Armchair Historians

Simon J. James, Achtung History Podcast, Berlin

December 01, 2020 Simon J. James
Armchair Historians
Simon J. James, Achtung History Podcast, Berlin
Show Notes Transcript

Today I talk to Simon J. James, host and producer of the up and coming podcast Achtung History. We talk about his favorite history, Berlin, and some of the lesser known aspects of this vibrant city's past. 

Simon J. James also known as the Berlin Tour Guide, loves Berlin so much he moved there from Yorkshire England and started a tour guide business. His tours are not your run of the mill though, Simon dives deep into the research to curate his one of a kind history tours of Berlin. 

Simon has guided entrepreneurs, celebrities and royalty around Berlin since 2014. According to his website theberlintourguide.com Simon goes beyond shallow history taking you on a storytelling journey through the secrets of Berlin’s history, inside stories of drama and intrigue, alongside the largest historic events in Berlin’s history. An approach that is apparent in his podcast.

How to find Simon J. James:
website: https://theberlintourguide.com
Twitter: https://twitter.com/AchtungHistory
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/achtunghistory
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/achtunghistorypodcast

To Support Armchair Historians:
Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/armchairhistorians
Ko-fi: https://ko-fi.com/belgiumrabbitproductions


Anne Marie Cannon:

Hello, my name is Anne Marie Cannon and I'm the host of armchair historians. What's your favorite history? Each episode begins with this one question. Our guests come from all walks of life, YouTube celebrities, comedians, historians, even neighbors from the small mountain community that I live in. There are people who love history and get really excited about a particular time, place, or person from our distant or not so distant past. The jumping off point is a place where they became curious, then enters the rabbit hole into discovery, fueled by an unrelenting need to know more, we look at history through the filter of other people's eyes. armchair historians is a Belgian rabbit production. Stay up to date with us through Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Wherever you listen to your podcast that is where you'll find us. I'm chair historians as an independent, commercial free podcast. If you'd like to support the show and keep it ad free, you can buy us a cup of coffee through cofee or you can become a patron through Patreon links to both in the Episode Notes. In today's episode, I talked to Simon J. James host and producer of the upcoming podcast Achtung history. Now I found Simon when I was looking for new history podcasts to listen to and when I saw the name octone history, I was certain the host would have a German accent. When I heard his lovely British accent. I was drawn in being the self proclaimed Anglophile that I am. If the voice drew me in, then the writing and his narration kept me there. Simon J. James, also known as the Berlin tour guide, loves Berlin so much he moved there from Yorkshire, England, and started a tour guide business. His tours are not your run of the mill though. Simon dives deep into the research to curate is one of the kind history tours of Berlin. Simon has guided entrepreneurs, celebrities and royalty around Berlin since 2014. According to his website, the Berlin tour guide.com. Simon goes beyond shallow history taking you on a storytelling journey through the secrets of Berlin's history inside stories of drama and intrigue, alongside the largest historic events in Berlin's history and approach that is apparent in his podcast. Simon J. James, welcome. And thank you for being here today.

Simon J. James:

Thank you very much for having me.

Anne Marie Cannon:

I start each interview out with the same question. And we're just gonna get right off to the races, what's your favorite history that we're going to be talking about today?

Simon J. James:

channel, this was something I when you sent me the email and asked me to do this interview, I actually spent a very, very long time thinking about it. It's really taken me a long time to, to work through and think about what I wanted to talk about, in particular, in respects to the fact that I find myself having a very, very broad area of interest. So I started to ask myself, why do I have such a broad area of interest? What is the springboard that launches me into the rabbit holes that I seem to fall down so often, and I realize it's the thing that I talk about most often. And it's very simply where I live, it's the city that I adore, because it's it takes me on so many different journeys that not necessarily are local to where I am, but they take me across a country. And therefore the topic that I prefer most to talk about the history that I am constantly in love with in the history of Berlin, and I realized that's a very broad and umbrella place to begin, but it really does sort of narrow down into the idea that the city I love Berlin, is so incredible, and keeps me going because of all these little connections that it builds all all the time.

Anne Marie Cannon:

I know this might put you on the spot. And it's a really broad question, but can you give us a little kind of synopsis of the history of Berlin?

