Help us collect errors and inconsistencies

edited May 2013 in General
As most readers will agree, part of the fun of reading a series is spotting continuity errors from one book to the next. And with historical fiction there's also the fun of spotting the occasional factual error. Maybe fans of mystery fiction are predisposed to enjoy this aspect as it invites them play detective themselves. We know we think it enhances the enjoyment of reading series fiction.

Help us create a detailed list of bloopers in the Bernie books -- both continuity errors and historical errors. We don't think there are very many, but there are a few, some of which have already been pointed out in this forum.

Dinah attending "Brown University"
the change in Bernie's age

And we'll add: the mention of Luna Park in The Pale Criminal (according to Wikipedia Luna Park closed in 1933) and the discrepancy in the date of Bernie's first wife's death.

We think there's a slight inconsistency is Bernie's WWI troop movements too -- maybe a WWI expert can weigh in on that.

If you come across anything that sounds wrong to you, please post here. Include the books involved and as much detail as possible. If there's a question in your mind about something you read but you don't have time to research it, post it here and someone will look into it.

Eventually we'll post a compilation of Bernie Bloopers with cross references. Happy reading!!


  • I think this will be an interesting thread.

    Possible spoiler for March Violets!

    Sort of an inconsistency:

    At the start of PC, when Bernie meets with Heydrich, he never mentions that just two years prior in MV's, Heydrich had sent him into Dachau KZ.
    I think that's a bit of information that Gunther would remember to tell the reader.

    Also, at the end of PC, at the climax, Gunther speaks to Himmler and Heydrich in a manner that just would not have been possible historically, particularly in 1938 (I know it's a novel, but in the spirit of this thread...)

    Added after 57 minutes:

    In PC, when Bernie is going through Otto Rahn's file in Kindermann's is November 1938. But in Rahn's career file it says that Rahn was posted to the Race and Resettlement office of the SS, in December 1938.
  • edited June 2012
    >>> WML
    >>> I think this will be an interesting thread.

    >>> Possible spoiler for March Violets!

    Thanks, WML. Great notes!

    Can you give an example or two of what you mean by "Gunther speaks to Himmler and Heydrich in a manner that just would not have been possible historically, particularly in 1938"? Is it a matter of colloquialisms?
  • Without re-writing dialogue from the book...(again, I know it's a novel)
    "Berlin Noir" Penquin edition, chapter 23, pp 512-518.

    Heydrich and Himmler were hand in glove; benefactor and disciple.
    Himmler " politically out maneuvered" Goring and his man Gestapo chief Rudolph Diels, in 1934-35 and placed himself and Heydrich as controllers of the German police apparatus secret and otherwise, from that time onward.

    I don't think Heydrich would be explaining any of his motives for anything he did to anyone (least of all Gunther), other then to Himmler, Goring, or Hitler.

    Historical opinions aside, PC is a terrific story IMHO.
  • Got it. Thanks!

    Another one from PC: book time is September '38 and there's mention of the burning of Nuremberg synagogue, but that event actually happened in November '38 (page 415 of BN)
  • One small but interesting flaw is how Bernie got rid of his SS tattoo, In GR he says he shot it off but in OFTO he says he used a cigarette lighter. Anyway, regardless of the flws I love the books.
  • Good one, ekmassey. Thanks!
  • Maybe it's just me, but..has anyone else sensed a big disconnect in the dialogue style and narrative style in the prologue of One From The Other as opposed to the rest of the book.

    I'm aware that One From The Other was written some 15 years after GR, the last part of BNoir. And at first I was thinking that PK had lost a sense of the character for some reason. However, as One From The Other progressed, the dialogue and style went right back to BG as usual (happily so).

    It almost felt like the prologue was not BG "speaking" at all.

