Prelude to The Past, by Rosie Graefenberg, published by William Morrow and Company, 375 pages, $3.00.
In an exceedingly frank book, “Prelude to the Past,” “R. G.” has written her own obituary, that of the Weimar republic and of the generation which fought the World War and proved itself utterly incapable of fighting the “peace.”
The author, a German Jewish woman, was born into a rich banking family in Mannheim and reached adolescence just as the years of plenty were coming to an end. She lived through the War untouched in the main, but disliking it for the chaos it brought into German life. At nineteen she set out for Munich to study and brushed the skirts of the Revolution in the Bohem’an atmosphere of the city. She then studied at Heidelberg, graduated with high honors, went to Berlin to study finance and there married a noted Jewish physician.
DIVORCE, REMARRIAGE, DISASTER
Within a year after her marriage she had her first lover in what, she explains, was her “only” sensual affair. Then came divorce, travel, at least two more lovers of whom she tells, and marriage with the elderly Dr. Franz Ullstein, head of the famous German Jewish publishing company. She married Dr. Ullstein, according to her own explanation, that she might retain her hold on her lover.
But the marriage ended in disaster, for the House of Ullstein was crumbling and the family was split up into warring factions, each striving for mastery. Junior members of the Ullstein family went to Paris and returned with a dossier alleging that she had acted as a spy for France. For the Ullsteins were patriotic and even when they set out to frame an enemy they did so to the tune of the Wacht am Rhine.
After a wearying trial which was watched attentively by the entire continent, she was acquitted of the charge, but for her it was too late. Although Dr. Franz had stood by her nobly, the end of the case brought about their divorce. To add to her misery she also lost her lover. So R. G. resumed her career as journalist and. according to the blurb on the jacket of the book, is roaming about the world writing on everything from the Massie case in Honolulu to Senatorial hearings in Washington.
Written in a personal, intimate vein and with a freedom and frankness that is reminiscent of the great and revealing self-biographies, the book is none the less a complete picture of post-war Europe and, in part, answers Joseph Wood Krutch’s query “Was Europe a Success?”
FRUSTRATION AND FUTILITY
Bankers, Statesmen, lawyers, merchants, Nationalists, Socialists, left wing radicals, diplomats, writers and professors, pass through these pages in bewildering succession. R. G. has met them all and writes of them all.
But the sum total of the picture is frustration and futility, personal and political, national and international.