Unknown:

Yes or no? Is the easy answer to that. To make things even more complicated. Berlin is in history, it's not a continuation, like some cities may have been, let's say, for example, London is very much a continuation of history. It's never really been, say conquered as such. The Romans founded it, it was abandoned, etc. And then the Normans established a stronghold then and then the history has remained fairly linear throughout Berlin is quite different. The city of Berlin itself began when we don't even really know to begin with the very beginnings of Berlin itself. very much in murky waters, there was a lot of small fishing settlements around here. They competed with one another over time for prominence. And it was also on the one point on the outer reaches of Christianity before the Slavic pagans to the east. But the thing that I think really defines Berlin's history is the fact that it's always been really a divide. It's been what we think today is looking at this more recent history, it's was torn between the Cold War, it's sat on the crossroads of east and west. And through all of these things they've added to a very rich texture of the city. But Berlin, in essence, is a rebellious outpost that is its own place its own identity, that hasn't tried to really conform with any one particular style. It's a wonderful amalgamation of many different places, all coming together in a huge city. And it's got a really quite just incredible energy to it, that very few cities I personally find can compete with.

Anne Marie Cannon:

So you don't have a German accent, you know, are obviously from England. I Oh, are you German?

Unknown:

No, I'm, I'm English. I grew up in England. But from a very early age, I through a musical exchange with an orchestra that I used to be part of had an exchange with Germany, and I fell in love with Germany from about the age of 11, or 12. Oh, wow, that's young. And slowly, that connection led me to, to explore a little places farther afield. Initially, it was to the far Western Germany that I first visited. And then on one of those trips, the far west, I took a train and came to Berlin and never sort of wanted to leave. Which is why why I live here and why, for me, the the history of Germany and Berlin is so much a big, it's been a big part and is a big part of my life. And why I like to think I'm somewhat of an expert in it.

Anne Marie Cannon:

I think you are. Tell us a little bit about your journey and how you did end up in Berlin and what it is that you do now. And I want to say I've been listening to your podcast ever since yesterday, because I tried to do a deep dive before I interview somebody, you know, whatever their platform is, yes. Hitler's horses. How am I God? You do do the writing?

Simon J. James:

Yeah, do all of it. Oh, my

Anne Marie Cannon:

word. Have you published a book?

Unknown:

I haven't. I'm sitting on a few things at the moment that I I'm debating whether or not I'm going to release them as podcasts or as books.

Anne Marie Cannon:

Why not every I I love with your writing. It was high intrigue, it had everything. It wasn't just a history podcast, and you have a great voice. So it's very rare that somebody who is a writer can actually narrate their own writing, that doesn't happen a lot. Anyways, I'm a fan. How did you become? What is it the Berlin tour guide?

Unknown:

Yes, that's correct. I arrived in Berlin to live here permanently, about six and a half years ago. And I've always had a passion for for storytelling on top of my passion for history. My degree at university wasn't a degree in history of search. It was a degree in film. So the two elements of history and storytelling have been a big part of, of my own identity and what I love doing. And since my first visit to the city of Berlin, it was the the history that that captured me. So this was I visited first. I don't know how long ago now quite a long time ago. And I just remember that it was bitterly cold. It was one of the coldest winters they'd ever had on record. It was minus minus 20 something degrees Celsius. And the city despite that was so beautiful, the skies with blue, the architectural styling of the place that the neoclassical columns all just looked amazing. And at that point, I decided that I had to live in Berlin. So I went back to England went back to university I studied in Bristol, which is in itself a fantastic city. And I left University, possibly at one of the worst times that one could, which was during the the end of the middle of the last recession. There wasn't a lot of options myself and a lot of my course colleagues, we had to start taking whatever jobs we could I know a lot of people who wanted to go and specialize in certain aspects of film be at writing, etc. And it was very difficult for anybody, because there wasn't the, the opportunities. For myself, I took up some, some odd jobs. I did some work in filming with another passion of mine, which is motorsport. And ultimately, many years later, I got fed up of it. And I started to sell everything I own didn't just follow follow the dream, which was followed to Berlin. And I arrived here, I knew so much of the history already, because it'd been part of my dissertation at university was a study of pre and post fall of the Berlin Wall attitudes and reflections and iconography. So I just fell into being a tour guide, and enjoyed every moment of it, because you got to meet new people. And the thing that I've always specified with being a tour guide is that if you repeat facts, nobody's going to remember anything. But if you can give people the the stories, the one liners, you can create springboards that they will remember the rest of the story, they only need that starting point to be able to remember so much more than they can go away and tell their friends. And that's what I've loved about it. Of course, naturally, in the last year or so, tour, guiding has not been particularly great. Can I just interject

Anne Marie Cannon:

because this is one of the other reasons why I was so intrigued by you is, I too am a tour guide. I live in a National Historic Landmark District in Colorado, the town is called Georgetown. And so I just love history. I love talking about it. I'm not a scholar, I kind of fell in love with history. In that university. I had a teacher that I took every semester and she would do that she would come in and tell you history like a story. I was totally sold. And I guess I've already had out kind of always had that propensity. Anyways, I'm a storyteller, My degree is actually in writing. And so I too, was in the same quandary when COVID happening. And I just, I shut my business down this past season. And that's when I started my podcast that when you started yours as well, or

