At Deutsche Welle: “A two-part documentary uses criminal cases to paint a picture of Berlin during the Weimar Republic.”

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I’m not a devotee of the “true crime” genre. Appropriately, this two-part documentary by Deutsche Welle provides broader historical context about Berlin during the period 1918-1931, which balances the crime accounts.

There is sadness and irony in the account. From the chaos of the post-war period, life in Berlin (and by extension, the Weimar Republic) improved, and a few insightful policemen like Ernst Gennat instituted modern crime-fighting techniques — only to be undone and purged by the biggest criminal element of them all, Hitler’s Nazis.

A useful 90 minutes, indeed.

Berlin during the ‘Golden Twenties’ was regarded as the most modern metropolis in Europe. People flocked to nightclubs to enjoy raucous, uninhibited and decadent parties.

Berlin might have struggled to adapt to the fledgling democracy of the Weimar Republic, but it had less difficulty enjoying the freedoms it brought. In the 1920s, Berlin was regarded as the most modern metropolis in Europe. Life was described as a “dance on a volcano.” People flocked to nightclubs to enjoy raucous, uninhibited and decadent parties. But the capital was also rife with poverty, misery and violence. Crime was epidemic. The Sass brothers, two bank robbers, became urban legends, and the specter of serial killers haunted the city. Ernst Gennat, head of the criminal police, was a gifted criminologist with an exceptional solve rate. He revolutionized forensic investigation practices and laid the foundations for modern profiling. The two-part documentary uses criminal cases to paint a picture of Berlin during the Weimar Republic, reconstructing events with the help of documentary photographs from 1918 to 1933, interviews with experts and case files.

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