The winter days pass, anointing my soft blue tissue writing paper with a gray mist as I put down these memories of Berlin in those Weimar days.
Today I have moved indoors to the Hotel Adlon, a sophisticated hotel with timeless elegance that served as the inspiration for the classic 1932 film, Grand Hotel ( based on Vicki Baum’s novel Menschen im Hotel).
Not the grand hotel I remember from years past since parts of it were destroyed by a fire in 1945. Only a surviving wing remains. I imagine someday the hotel will be re-built, hopefully in the same location in the heart of Berlin.
Why do I mention this? Permit me an indulgence of a memory years hence from Weimar Berlin when on a warm spring day in 1941 I had the misfortune to attract the unwanted attention of an inquisitive SS Officer in the bar of the Hotel Adlon.
As I wrote in my diary in Cleopatra’s Perfume: “I’ll play along with their game, keep them guessing. It won’t hurt for me to have a drink with the S.S. officer, flirt with him, let him think I’m interested in him.” To heighten his desire, I decided I would remove my brassiere and knickers and wear nothing but a nude-colored slip under my dress.”
I put myself in grave danger by going along with the Nazi’s game, but I was on a mission for the British Foreign Service and I had no choice. I could never have foreseen any of this when I first strolled into the hotel lobby back in the late 1920s.
The hotel opened in 1907 and soon became the center of Berlin society so wonderfully depicted in the 1932 film. When I agreed to accompany the monocled gentleman I’d met to his room in the Hotel Adlon and unleashed my unfulfilled desires, I had never seen such elegance.
But times were bad in 1928. The rates at the hotel changed every day as the mark fluctuated and numerous times I saw people huddling together outside the front entrance begging for food.
Though I find this profoundly disturbing, during the 1920s and ’30s, the Hotel Adlon catered to royalty and film stars such as Charlie Chaplin and world leaders including the Tsar along with the brilliant scientist, Einstein. Legend says Marlene Dietrich was discovered in the lobby.
Guests dined on pheasant and exquisite multi-layered creamy desserts in its famed restaurant…then embarked to enjoy Berlin at its most decadent.
I yearned to be among them.
Lady Eve Marlowe