Unknown:

in part, yes, I've actually begun working on the podcast last year when I've actually taken a sabbatical anyway, from tour guiding. I've been working a lot. And I decided that actually what I wanted to do was focus on doing some writing and focusing on Robert, instead of working so much that to follow the writing side as well. And during that year I happen to stumble upon, can't remember exactly what it was, but I stumbled upon a name. And it was one of those rabbit hole moments that I just tumbled and tumbled down. And that became the that name presents me with a question is, why do we not know about this? Why do we not know about this person. And through many, many weeks and months of research, I started to build a picture. And that picture eventually formed itself into the writing for the first podcast for the first series, he holds the devil under study into Hans globcal, the the man who was the lawyer that effectively wrote the Nuremberg laws that persecuted so horrendously during the Nazi regime, and it was a man who got away with it. And I was, I couldn't quite fathom how this person was allowed to get away with it. So I was sitting on it, preparing for a new season of tour guiding To begin, and I thought I would sit on it, I'll record it, I have it all set up. And then I will use it as promotion for for the tour guiding business to enhance the website and search and then COVID hit the business, of course naturally died. And my fiance said, Why don't you just release it? So I did, I started releasing it. And there was, I think with doing that woke a passion within me to focus a lot more on the writing and the storytelling and combine it with the history to keep going with the podcast. I work most weeks five days a week on producing new podcasts to keep going so really was the current situation that pushed me into doing the podcasting.

Anne Marie Cannon:

Do you do all German history? Or do you

Unknown:

know so I don't be focused upon Prussian history. The reason I don't focus on German history as a whole is because it gets infinitely more complicated. The idea of Germany in German history we say begins in nine ad when the Germanic tribes first united together and defeated the Roman armies. The Battle of Tucson book forest, but Germany doesn't exist as a physical concept until really the unification of Germany in 1871. So prior to that, during, for example, the Holy Roman Empire that existed from the late 19th century, until next, Napoleon disbanded it in 1806. That was a collection of Bishop terms of fives of juke items of small, independent kingdoms, that just creates a really rich fabric. There was a wonderful book by the former curator of the the British Museum, Neil MacGregor, who really explored beautifully through different topics, what it meant to be German. And what is German history. And the reality is that German history is, is a history of different areas working together in skills. But there isn't something as such that you could classify until 1871 is the German nation. So you can't really say, Are you an expert in German history because of the fact that Bavaria has its own completely different timeline until 1871, to pressure which existed in the north. So it becomes extremely complicated. If you take for example, Queen Victoria of Britain, her husband was Albert of saxe Coburg girder. And that was a German area. And it was an area that was infinitely divided within itself. So it was started of saxa was divided into Coburg and Gerda, it becomes this pyramid scheme effectively of nations. So the history of Germany in itself is so complicated. So I choose to focus a bit more simply on pressure and, and Berlin, which have a not quite easier, but a more, it's a more focused, historical story. But in particular, the area that fascinates me about Berlin, is how Berlin came into being when so quickly from a backwater capital, to the capital of a, of an empire, and became the powerhouse of Europe that made the old kingdoms the Britain and France really, really quick, because it became so powerful so quickly. And it spawned a great wealth that then became the wonderful 1920s in Berlin, the decadent periods. So my my history is predominately focused around Berlin and Prussia.

Anne Marie Cannon:

What is the one thing that you want my listeners to know about? Berlin?

Simon J. James:

Good question.

Unknown:

I think the one thing that I would have to say that I'd like people to know more about Berlin, is that Berlin in the last 100 years, has really garnered a reputation as a Party City, from the 1920s, that is very much revered for its cabarets and such through to the 1990s until today is a big scene of, of tech, no and, and clubbing. What I often find is when people come to Berlin, often now they miss something. And what they miss is that Berlin was once the center of, of education and enlightenment. A lot of people presume that because of the German history from World War One and World War Two, that Berlin and pressure were this militaristic area of boots marching up and down and hitless salutes, etc. But Berlin itself really is was one of the most amazingly liberal and enlightened areas where there was a huge focus on education, but then had one of the greatest success rates for children in education they had, in the end of the 19th century, they had over 96% of the children in Berlin were in education, which is incredible to think about. Because if you compare that to somewhere like England, you can flip that on its head. 96% of children in England weren't in education, but then had an incredible University in the Friedrich vilhelm university that became the University of Berlin. That is today's Humboldt University founded by the fantastic Humboldt brothers, Alexander, of which Alexander von Humboldt gives his name to many counties in the United States and many different species of animals. It was home to some of the greatest museums and collections. And it really is such an incredible Cultural Center, that you can walk into so many different museums on one ticket and see some of the most incredible pieces. They're explained in a beautiful way. And it's so accessible. It's really accessible to wonder around and see incredible buildings that other places sort of, I always feel a little bit lacking. But then as a central place of education that changed really the course of Europe at one point because of its incredible institutions that eventually led to people like Max Planck and Albert Einstein studying God lecturing here, and really pushing the way in sciences, mathematics, etc. So there's so much deep, deep, rich educational history, that is worth exploring, as well as the history that often is more prominent due to, for example, the second world war due to media and such that allows us through films and photographs to have a more visual approach. That's really why I was thinking about Berlin is that people need to remember that it wasn't just the Hitler regime, or the the First World War or the dancing in the 20s. It was a city like none of it really was full education and enlightenment.

