Nollendorfstraße 17 – Christopher Isherwood lived in a shared apartment in Nollendorfstraße 17 in the early 1930s and used it as a setting in his Berlin stories.
Today, an austere plaque outside Nollendorfstraße 17 in Berlin-Schöneberg commemorates Christopher Isherwood’s residency in this building. Isherwood rented a room from a woman called Meta Thurau, whom he immortalised as Frl. Schroeder in the Berlin stories. The organisation of Thurau’s pension was typical of interwar Berlin, where many large apartments in formerly affluent bourgeois neighbourhoods were subdivided into rooms let out to different lodgers, who would share the kitchen and bathroom.
In drawing his memorable Berlin characters, Isherwood was clearly inspired by the mixture of intimacy and detachment created by this social setup. With its bohemian and cosmopolitan atmosphere, Nollendorfstraße 17 was a meeting point for Isherwood’s circle, including Gerald Hamilton, Jean Ross, Stephen Spender and his brother Humphrey, as well as Isherwood’s Berlin lovers. In his autobiography World Within World (1951), Spender also left a vivid account of the place as a laboratory for Isherwood’s novelistic imagination. The house on Nollendorfstraße escaped the worst of World War II bombings. Isherwood and Thurau were briefly reunited there in 1952, during the writer’s only visit to post-war Berlin. Stefano Evangelista