May 13th, 1933

Eighty years ago today, Christopher Isherwood said goodbye to Berlin after four years living, working and documenting life in the city.

Three days earlier he had witnessed the Nazi Youth looting his former lodgings, The Institute for Sexual Science, and the burning of books on the Opera Platz.

Shame” he shouted but not, he later admitted, very loudly.


“May 13, 1933. It is a quarter past midnight and I have just finished packing. In eight hours I am going to leave Berlin, perhaps for ever……. I have already made the journey several times in my head, composed funny postcards to all my friends. And now the day which seemed too good, too bad to be true, the day when I should leave Germany, has arrived, and I only know about the future that, however often and however variously I have imagined it to myself, the reality will be quite different”

Christopher and His Kind  p.133/134

” Not only are we perfectly safe, but we are surrounded by those who aren’t…… On this very train there must be at least a few people in danger of their lives, travelling with false papers and in fear of being caught and sent to a concentration camp or simply killed outright. It is only in the past few weeks that I have fully grasped the fact that such a situation really exists – not in a newspaper or a novel – but here where I have been living”

Down There On A Visit p. 61

He left Berlin and headed for the Greek island of St Nicolas with his new lover, Heinz.

The story continues in ‘Down There On A Visit’ published in 1961.


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One Response to May 13th, 1933

  1. Hels says:

    Last Friday, I was discussing Weimar cabaret life with the students. The goal for this Friday will be to decide what cultural elements of German life would have been acceptable to the Nazis in 1933, and which would be declared degenerate and therefore destroyed. Magnus Hirschfeld’s Institute for Sexual Science suggested itself as an early target!

    Many thanks for the Isherwood reference. I have given the students your blog address.

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