Anne Marie Cannon:

Who knew? And you're absolutely right, that my understanding of Germany period, or its history is very rooted in the wars.

Unknown:

This is insane for so many people.

Anne Marie Cannon:

And it is unfortunate, in a way, I think it's an important history to remember. But at the same time, I think there's a lot that is lost in that quick Association. Maybe. Do you speak German?

Unknown:

I wish I could read German but I can't speak Yes, I'm such as the the reverse of most people who can speak it, but can't read it. But it's purely because I spend so much time reading old newspapers to to, to gather my research or to gather strange little stories, which are otherwise somewhat forgotten. I spend a lot of time reading the old Germanic fracture script that I can read fairly well. I still have to translate most things just to be sure I'm translating My head is correct. But when it comes to speaking yet, no, I do struggle. But that's also down to the fact that Berlin is a extremely multicultural city.

Anne Marie Cannon:

You do your tours in English?

Unknown:

I do everything in English. Yes.

Anne Marie Cannon:

Interesting. That's interesting. I was wondering about are you still doing tours? Have you done any tours this year,

Unknown:

I've, I've done a handful, one was actually for a client. And then I decided that, again, with a little bit of a prod, I decided to do a free tool to try and address aspects of Berlin's history that otherwise people wouldn't explore. If you come to a lot of cities in Europe, let's say as a student, for example, more often than not, you'll end up doing a free walking tour in a city and it will be with a certain company. And they will take you on routes. But what I found in my passing by of these tours, a lot of the information is sort of like a Chinese whispers of information. One tour guide, read it once. And then the next tour guide was trained off them speaking. And the next one is 30, that information has become a little bit fragmented and predominantly wrong. But also with that, a lot of these companies, they do the same tools, they in a way that give the people what they want, they want to see where Hitler's bunker was, they want to see the Berlin Wall, they want to see checkpoint, Charlie. So I decided this, just before the second lockdown came into being, I decided to do not per se an alternative tour, but rather to do tours of the important historical sites that wouldn't fall onto those routes. So I did a tour of the old historic city center of Berlin, which we're slowly getting parts of it back, things are being rebuilt, it's lovely to see some incredible buildings that were destroyed, either through the wall or through the communist period of not fitting in with a new ideology, and to take people through for the stories. And the only ghost story of Berlin falls into that, that mark. And then more recently, I did a tour that focused on two things focused on the communist history of Berlin outside of the post Second World War period, so that the earlier communists history and beer, the history of beer and how it is a very interesting tool to look into the development of the city through types of beer that people drunk through rising volumes of beer produced different types of beer that were produced and why certain types of beer went out of existence. And I offered those to people in Berlin because I think it's important to get people in their own city out as much as it is to get tourists in and learning about This isn't. So those were both wonderful, wonderful little forays back into tour guide. But other than that, it's been a year that I have focused predominantly on podcasting.

Anne Marie Cannon:

So you're in lockdown again,

Unknown:

the soft lockdown, where bars and restaurants are closed takeaways. Open shops are limited in how many people that can go in. And it's not as bad as the first one. But cases are a little bit worse than the first lockdown at the moment. So we're just, we're just existing,

Anne Marie Cannon:

we should be in lockdown. It's horrible here right now. And we have this president who's denying the fact that he lost.

Unknown:

We thought we ought to avoid it. It's a it's all over us.

Anne Marie Cannon:

But you know, the matter is that half of the the United States are aligned, not half, maybe a little bit less than half. But yeah, you know, aligned with his, if you want to call it a philosophy, and I constantly think about the Nazis and the evolution of the Nazis and compare it to, there's a lot of elements of what has gone on in the United States and other countries to even England, it makes me understand how the Nazis and Hitler came into power. That's all the only saving grace for us, I think, is that Trump is not as smart as Hitler was.

Unknown:

I think I agree with that. Yeah. It's, we can always say, a very good friend of mine say is hindsight is 2020. And it's easier to look later on, when you could have stopped things than it is to address them at the moment at the time that they're happening. But we do have the benefits of certain aspects of history that we can draw parallels between that will allow us to understand our governments themselves better as well.

