Getting to know Munich through words
October 24, 2013 3:33 PM   Subscribe

I want to read about Munich to get a feel for the city and its inhabitants before I go there next year. What books are out there that a) feature Munich as the setting and a character in its own right, or b) interestingly detail Munich's history? Fiction and nonfiction are both welcome as long as they're awesome.
posted by goosechasing to Media & Arts (4 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Maud Hart Lovelace's Betsy and the Great World is partly set in Munich on the eve of WWI.
posted by brujita at 4:34 PM on October 24, 2013

You have to read Success, by Lion Feuchtwanger. Does German work for you or does it have to be English?
posted by The Toad at 7:44 PM on October 24, 2013

"The Day the Thunderbird Cried" by David Israel is a little known anthology of first person stories from the soldiers of the U.S. Army's 45th Infantry Division, which were the main force to "liberate" Dachau concentration camp, about 10 miles northwest of Munich, at the end of WWII. You can visit Dachau Concentration Camp Memorial from downtown Munich's Hauptbanhof (main rail station) on the S2 S-Bahn train, for about 6 Euro roundtrip, on a Munich XXL day ticket. It's about a 3 block walk from the Dachau station, and signs mark the way to the memorial camp gate, which is open everyday but December 24. Dachau was a comparatively small camp, but the first, and little of the original camp now remains, except for the now repurposed administration building, the gas chambers/crematorium complex, and the memorial. But it is still very much worth visiting, as its near complete emptiness, with the memorial statue at the end of the now vacant camp yard, is a stark kind of enduring truth, on terms of war memorials as a whole.

If you intend to understand the post-WWII history of Munich, in my opinion, you must understand Dachau, and how it operated, for more than 12 years before it was liberated on 29 April 1945, in the virtual shadow of Munich.
posted by paulsc at 11:45 PM on October 24, 2013 [1 favorite]

I also recommend David Clay Large's "Munich 1972: Tragedy, Terror, and Triumph at the Olympic Games" published in 2012, as an insightful look at a turning point in post-WWII Munich history, by an American historian who was present in Munich at that time. Hundreds of books have been written about the 1972 Olympics, and all that surrounded them, and I can't say that this book is head and shoulders above its better known and earlier published competition, but it does have a perspective that is worthwhile, and it is readable, to the layperson. Many historians argue that the intense international focus trained on Munich in the aftermath of those events still color both local Munich and Bavarian politics, and even German national politics, to this day.
posted by paulsc at 1:02 AM on October 25, 2013

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