    Just curious if anyone else noticed this?
  • I definitely think it took half a book for Kerr to "find Bernie's voice" after so long a hiatus. I also remember thinking that his writing style must have mellowed with age. I still think that. But it seemed and seems appropriate, given that Bernie is aging and mellowing (sort of) too. When you're done with QF come back here and we'll visit this topic some more, because there's something to say about QF and this subject. Enjoy!
  • I definitely will revisit this thread after QF..which is up next for me.

    I guess the disconnect for me was that, the prologue in One From The Other taking place in 1937..a year prior to PC..yet written 15 years later, seemed character tone wise out of sync.

    But again, as the chapters roll out, I find, at least, that BG is back in great form. The scene in the garage with the "old comades" is terrific and vintage BG/PK.

    If I may ask, what is your raison d'être, for this web site? Super fan..editorial..publishing?? Just curious..very glad it exits.
  • Just a site by fans for fans…. we thought the books deserved more of a Web presence
  • Thanks for the reply..clearly I found the right spot.
  • Thanks for participating WML!
  • It's been some years, since i read MC, but there were two major mistakes:
    1. The train station at Nollendorfplatz ist part of the normal Berlin tube (not part of the Stadt-Bahn). Only the rich boroughs of Berlin had underground-stations, Schöneberg, were Nollendirfplatz lies, was a very poor one.
    2. It is impossible, really impossible, to get from Schwanwerder to the Müggelsee by boat in less than 3 hours. Either you use the river Spree or the Landwehrkanal, there are several water locks on the way.

    Sorry for the poor english, love the books, that must count.
  • edited September 2011
    Thank you, Lgoellner. It's great to have input from someone who is very knowledgeable about Berlin.

    Philip Kerr himself gave an example in a recent interview he gave to Robert Birnbaum for The Morning News (see Interviews page for link)

    RB: Do you get readers upbraiding you for factual issues?

    PK: I get the odd person who writes and points out some trivial detail that I got wrong. In one of the recent novels I mentioned the synagogue, the Oranienburger Strasse in Berlin, which was the largest synagogue at the time. It had a congregation of 8,000 people. I visited it to research it properly. The mistake I made was that they were not strict Jews. It was a kind of reformed Jewish congregation. I had described the guys as wearing more intense traditional Hasidic stuff. And they wouldn’t ever had worn that. So it was a fact I got wrong. And I put my hands up to that. I felt in spirit it was OK. A forgivable mistake. What was interesting about writing that scene was, when I wrote it, I deliberately put myself in the position of imagining all these people were Muslims. So that I would mine my own borderline racism about Muslims in our society. I thought this was a terribly useful thing to do, to catch myself off, if you like. So that in the same way I look on people wearing burkhas and djellabas in modern 21st-century society and thinking “Why don’t they dress like us?” I was able to use that for how Germans would have reacted to strict Hasidic Jews, who were obvious as well. It was a useful thing to do.

    RB: More method acting.

    PK: Yes.

  • It' a big political discussion in Germany for the last two months: the equating of anti-semitism and fear of muslims. But that's a difficult theme and I don't wanna say something about this topic in a foreign language. My english is too bad for political discussions.
  • In chapter 8 of QF the corpse of Sabine Färber is found in the slaughterhouse-area, she lives near by "at Pettenkofer Straße in Lichterfelde.
    Kerr is mixing up Lichterfelde, a suburb in the south of Berlin, and Lichtenberg, the district near the slaughterhouses.
  • Thanks, Lgoellner
  • Hola a todos buenas tardes, soy bastante aficcionado al tema de las estilográficas y siempre me he planteado que estilográfica era la que llevaría Bernie Gunther en sus distintas épocas, puede que en cada parte de la historia esto vaya cambiando pues cuando pertenecía a la Kripo, puede que llevase una Pelikan 100 o Pelikan Ibis, en cambio una vez terminada la guerra en Berlín seguro que ha cambiado y en Cuba, seguro que tendría algo americano...

    Es una faceta poco explotada de la personalidad de Gunther pero es un gran guiño para los aficcionados que realmente lo sumerge en un contexto muy creible y con aromas.... interesantes.