Anne Marie Cannon:

Where do we see this history? And this is a good opportunity for you to help us to see a Berlin that you see perhaps, where do we see this history in pop culture?

Unknown:

Oh, with Berlin, I think absolutely everywhere. I think you'd be surprised really how often it pops up in popular culture. So for example, I was at lunchtime today I was watching scrubs, if you remember the old TV show scripts, and the and that the Nina Song 99, left balloons came on 99 sick love balloons. And that's a very important piece of popular culture about Berlin, it's talking about sending balloons over the wall. It's about dropping these into pieces of silver to interrupts, messages, etc. One small piece of pop culture, but also there's really the pop culture in Berlin to really come together very, very often. And most times, you might not even realize it. An example springs to mind in the mocking Mockingjay films, I've forgotten what they called

Anne Marie Cannon:

a hunger game,

Unknown:

the Hunger Games for Kids called Mockingjay. In the Hunger Games, which I believe not having really seen too much the films are reading the books. It's all about this totalitarian state. And there's a scene in it, where there's a crowd gathered, and they're protesting in a big open space. And behind them is this this large, rising building, and the building that rises behind them is actually the largest fascist building we have in Berlin. It's the old Tempelhof Airport, which is actually just behind me, as I record this, I live next door to the the old runways, so you get little snippets of how Berlin is used in popular culture through quite often its architecture. In that case, it's used because it's totalitarian, it's dominating architecture that was built to make make people feel small. So often in popular culture, they use the cityscape of Berlin, or you can fast forward to atomic blonde, quite a fantastic film that came out a few years ago, which was predominant set in Berlin, and use a lot of very, very clever little references to its history throughout. I think Berlin just captures something, especially when they go historically, because it's got this grit and grime to it. Because of the East West divide. And also, I think, because people idealized this sense of being and sense of liberation that Berlin provided. When the Berlin Wall came down. People were euphoric. It was, the wall was a symbol of terror. Many people, today still will go to see pieces of the Berlin Wall to have a picture of it because it means something. And films can often use or music can use references to, to Berlin to really try and create a sense of liberation of what it means. Bruce Springsteen shot a music video in Berlin very, very shortly after the Berlin Wall came down. He was also the man who held I believe it still is the largest concert in history. In East Berlin, when the regime was trying to appear cool, when really the regime was these old, bitter white men who try to keep this credit state, it comes around. It's people pretending to let go of the shackles of the past, but really, they're trying to keep it alive through creating a veneer of change. But in the case of Berlin, that change did arrive. And unfortunately, that changes always also been accepted as coming part and parcel of David Hasselhoff.

Anne Marie Cannon:

David Hasselhoff

Unknown:

just is this this sort of illusion that David Hasselhoff is popular in Germany, because he was in Berlin around the time of the wall fall and New Years. And he appeared in a cherry picker crane at the Berlin Wall singing everybody's looking for freedom, and tried to cement himself within the popular culture of legacy of Berlin.

Anne Marie Cannon:

Oh, I didn't know that.

Simon J. James:

I didn't it's it's very cringy.

Anne Marie Cannon:

I don't associate him with that. But I have to find

Unknown:

i've i've just spread, spread the Hasselhoff a little bit further and did the opposite to I intend to?

Anne Marie Cannon:

Well, history is a funny thing. We can't control how the future is going to look at historical events, or even how we look at them today. But history has always been a touchstone of the narrative of every everything and everybody for me, we link back to obviously, whatever your platform is. So in your case, it would be your website and your podcast. And I see you can pretty much listen to your podcast anywhere where people listen to podcasts,

Unknown:

pretty much and an amazing many, many platforms, I had no idea I was on as well.

Anne Marie Cannon:

And you also are on Patreon, you also have a How does your Patreon work?

Unknown:

my patreon works predominantly as if people wish to support it. I do believe quite often that history should be accessible to all. So I don't like putting things as such behind behind paywalls. So how I work the patron is that it's more sort of, say a tip or a donation. Yeah. However I will, when I record episodes, I generally put between 20 and 40 hours of work into each episode. So when I do release something for Patreon, it's normally just an informal chat, where I go over those bits and ideas that I wanted to fit in. But they didn't quite work with the narrative of the of the podcast. So Patreon is many to many tiers. I think the lowest one is just a singular euro, just to try and make it accessible as well.

Anne Marie Cannon:

Yeah. Yeah. And you don't have commercials I noticed?

Unknown:

No, I don't.

Anne Marie Cannon:

Is that something that you are planning on keeping it that way? Or do you look to monetize potential I'm asking this is more from my point of view.

