Daniel Schönpflug is a historian at the Free University, Berlin, a consultant for radio and TV, and a writer of docudramas. He has also lectured at Harvard University, the Sorbonne, and the University of London. A World on Edge: The End of the Great War and the Dawn of a New Age is his first book published in English. (October 2018)

NYR DAILY

Berlin, 1918–1919: Käthe Kollwitz, Witness to History

Revolutionary soldiers and workers in Berlin, where the Spartacist leader Karl Liebknecht declared the German Socialist Republic in November 1918

Berlin, 1918. You can feel the “terrible divisions today,” Kollwitz notes in her diary. There are daily mass protests, demonstrations and violence in Berlin. Even those crippled in the war are putting their wounds on public display and taking their demands to the streets, chanting: “We don’t want pity—we want justice!” The social democratic movement is about to split, and the Allies have refused to enter into peace negotiations or even deliver food to Germany until a democratically elected government is in place. In her heart, Kollwitz supports the communist groups without whom the war would not have ended or the Kaiser been driven from power. Like the radical leftists, she hopes the revolution will continue rather than settle for the status quo. But her head knows that Germany is on the verge of breaking apart.