DR B is a work of fiction based on the larger-than-life true story of a hitherto unknown World War II drama, played out in the world of book publishing, émigrés, spies and diplomats in 1940’s Stockholm, drawing comparison to Lara Prescott’s We Were Never Here.
The true story behind DR. B. is so spectacular, it’s difficult to choose only way to tell it. On the one hand you have the exiled German publisher Gottfried Bermann Fischer, owner of the legendary S. Fischer Verlag, who with the assistance of the Bonnier family, sets up a publishing house in Stockholm during the war, to get around German censorship at the time. Both Stefan Zweig and Thomas Mann publish books at Bermann-Fischer Verlag during the war years. This is all happened.
On the other hand, you have Daniel Birnbaum’s grandfather, Immanuel Birnbaum, who arrives in Stockholm as a refugee to start work at the publishing house. While there, he aids British spies to spread propaganda in Germany. But in a letter written in invisible ink, something taken straight out of a spy novel, he also exposes plans by a local dissident group to blow up the Swedish trading port of Oxelösund, a move meant to force neutral Sweden into the war. When the letter is intercepted, he is taken into custody as a spy and spends the rest of the war locked away. As a result, Bermann Fischer and his family are forced to leave Sweden for the US by a more than precarious route through Russia and Japan. This also happened.
And how did the story come to light? It was unearthed recently in a cardboard box Daniel Birnbaum founds while clearing out his parents’ home. Within the box lies a whole life-story filled with unexpected drama and intrigue hitherto unknown not only to the Birnbaum family, but the Bonnier family also.
About all this, Daniel Birnbaum decides to pen a novel. DR. B. is that book.