Bernstein, a Jewish bookseller in Berlin, narrates the story of his life for his grandson Louis, covering the period of the First World War, the Weimar Republic, and Hitler's rise to power in the Thirties. Relying on old journals that interweave more mundane events with rather eccentric insights into literary matters, he recounts his preoccupation with the work of Alfred Doblin, a Jewish velist and psychiatrist. After reading Berlin Alexanderplatz, Bernstein's life is forever transformed, and he finds hidden meanings in Doblin's various texts that in retrospect he interprets as a harbinger of the Holocaust. Over the years, Doblin treats Bernstein and his father for serious depression, but when Berlin falls to the Nazis, the writer is forced to flee. Although things get worse, Bernstein is determined t to let the Nazis drive him from the city that he loves, until he is sent to a concentration camp, eventually released, and decides to leave for Palestine, vowing never to return.
Karl Koehler, born 1935, grew up in the Bronx; completed psychiatric residencies in Cornell and Heidelberg; later appointed professor of Social Psychiatry in Bonn; presently living in retirement in the Cologne area.