Skip to content Skip to sidebar Skip to footer

Thursday Quotables – Blood Brothers

BLOOD BROTHERS (Ernest Haffner) Originally published in 1932 and banned by the Nazis one year later, Blood Brothers follows a gang of young boys bound together by unwritten rules and mutual loyalty.

Jonny needs to dig up his eight fellows from various nooks and crannies to tell them he’s scoped out a cheap billet for the night. Two marks for the whole lot of them. It’s in a warehouse on Brunnenstrasse. For two marks the night-watchman will let them in at ten. But at six o’clock tomorrow morning they’ll have to be on their way again. Straw and large crates you can curl up inside are provided. At half past nine the gang set off.

At the stroke of ten, they’re all close to their billet. Three of them are at the gate. The others are waiting nearby in the passage, to nip in as soon as the watchman opens the door. Before they even hear the night-watchman, there’s a furious growling and yapping behind the door: the guard-dog. Then the door is unlocked, and one by one they sneak inside. The watchman locks the door after them. The bitch howls with rage and disappointment. She doesn’t understand her master. Normally she is under orders to go for anyone’s legs, and just now, with this collection of deeply suspicious individuals, she is kept on a short leash. The night-watchman slopes on ahead with the angrily glinting dog. The Blood Brothers bring up the rear after a respectful interval. The door of the low storehouse is unbolted, and Jonny has to put down his two marks. Then the old man goes through all their pockets. He’s looking for matches or lighters. In case one of the scapegraces should get it into his head to smoke in there… With all that straw and dry wood around. That would be a right old firework. The guard dog tried a parting snap at the boys. But the nailed collar reminds her that only non-paying guests were to be shredded. The boys are just finding their way around the dark windowless space when the old man locks them in. The freed dog sniffs crossly at the crack between the floor and the bottom of the door. Just let them try and get out.

Thursday Quotables Meme

We don’t know much about Ernst Haffner, other that he was a social worker and a journalist of the Weimar Republic. He was active as a journalist in Berlin between 1925 and 1933, then he disappeared from all records, presumably engulfed by WWII. 

Blood Brothers is his only novel, and it’s quite clearly a rendition of the lives that he saw every day as a social worker. The Blood Brothers is a gang of youngsters in Berlin, lost boys who looked after each other because they have no others to turn to. Haffner describes their lives so vividly. The fight for a place to sleep at night. The hundreds of expedients to earn the few pfennings that will allow them to eat that day. The constant preoccupation with finding money, food, clothes and places to recover. He describes the jails, the recoveries for homeless people, the dens, and in general the underbelly of the city. In fact, the first half of the book only has a vague narrative form. It’s only halfway through that a story emerges, one of redemption for Willi and Ludwig and one of perdition for Jonny and Fred. 

The social comment (and critique) isn’t particularly on the front, but it is nonetheless very strong. Just describing the lives of these youths, Haffner condemns the way they are robbed of any opportunity, young as they are. Most of them have no other choice but to turn to crime. Although at the same time, Haffner offers the hope – that still exists – for a normal life. 

It’s a very strange story. Besides, it’s only partially a story. And still, it has such a participating voice that I was compelled to read even when no actual plot existed. Haffner interest and involvement in the life of these youths, who – I have no doubt – were no stranger to him, is so apparent that almost naturally transfers to the reader. 

It’s a great story and a vivid portrait of a city in a particular moment in history. 


BLUTSBRUDER (Ernst Haffner) In diesem heute vergessenen, aber gut dokumentierten Milieu ist dieser von Ernst Haffner geschriebene und unter den Nazis verbotene und bei den Bücherverbrennungen öffentlich zerstörte Roman angesiedelt. Im Mittelpunkt stehen zwei aus Erziehungseinrichtungen geflüchtete Jugendliche und die Clique der Blutsbrüder, der sie sich nach ihrer Ankunft in Berlin anschließen.

Jonny muß seine acht Kameraden aus allen Ecken und Winkeln zusammensuchen, um ihnen zu sagen, daß er eine billige Schlafgelegenheit gefunden hat. Zwei Mark für die ganze Clique. In einem Lagerschuppen in der Brunnenstraße. Für zwei Mark läßt der Wächter sie um zehn Uhr in den Schuppen. Aber um sechs Uhr morgens müssen sie wieder auf die Straße. Stroh und große Kisten, in die man sich hineinlegen kann, sind genügend vorhanden. Um halb zehn Uhr macht die Clique sich auf den Weg.

Als es zehn Uhr schlägt, sind sie alle in der Nähe ihrer Schlafstelle. Drei stehen vor dem Tor. Die anderen warten nebenan im Hausflur, um, sowie der Wächter das Tor öffnet, hineinzuflitzen. Noch ehe sie den Wächter hören, schnauft und knurrt es wütend hinter dem Tor. Der Wachhund. Dann wird aufgeschlossen, nacheinander schleichen alle in den dunkeln Torweg. Der Wächter schließt wieder ab. Die Dogge jault vor Wut und Enttäuschung. Sie begreift ihren Herrn nicht. Sonst muß sie jedem in die Beine fahren, und hier, bei diesem Haufen höchst verdächtiger Individuen, wird ihr das Stachelhalsband kurz gehalten. Der Wächter schlurft voran mit dem böse funkelnden Hund. In respektvoller Entfernung tappen die Blutsbrüder hinterdrein. Die Tür des niedrigen Holzschuppens wird aufgeriegelt, und Jonny muß seine zwei Mark abladen. Dann tastet der Alte jeden der Jungen einzeln ab. Er sucht nach Streichhölzern und Feuerzeugen. Falls die Bengels auf die Idee kommen sollten, drinnen zu rauchen … Inmitten des Strohes und trocknen Holzes. Könnte ein nettes Feuerwerk geben. Die Dogge versucht nochmals einen Ausfall auf die Jungens. Aber das Stachelhalsband belehrt, daß nur Nichtzahlungsfähige zu zerfleischen sind. Eben sind die Jungens in dem fensterlosen dunklen Schuppen, da schließt der Alte auch schon wieder die Tür von draußen zu. Die freigelassene Dogge schnüffelt erbost an dem Spalt zwischen Erde und Tür. Dann packt sie sich vor die Tür. Die sollen es nur wagen herauszukommen …


In post is part of the Thursday Quotables meme. If you want to discover more about this meme and maybe take part in it, head over to Bookshelf Fantasies


BLOOD BROTHERS (Ernest Haffner) Originally published in 1932 and banned by the Nazis one year later, Blood Brothers follows a gang of young boys bound together by unwritten rules and mutual loyalty. (book review)

Leave a comment

Captcha loading...

0