  • @ bernie

    Gracias - es una idea interesante. ¿Lleva actualmente Bernie estilográficas distintas en de uno libro al otro? No recuerdo. Tengo que buscarlo y notar si eran estilográficas que pertenecian al tiempo y lugar correcto.

    For non Spanish speakers, this comment is about the various types of fountain pens Bernie would have carried at different times places in his life.

    En las novelas no hay alusiones a estilográficas. Me refiero a q seria interesante q las hubiese. Saludos y gracias.
  • Aha. Entiendo. Si, seria interesante. Quiza Philip Kerr las incorporara en libros futuros.
  • In the French translation of The Pale Figure, the word "Sturmbannführer" (a rank of the SS) is always misspelled as "SturmBAHNführer".
    Is it the same in the English text?
    The mistake is funny, since “Bahnführer” would mean something like a streetcab driver!
  • Errors : In the latest, Prague Fatale, Bernie defends a Jewish veteran who is wearing a Knight's Cross with oak leaves. Being as how it is apparent that the old man served in the Great War, the Knight's Cross, not instituted until the Second World War, is a glaring error.
    As for the discrepancy of how Bernie removed the SS tatoo, I note that if one recalls that in the first several books he refers to pistols as "lighters", one might stretch the point a bit and say that cigarette lighter could mean the same as well.
  • In A Quiet Flame, the name of lake Nahuel Huapi is mispelled ("Hupi"). BA's airport's name, Ezeiza, is also mispelled.
    Can't remember which page; just found this site.
  • If The Dead Rise Not: At the end of chapter 24 Bernie is heading from the police hq in Potsdam to a train station named "Teltower Tor". As far as I know (and I know Potsdam pretty well, my father was born and raised there) there never was a train station by that name.
    The Teltower Tor was on the west side of the Lange Brücke. The Train Station on the east side of that bridge was named Potsdam Stadt or Stadtbahnhof, today Potsdam Hauptbahnhof.

    And the Police HQ of Potsdam was located at Priesterstraße, not Priest-Straße.
  • Thanks, everyone. Keep them coming!
  • Hi all, got put on to these by a friend, and in turn got my father, father-in-law and brother hooked!
    Just a couple of things I've picked up Field Grey, the murder victim in the POW camp is an SS man captured at Stalingrad, yet to the best of my knowledge the SS were no way involved in the operation. Also, BG states in March Violets (book on loan so can't confirm!) that he only fought in Turkey during WW1? Yet all other references to his service are Western Front ones
    Just finished Prague Fatale, love the books to death!
  • >> Also, BG states in March Violets (book on loan so can't confirm!) that he only fought in Turkey during WW1? <<

    That occurred to me as well, when reading the post Berlin Noir
    (15 years lateer) books.
    BG refers to the horrors of the trench warfare on the Western front in many of the later books, and doesn't again reference the Eastern theater of war after the BN series.
  • Maybe Bernie is a new version of Young Indiana Jones. In his TV-Show from the early 90's Indy showed up on nearly every theatre of WW I around the world: from the trenches of Flandern to Palestine, East Africa, Russia and so on. And he met interesting people, too!
  • A reader from the Netherlands sent us this error via e-mail:

    "I am reading Prague Fatale (and enjoying it: I like BeGu more in Berlin than in foreign places and am amused about realistic details as the clubbing Amis in Berlin disliking coloured people).

    But there was no university in The Hague ( see pages 56 and 106) in 1935-1941, just as there is none now."
  • I have marvelled at the fantastically well researched and historically correct facts put together to stories which makes it difficult to put the books aways once opened. And what a great idea to ask for flaws! Better to discuss them here, within the family...Here is one: I noticed repeated inconsistencies in the use of the SS ranks. It does not have to be like many other English texts, that the rank is written in German (to write "Captain Gunther" instead of Hauptsturmführer Gunther is not disurbing) but on those occassions when it is in fact written in German, an SS officer should be mentioned with the proper rank, not the army equivalent. ( ie. never Hauptmann Gunther). And...SS officers did not the the "Herr..." before the rank. An army Captain would be addressed "Herr Hauptmann" but the corresponding SS "captain" would be addressed "Hauptsturmführer" only.
  • I've always enjoyed the Bernie Gunther novels and, for the most part, they are spot on in their description of life in the Third Reich. But occasionally clinkers get by, and it's a bit jarring when this happens. But no one's perfect...

