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Bloedbroeders by Ernst Haffner
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Bloedbroeders (original 1932; edition 1932)

by Ernst Haffner, Anne Folkertsma (Translator)

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16311170,793 (3.5)12
Blood Brothers is the only known novel by German social worker and journalist Ernst Haffner, of whom nearly all traces were lost during the course of World War II. Told in stark, unsparing detail, Haffner's story delves into the illicit underworld of Berlin on the eve of Hitler's rise to power, describing how these blood brothers move from one petty crime to the next, spending their nights in underground bars and makeshift hostels, struggling together to survive the harsh realities of gang life, and finding in one another the legitimacy denied them by society.… (more)
Member:hdrieman
Title:Bloedbroeders
Authors:Ernst Haffner
Other authors:Anne Folkertsma (Translator)
Info:Amsterdam De Bezige Bij 2014
Collections:Your library, Literatuur Buitenland
Rating:*
Tags:roman, Duitsland, interbellum

Work Information

Blood Brothers by Ernst Haffner (1932)

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Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
Here's what I wrote in 2015 about this read: "Very interesting. Young gangs in Berlin in the 1920's/1930's. Book was banned by the Nazis and the social work writer disappears during WWII (no one knows what happened to him). Rediscovered and translated into English in our times (2013 and 2015, respectively)." Quotations in the comments section are my exact kindle highlights. ( )
  MGADMJK | Jun 29, 2024 |
A grim examination of the lives of minors under the foundling system of post WWI Germany. A group of young men live hand to mouth in Berlin turning to pick-pocketing from those barely better off than they are for a short burst of relative prosperity until the police find them. Two who balked at the pick-pocketing do find a way to live without preying on others but are still caught back into the brutal foster and prison system. A pointed and message driven text that was probably fatal for its author.

Whether the translation was accurate I can't say, but this English version has very good flow and makes the material perhaps too easily borne. ( )
  quondame | May 30, 2023 |
Blood Brothers by Ernst Haffner is a novel that takes place during the interwar era in German. Haffner was a social worker and this was his only book. Published in 1932, it was banned by the Nazi's one month later. There is no record of Haffner after the war.

Haffner's book details the lives of street gangs and the kids who make them up. The Versailles Treaty was tough on Germany and it was the average citizen who suffered the most. Gangs of kids from young teens to young adults group together in tight knit clubs. The clubs like street gangs today have a code of honor and a chain of command. There is a military like discipline among the members and a life of petty crime. Some fit into the lifestyle and others are leery of the criminal life. For some, it is their only choice if they want to survive on the streets.

Blood Brothers took me back to the first time I read The Outsiders back in my preteen years. It is rough, gritty, and goes deeper than the The Outsiders. Life on the street is rough whether you depend on crime or a more honest means to survive. Blood Brothers shows the reader that it's not only the NYC underground where gritty lifelike street stories are born. A well written and excellent work of historical fiction. ( )
  evil_cyclist | Mar 16, 2020 |
The gang subculture of homeless youth in Weimar-era Berlin, rendered in lean, muscular prose well-suited to the subject. The main narrative follows the converging paths of Willi and Ludwig, two adolescent escapees from the juvenile detention system who find protection and a sense of belonging within a gang of pickpockets on some seriously mean streets. As the scale of criminal activity ramps up, the stakes get progressively larger; sensing impending disaster and having no desire to become professional criminals, our heroes hit on a scheme to break free and - they hope - establish a basis for survival within society rather than on its underbelly.

I was surprised by how invested I became in the fate of these characters. The novel does a good job of conveying the bonds of loyalty and subtle personality dynamics that form among this makeshift street family, eking out a tenuous niche among thieves, hustlers, snitches, prostitutes, beggars, rival gangs, and the police. Haffner's journalistic eye evokes the harshness of Berlin's "gray, proletarian streets", the crowded, smoke-filled claustrophobia of its basement dives, the institutional bleakness of the correctional facilities designed to warehouse kids until they reach the age of majority (until then, they are basically non-persons, unable to work legally and always subject to arrest).

Haffner has an open heart that never shortchanges the dignity of these characters. There are lots of small, well-observed moments in which they get to be simply human, such as when Ludwig, recently fled from detention, hungrily takes in the tumult of a bustling Alexanderplatz after months of sensory-deprived incarceration.

Moments like this throw into relief the more adrenaline depictions of life lived in extremis: unable to afford a ticket, Willi spends a harrowing night clinging to the underside of a passenger train speeding toward Berlin. Haffner gives us the racket, the wind-chill, the muscle cramps, the sheer terror, the rocks and pebbles thrown up from the tracks hitting him in the face.

Hang on for dear life and let your guard down only at the risk of being ground up: it's an apt metaphor for how his characters subsist from day to day. Haffner was a social worker in Berlin at the time the novel takes place, and the self-perpetuating, structural brokenness of the various bureaucracies whose wheels his characters are caught in (or trying to avoid) always looms large.

The Nazis didn't care for Blood Brothers and banned it when they came to power. Haffner himself ultimately disappeared in the chaos of the war years. Blood Brothers is his only known work. ( )
  VaucansonsDuck | Dec 4, 2019 |
it felt it was a book for teenage boys. lots of repetition. ( )
  kakadoo202 | Apr 19, 2016 |
Showing 1-5 of 7 (next | show all)
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Ernst Haffnerprimary authorall editionscalculated
Folkertsma, AnneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Blood Brothers is the only known novel by German social worker and journalist Ernst Haffner, of whom nearly all traces were lost during the course of World War II. Told in stark, unsparing detail, Haffner's story delves into the illicit underworld of Berlin on the eve of Hitler's rise to power, describing how these blood brothers move from one petty crime to the next, spending their nights in underground bars and makeshift hostels, struggling together to survive the harsh realities of gang life, and finding in one another the legitimacy denied them by society.

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