Unknown:

I would prefer to keep it without advertisements, I would prefer to keep it so that it's not the narratives that I'm building on broken by a certain path of and try to encourage, if people do enjoy the podcast to just think about giving something as little as a euro a month for patron to keep it advertisement free. I'd much rather keep it that way.

Anne Marie Cannon:

That's what I'm trying to do as well. You know, I just this is something I've thought about for two years. And I always thought Oh, it'd be so cool to do a podcast where people just, you know, regular people talk about their favorite history. Obviously, you are not a regular person when it comes to history. But I, you know, talk to by first three interviews was my friend who runs a hotel de Paris here in town, he's the executive director. So he's a historian. But, you know, it's just that using history as a springboard to conversation. And, and then because of COVID Like I said, I was able to start this podcast and I've gotten into a routine With that, and I want to keep doing it, but I like you, I don't want to monetize it through commercials either.

Unknown:

I would like to keep it commercial free. I know I've contemplated that. I am going to have to look at doing something other than tour guiding in the future because the business I feel is done. So I've contemplated even then doing whatever I can to keep the podcast going. But that may mean having if there isn't sponsorship is such to reduce the amount of episodes I produce. So I can go back to doing it as a hobby rather than as I treated a moment is more of a full time, job and research. But it doesn't feel like work. It never does.

Anne Marie Cannon:

It doesn't I know I wish I could do this for a living and I'm like you I need to you know, I'm a freelancer and I need to find jobs to do. Yeah, that's, that's but you know, you have, you have a book, you have books you have everything that you put into it, you put way more into your podcasts than I do. And that's not to sell my podcast short, but I can see it being a writer, all the work that you put behind it, the history and the way you connect all the dots and your stories. And I was just before we started, I was listening to your Halloween episode. And I mean, that was a brilliant story. I thought the whole very much actually going to be the story which I was like, Oh, yeah, this is cool. But then you do end up getting to the history and I hadn't, you know the historical narrative. But

Unknown:

thank you very much. The Halloween episode was a really fun one. That is Berlin's really pretty much further ins only ghost story for a city that has seen so much and been devastated in so many different ways throughout history. That's Berlin's only ghost story, the palace that the ghost supposedly floated through, either was the original one was destroyed many, many, many, many years ago, then the one that replaced it was destroyed by the communist regime at the end of the war. And they lost that connection. But that palace is now back. We've rebuilt it in its facade. And it's now crowning Museum Island, the UNESCO World Heritage Site at the center of Berlin and for Halloween with the the palace should be reopening in the next few weeks again, to the public for the first time. It was something that I felt would be special to do but it's also because it was a ghost that haunted the supposedly haunted the hohenzollern dynasty, which is one of my sort of weak spots to in in Berlin's history that I always fall down to I love wandering the palaces of Potsdam, near Berlin, where the monarchs used to live in where supposedly the ghost haunted and going to the graves of the Great King Frederick the second, the hohenzollern feel is something very special to understand. Not in a positive light, there was certainly some large negative aspects to that, especially Kaiser Wilhelm the second they were some interesting characters through it that really inspired me to try and get that Halloween episode out and to combine the the storytelling with a little bit more of an ethereal atmosphere with with sound effects and something I really enjoyed. I tried not to work on podcasts at the weekend, I try and have a bit of time off but for for that one. I made an exception to spend a little bit more time editing the sounds and

Anne Marie Cannon:

Yeah, well, we have a lot in common the tours and then the podcast and the storytelling. And I just immediately when I heard your voice and started listening to the podcast, when I reached out to you, I just I knew like, Oh, I want this guy on my podcast. He's got a really cool, yeah. Where are you from? England. Where'd you grow up?

Unknown:

I grew up in the north in the county of Yorkshire. Okay, in the countryside.

Anne Marie Cannon:

We were supposed to go there. We had tickets. England is like, to me the motherland. That's where my ancestors are from Southern in Hampshire. A little town called me and Stoke, I traced their kind of lineage back there. So I'm, I am an Anglophile. I have to say I'm a self confessed. And we love going to England. So we were going to go for almost a month this last time. So I decided we were going to go north, which I really hadn't spent too much time in the north and we're gonna go to Scotland and York and go see Hadrian's Wall. And yeah, that didn't happen. So

Unknown:

your yoke is a fantastic Place I yoka is a place that I hold special. It's, it's full of stories. It's insanely vibrant history and some deviously wicked words. They've have a street called Whitner Watergate. affair, his face shot streets are the shambles, which has now become somewhat a Harry Potter, massive, gorgeous, gorgeous city. And if you enjoy ghost stories, it's absolutely full of them.

Anne Marie Cannon:

So why don't you tell us about your podcast tell us where we can find you.

