally appointed as chancellor and proceeded to turn Germany into a dictatorship in 1933. (Babylon Berlin on Netflix covers the first two in Kutscher’s translated series.) Rath “babysits” a Jewish-American gangster named Goldstein who is a tourist in Berlin amidst Communist and Nazi street brawls, competing organized crime rings, and a series of murders. Our second novel, March Violets, by Scottish fiction writer Phillip Kerr, is set in 1936, when Hitler and his totalitarian apostles are sponsoring the Summer Olympics while quietly building up armaments to launch WWII. Kerr’s protagonist, Bernie Gunther, a former Berlin cop turned private eye who is hired to retrieve a stolen diamond necklace, is plunged into a milieu of organized crime and power struggle between Gӧring and Himmler.

ROLE OF PARTICIPANTS: Each participant will be assigned a selection from one of the novels to present important plot developments and lead discussion.

Participants will receive a detailed glossary of German words and historical events mostly culled from Wikipedia, as well as an annotated list of characters that distinguishes major and minor figures in each book. Participants must use the following editions so we can all refer to the same page number: Volker Kutscher, trans. Niall Sellar, Goldstein (Sandstone Press, 2018), and Phillip Kerr, March Violets (G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1989).

ABOUT THE MODERATOR: Barbara Hyams taught German Studies for many years in the 1980s and 1990s and has lived periodically in Berlin, Germany. Nancy Denig lived five years in Frankfurt am Main, Germany, and has (co)moderated numerous history and literature FCLIR seminars.