    I'm reading "Prague Fatale" now, and just came on the scene where Bernie sees an elderly Jewish man wearing the Yellow Star on a train. This angers Bernie because the man is also wearing the Knight's Cross and Oak Leaves around his neck. However, the Knight's Cross (and its various grades, including the Oak Leaves) was strictly a Nazi era medal, and there would never have been a Jewish recipient. I think Kerr's intent is to show how badly even brave Jewish veterans of the Great War were treated, in which case it would have made more sense to have the man wearing a Pour le Merite, the highest decoration for bravery in Imperial Germany...but this wouldn't have been historically accurate either. Only one Jewish soldier received this medal during the Great War, a flyer who was killed in action (and ignored in all Nazi histories of the medal).

    It would have been best, maybe, to have the man wearing an Imperial Iron Cross First Class pinned to his jacket right below the Yellow Star - this would certainly have made the point pretty vividly. (Btw, Jewish veterans of the Great War with the Iron Cross First Class were supposed to have been treated better than ordinary Jewish citizens by the Nazis....sadly, this rarely, if ever happened.)

    Anyway, I hope the Bernie books keep coming...I can't wait to see him get involved in the Berlin events of July 20, 1944....
  • Thanks, Jeff. Very interesting info!
  • Bernie sometimes gets Berlin transport a little wrong- Wittenbergplatz is a U-Bahn station, not S-Bahn- very small mistakes which a Berliner could easily make. In general the details are incredibly accurate!
  • I am a native German speaker, I know Berlin very well, and I am a political scientist (though not a historian). I find the novels fascinating, I have enjoyed the six I have read so far tremendously, and I don't really care about the occasional factual or historical inaccuracies (example: the state of Niedersachsen wasn't created until 1945, so Bernie could not have driven throught it on his way to Wewelsburg in 1938 - Berlin Noir, p. 500).

    My biggest gripe is a different one: I don't think Kerr knows the German language very well. To some extend that is understandable, but it unfortunately introduces an element of "unreality" into several of the stories. Let me be more precise: Bernie Gunther is from Berlin, presumably he grew up there. As such he would have a VERY distinct accent (the Berlin accent is easily the most recognizeable of the German accents). There is simply NO WAY he'd be able to get away with as much as his did while he was living/working in Munich and Vienna. By far the biggest example of that is when he pretends to be Eric Gruen, the former Nazi doctor from Vienna. The lawyer in Vienna (One from the Other) would have spotted that fake in 3 seconds. There are many other, smaller examples of this throughout. Since Kerr is from Scotland, it puzzles me that he would pay so little attention to this dimension. After all, the various regional accents in Britain are very distinct, and the culture, as well as interpersonal relations, are - to a significant extent - influenced by this. Germany is much the same.

    A minor example of this is when he charaterizes the Nuremberg accent as "Bavarian." Yes, Nuremberg is politically in Bavaria, but culturally it is Franconia, and the accent spoken there is Franconian. Very easily distinguishable.

    I am curious if other readers have picked up on this. Also, I have not yet read any of the German translations, but i am looking forward to see how they have dealt with this issue.


  • AS - Being from the States, and not being a speaker of German, the above would never have registered with me. However, your comments are very interesting. It would be the same, I suppose, as someone from Mississippi or Louisiana pretending to be a native New Yorker; or vice versa.
    Just couldn't happen.