Unknown:

So my podcast is at the moment, it's for these weekly, you can find it on every every major platform and many small platforms as well, from Apple to Spotify, radio, public, overcast, etc. The idea behind the podcast, which is called arcs on history, is that it is a blend of storytelling and history. I like to open the episodes with a narrative that builds a picture and then take you back into the history. So in not quite up to a year yet, but we're 38 episodes in with a couple of series. The first series is he holds the devil which I alluded to earlier on, which is the investigation in a documentary style into Hans glocca, who worked for the Prussian and the rakes Ministry of the Interior during the Nazi period, and was responsible for the commentaries on the Nuremberg laws that helped the Nazis to persecute the Jewish people. But not only that, he was also a means Porter of ethnic cleansing. in what is today Chechnya, Czech Republic, in Lithuania, Latvia, the Netherlands, Belgium and many other locations, and then, amazingly, still managed to become the most powerful person in post World War Two West Germany. He became the shadowy figure behind Conrad had an hour, the chancellor of West Germany, who pulled all the strings. So that was our series one, season two was a false narrative, but really was a passion project of mine. Last year, I spent the year writing a book, of which my iPad is currently resting on top of it is about as much use as it gets at the moment. During that right in that book, I stumbled upon a story in the newspaper about the murder of a poor girl in 1929, in Berlin, and I went to the State Archives found the police files, and reconstructed a few weeks in August 1929, into the events. So in that podcast, which is called the watcher, it's an eight part series, that every conversation and it is reconstructed from the original please transcripts from 1929. And with that, I've also had tried to build a picture of what was going on the city at the time, which is, is quite incredible.

Anne Marie Cannon:

That's the other thing I wanted to tell you that I love your sound effects. Like you went about Hitler's horses. You you portray these conversations that actually happened, and then it everything changes and it sounds like you're these conversations are taking place on the phone. Yes. Yeah. So

Unknown:

I tried to distinguish with the when I have in the more standalone episodes when I have people talking, I'm quoting a lot of the time, I will put a fact on just so that it's clear that it's a quote, I don't I don't take saying quote and quote it's not it's a weird thing that we don't we actually don't really do in in English English. It's just a little quirk that I found was useful to to break the my narrative from the actual quotes which often is the predominant use a lot of Albert Speer quotes because of the fact that he was so well written at the time amongst the series, which also includes series on Verner von Braun, the man who put American NASA into space as a six episode series on him. There's a lot of standalone ones as well, where it looks into more quirkier singular episodes. You don't have to invest a lot of time. They're designed to be a little bit more of an off cuff or as the the current one and fitness horses is a little bit more investigative.

Anne Marie Cannon:

Yeah, yeah. Well, I I think you have a great product and i think that i don't know somebody should hire you like Spotify did with Joe Rogan. I mean, so you're so generous. said, You're really, really, you are. I mean, I know I keep pushing and I sound like a fanboy I guess I am.

Unknown:

So So the thing that I would love, love to pursue forever. It's It's my dream to be able to keep doing research and spend my days in dusty archives,

Anne Marie Cannon:

just in the rabbit holes. Yeah, coming up for a year to tell people what you found out.

Unknown:

It's this weird sense of happiness and pride when you you can walk out of somewhere and go, I'm potentially the first person to know this fact, or this little snippet in 100 or so years. Oh, yeah. It's a little pat on the back. It's even if it is it for that one moment, slightly selfish, but then I turn it into a podcast and broadcast it. So

Anne Marie Cannon:

Oh, yeah, that's awesome.

Unknown:

I love going to the old markets, the flea markets, the floor marked. And finding most of my collection of German literature is actually I've paid perhaps your row for most, most the books, it's very, very low. It's very cheap. I have an original celebration book from the wedding anniversary of the Kaiser. But it's strange things that you've picked up that most people don't realize there's a bit of work to, sometimes you think you've really found a nugget of information. And in Berlin and pressure, there was once a great king, as called Frederick the second, and he's one of the only kings who statue still remains most were were melted down at the end of the Second World War, or even during the Second World War for their mineral wealth. And a long time ago, they produced these little Pocket Books.

Anne Marie Cannon:

Now show me yet because I'll Okay. I'll take a screenshot of it. Okay. It's actually about a little pamphlet.

Unknown:

It's gorgeous. It's called a miniature bibliotech. It's only about two and a half inches across about four inches tall. And in here, this little tiny little biography of the Great King Frederick the second, or Friedrich the second. It alluded to this incredible little piece of information, which is that completely benign, and all of the great things that he did is completely benign. But it just tells you that Frederick the second light is coffee with mustard.

Anne Marie Cannon:

That is crazy.

Unknown:

It's crazy. It's just one of those. Absolutely. Yeah. I don't think that somebody would actually even today enjoy a coffee with mustard. But he did. And it's one of those little facts that you'd become a little treasure. And then one day he just happened to go onto Twitter with all your Twitter stories, and find somebody else knew it annoys you, because you thought you were sitting on that. It's one of those little treasures that you later hold on to make make. Also they make characters in history. Real. Yeah, when so often this is on pedestals. They were just real people. And Frederick The second was, for me one of my favorite characters because he was a man who didn't know love, but his father stole love from him when he executed his best friend. And Frederick spent most of his life then either he was married, but his wife lived on one side of Berlin and he lived on the other side of Berlin. He spent his summers and a beautiful small palace, it was only 12 rooms. And still there today is called sounds fancy. And all he wanted to do was when he died was to be buried with his dogs on the top terrorists of his vineyard. Which, naturally Okay, just to have a vineyard is quite nice to have. But such a man who was known and idealized. The Nazis absolutely adored him, they turned him into a film hero multiple, multiple times. But it was a man who was a reason. And when he died, he wants to be buried on his top terrorists. So therefore, the person who succeeded him his nephew had him buried somewhere completely else in a different spot until the fall of the Berlin Wall. When in 19, I think it was 1991. So two years after the fall of the wall, there's a large ceremony and he was finally buried on the top terrorists of his palace for sons who say, roughly 204 years after he died. Oh, my Riley made it way wonder

Anne Marie Cannon:

what I was going to ask you what time period was he?

Unknown:

He wrote his King of Prussia from 1740 to 1786.

Anne Marie Cannon:

Wow, that's a great story.

Unknown:

And he's the person you have in in Pennsylvania. There is a couple of towns named after. There's actually I think there's a shopping mall called Prince of pressure, which is named after his younger brother, Prince Heinrich, who trained a lot of the American Revolutionary forces and revolutionary war erode in the 18th century. And it took 204 years for him to be buried where he wanted

Anne Marie Cannon:

to be So who was behind the ferrying him 200. And some years later,

Unknown:

when Frederick was initially buried, he was buried in the bottom of a church called the garrison cursher in Potsdam, Longsight his father, during the Second World War, there was an operation to remove his casket because it was sort of a, an iconic place to visit. And the Nazis didn't want to do that damaged. So they removed it to assault mine. And at the end of the Second World War was removed from the salt mine and taken to the hohenzollern Castle in southwest Germany, where it stayed in a crypt there. When the wall fell, the cities of Berlin, the state of Brandenburg and the horns on family, the descendants came together and arranged for for Frederick to finally be buried. It's a beautiful little grave it's just a stone in the floor that says Friedrich they go so that's it. Simple felt pomp and circumstance, just just how exactly how he wanted it to be. And it's a beautiful little little spot that people leave potatoes on, because he introduced the potato to pressure. So people still go today and put a little as we'd say, in English, we put a spot on the on his green

Simon J. James:

was a fascinating

Unknown:

absolutely fascinating man and a man who like mustard in his coffee,

Anne Marie Cannon:

like mustard.

Simon J. James:

I don't I haven't tried. I can't

Anne Marie Cannon:

make me wanted to try it.

Simon J. James:

I kind of now I keep thinking of trying it. But

Anne Marie Cannon:

then mustard Woody, would it have been? Do you think it would have been like,

Unknown:

I think it would have been a heavy grain mustard. Okay, sort of a thick, thick mustard? Probably not bright yellow hot dog.

Anne Marie Cannon:

I'm gonna try it. Gonna try it. Was there anything else? I feel like I could talk to you for hours. But was there anything else?

Unknown:

I will say that if anybody wants to reach out to me, if they are interested in the podcast, or they themselves have a rabbit hole for me to fall down or so people who I'm always happy to speak with people on Twitter and Instagram and and such conversations over history our I think exceptionally important there are people can be very divided on opinions. But history is something that we can go away and read facts about and build stories and uniting as well. To try and learn a little bit as well.

Anne Marie Cannon:

Well put well put in where can people find you?

Unknown:

where they can find me on Twitter and Instagram at octone history or my website, the birding tour guide.com forward slash often history. There is a Facebook page as well, which is art on history Podcast, where I post a few updates, but not so much. The main the main platforms for myself is Twitter and Instagram.

Anne Marie Cannon:

Perfect. Simon J. James, thanks for your time today and for talking to us today.

Simon J. James:

It's been my pleasure. Thank you very much.

Anne Marie Cannon:

All right. Great. Take care, Simon.

Simon J. James:

You too. Thank you very much.

Anne Marie Cannon:

Yeah, thank you. There you have it, folks. Simon J. James coming at you all the way from Berlin. Be sure to check out his podcast octone history and his website, the Berlin tour. guide.com. Thanks so much for listening in. Have a great week.