  • No, it couldn't. In "Quiet Flame" Bernie interviews one of the ex-Nazis, telling him he was from Munich. Again: it couldn't happen. But here it's not so dramatic because the story does not depend on it. What's interesting in the entire context is that the 1930s and 40s were a time BEFORE the beginning of modern mass culture (e.g., television), with its homogenizing impact on culture and language. Back then, regional mores, cultures, and languages would have been even more distinct, making it all the more difficult to pretend to be someone else or to find your way around a strange place. And most people would have been even more suspicious of "outsiders." Still, this in no way diminishes the enjoyment of reading these novels.
  • Hi,
    I've only recently discovered these books and am having lots of fun catching up (i'm getting towards the end of Berlin Noir at the moment). I'm pretty impressed with the historical research, but there are some odd oversights, such as the anticipation of the creation of the state of Niedersachsen (which is where I grew up). I also noticed the Bavaria/Franconia inaccuracies (my mother is from Munich). However, the error that really made me groan was the description of Bernie's ex-colleague in PC as a Ostfriese from the Emsland. The Ostfriesen get picked on a lot in German humour for their (alleged) slowness and taciturnity, but they really are quite distinct from other North Germans, they have their own language and culture and tend to be reformed protestant. They have more in common with Frisians from the north of the Netherlands. The Emsland, on the other hand, lies between Ostfriesland and the Muensterland, and is predominantly catholic. They really are very different regions and very different people! And yes, Kerr's German can be a bit dodgy at times: surely the company Koenig used to run should be called "Rekla*m*e und Werbung" (both words meaning advertising)?
    Nonetheless, the books are really interesting and great fun to read - I'm really looking forward to finding out how Bernie gets on in post-war Germany!
  • In Prague Fatale, there's a mention of Jan Masaryk Station in Prague. Actually, the station was named before the war for Thomas Masaryk, Jan's father and the leaders of Czech independence. During the war, it was renamed Prague Hibernia Station (the Germans likely wanted to remove any vestiges of Czech nationalism).
  • I have been reading and re-reading the Bernie Gunther novels for a few years now, and eagerly anticipate the next ones! I am however confused about his birthday - In one of the earlier books it's listed as July 20, 1897. When he is in Argentina he makes reference to lying about it being April 20 to quell the suspicions of the old comrades; however, in Field Grey he invites Elizabeth for a drink on his birthday in May, the 23rd I think...
  • Since I haved lived in Berlin for the last 30 years, I love to read good novels which are located in Berlin an so I´ve been following the Bernie Gunther series for some years now. I enjoy them very much, despite the occasional error.
    One that comes to mind is where Bernie is driving down the "Clayallee" (Clay-Avenue) in prewar Berlin. At that time Lucius D. Clay would have been very surprised if someone had told him the capital of a defeated enemy country would one day name a street in his honour. ;-)
    (General Lucius D. Clay initiated and organised the famous Berlin-Airlift in 1948/49 when the soviets blocked the Western Allies access to Berlin.)
  • That one jumped at me, too, Renfield. Soon as I saw it, I thought, whoa, there's a goof. I guess the name just didn't register and the proofers weren't researchers. Oops!
  • I am entering this anomaly on behalf of my sister-in-law who lives in London and has just finished A Man Without Breath. She is a great Bernie fan, but for some reason was unable to register for this site. This is her desired posting:

    The book opens with Bernie attending a dinner to celebrate the release of one Franz Meyer - a blond Berlin Jew who "looked as if he had been carved by
  • this ia continuation of the above comment...

    Arno Breker, Hitler's official state sculptor. he was noone's idea of a Jew. Half the SS and SD were more obviously Semitic."
    Franz is married to Siv, who together with her three sisters, although Aryan "might have been (Jewish) - all were Germans with strong noses,dark eyes, and even darker hair."
    The dinner is taking place in celebration of the fact that Siv, Klara and her two other sisters had taken part in a demonstration outside the Jewish Welfare Office in Berlin, an event which actually did happen in May of 1943, and where Gentile wives of Jewish husbands agitated successfully for there release.
    On page 14 of the Quercus edition of the British edition there is a description of the event, and then at the bottom of the page it says:

    "There were many more of them then I had been expecting - perhaps several hundred. Even Klara Meyer looked surprised, but not as surprised as the cops and the SS who were guarding the Jewish Welfare Office."

    The anomaly is that unless Klara was married to a brother or relative of Franz Meyer, she would not have been a Meyer as Franz is married to Siv not Klara.
  • edited May 2013
    My name is Ulf, I am a great fan of Phillip Kerr and have read all is Bernie Gunther novels so far.
    As a history buff I find his research excellent, as is his ability to always place BG in a plausible historical context.
    Phillipp Kerrs research is usually flawless. However, in his latest novel "A Man without Breath", I have found a small mistake:
    On page 414, in the second from last paragraph, Kerr describes his heroine Ines Kramsta as follows:
    "...she searched her forensic wallet before producing a large curving needle that looked like it could have stitched a sail on the Kruzenstern".

    The Russian Sail Training tall ship "Kruzenstern" was originally the German "Padua" built in the 1920s. After WWII she was requisitioned by the Soviet Union as war booty. She was renamed after a German communist scientist? and recommissioned by the Soviet Navy in 1946. She is still active as a sail training vessel for the Russian Navy.

    Sine the story takes place in 1943, BG's reference to a sail on a famous sailing ship would have been correct if Phillip Kerr would have let him use the ship's original name "Padua", or one of her sister ships who were equally famous for their huge size and enormous sail-area.

    Small mistakes as this does not in any way reduce my pleasure and enthusiasm for Phillip Kerr's work. I am looking forward to reading his future novels.

    Kind regards;

    Ulf T. Ulriksen, Tonsberg, Norway.
  • Hi everybody,

    greetings from Sweden. I think I have found a small error. In "Prague Fatale", while investigating the murder in Prague, Bernie receives a letter from a girl in Paris. Bernie has helped her to get a job at the Adlon hotel in Berlin. He says her name is Bettina but in the previous book, "Field Grey", she presents herself as Renata Matter.

    All the best,
  • Thanks, Peter! Tack!
  • Varsågod - you´re welcome!
  • edited November 2013
    I love these books, and have reread them several times - any fool can criticize, but in literature Kerr makes the odd blunder. Kerr occasionally makes it very clear that he is a bit too busy to read the books he makes reference to. The worst of these mistakes is in Field Grey where Heydrich remarks to Bernie that it is a tragedy that Paul Baumer dies while reaching for a bird on the last page of All Quiet on the Western Front. No bird is mentioned in connection with Baumer's death in the book. However, in the 1979 film, Baumer's death is dramatized through his reaching for a bird. Oh dear.

    Other examples are smaller - In A Man Without Breath, Voltaire's novel Candide is referred to as a play. In the same book, Bernie quotes Goethe's Der Erlkonig to the judge he is speaking to, who is noted for his academic prowess: "The judge frowned, trying to recognize my allusion.'Goethe?' I nodded". This poem is the most famous poem in the German language, and about as clever as spotting that "To be or not to be" is a quotation from Shakespeare.
  • edited January 2014
    I am enjoying the series very much, but there are a few things I have spotted.

    In "A Quiet Flame," Ricci Kamm's redhead girlfriend is compared to Rita Hayworth. If this is supposed to be 1932-33 in the narration, Rita did not change her hair color to red until 1935, and she was not known by that name in 1932. ( I suppose if the narration is 1950 it would be OK, just that it is confusing. )

    In "The One From The Other," end of chapter 38, Eichmann mentions the lyrics from the old song "Tomorrow belongs to me." That song was written in 1966 for the musical (and later film ) "Cabaret." Unless the lyrics were adapted from some other German song by John Kander and Fred Ebb...
  • I've heard conflicting reports and that song. Does anyone here know if the song takes lyrics from an older piece?
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