Trump and Weimar Germany

donald_trump_25218642186The comparisons between Donald Trump’s political success and Hitler’s rise, so numerous even before the election, have intensified since the former won the electoral vote in November 2016. Historians have weighed in with differing opinions and analyses about the two phenomena. This is an on-going collection of articles on the topic, all suggestions welcome! Continue reading “Trump and Weimar Germany”

CfP: Democratic Personalities of the Weimar Republic

The Forschungsstelle Weimarer Republik in Jena is hosting its 3rd conference of early career researchers on the topic of Democratic Personalities of the Weimar Republic.

The Weimar Republic has long been considered a republic without republicans, a democracy without democrats. This view is increasingly being challenged by recent research. For a long time, anti-democratic institutions, actors and ways of thinking had been the focus of research, and this naturally obscured the fact that at all levels and in all areas of society there were also people who actively supported the republic. These people, often forgotten today, the context of their actions, their successes and setbacks will be examined in more detail at this year’s conference.

Please submit a short abstract (up to about 5000 characters, including spaces) and a short resume. Travel expenses and accommodation are covered by the Forschungsstelle Weimarer Republic.

Rare audio material of Weimar parliamentary debates

Public broadcaster SWR has digitized debates in the Reichstag which had been recorded by the Berliner Rundfunk between 1931 and 1933, from budget debates to discussions about unemployment and Hitler’s speech after the burning of the Reichstag. The material runs 24 hours in total and documents the deteriorating political culture in the German parliament.

A backlash against liberalism? Weimar’s lessons for the Trump presidency

 In the International Journal of History, Culture and Modernity (HCM), three distinguished scholars of Weimar’s sexual politics – Laurie Marhoefer, Julia Roos and Edward Ross Dickinson – discuss if the collapse of Germany’s first democracy and the rise of the Nazis can be partly explained by a “backlash” against the country’s progressive laws. They also address the question if we can learn anything for today’s politics and the apparent “backlash” against liberal identity politics, which was supposedly used by Donald Trump in his presidential campaign.

Daily Life in Berlin, 1925

Two years before Walther Ruttmann’s Berlin. The Symphony of the City  (1927), Ufa published The City of the Millions. A Life Picture of Berlin by Adolf Trotz. The film documents life in Berlin in the mid-1920s, taking the viewer on a tour of the city, from fashionable shopping streets such as the Friedrichstrasse and the Kurfürstendamm to the film studios in Tempelhof and Babelsberg and petit-bourgeois quarters of the city. Continue reading “Daily Life in Berlin, 1925”

Moka Efti returns

With the recent success of the TV series Babylon Berlin, the famous Moka Efti café has been in the news again, nearly 90 years after its opening in 1929. The Guardian recently reported on the real-life inspiration for the “sinful superclub” of the same name that plays a central role in Babylon Berlin: “The decor inside the original venue, however, was even wilder than the imagination of the TV producers has allowed. An elevator took visitors from street level to the first floor – a technical invention so new and laden with the promise of social mobility at the time that many Berliners visited Moka Efti merely for the ride”  – which echoes Siegfried Kracauer’s (overly cynical) report on the opening of the café: Continue reading “Moka Efti returns”

Invocating Weimar

When the coalition talks between Merkel’s CDU, the Greens and the liberal FDP collapsed recently, pundits immediately detected “echoes of Weimar“. The Guardian drew parallels between the strong showing of the far-right Alternative für Deutschland in the general election and the subsequent faltering of coalition talks with “the darkest days of the Weimar Republic, when short-lived minority governments ruled by emergency decrees.” Patrick Donahue (for Bloomberg Politics) claimed that the “Ghost of Weimar Looms Over German Politics”.

Stephen F. Szabo, Senior Fellow at AICGS, even argued that “Weimar now can be found in many places in eastern Germany and its impact is creating Weimar conditions for all of Germany.”

Charles S. Maier, in the NY Review of Books, provided some helpful historical context on the party-political spectrum in Germany in 2017 and the Weimar Republic. His conclusion – “no historical analogy can predict what outcome lies ahead, but the Weimar comparison reminds us that democratic institutions are not immune from resentments, demagogy, and polarization” – might be less eye-catching, but is probably the most useful invocation of Weimar to date.

Weimar Cinema at Berlinale 2018

Weimar film fans have something to celebrate in 2018: the Berlin Film Festival Berlinale has just announced a whole section devoted to Weimar cinema next year, from Georg Lamprecht’s gritty proletarian drama Die Unehelichen (1926) to  Friedrich Dalsheim and Gulla Pfeffer’s ethnographic documentary Menschen im Busch (1931):”The Retrospective of the 68th Berlin International Film Festival will focus on the great variety of cinema in the Weimar era. Some one hundred years ago, at the end of World War I and the dawn of the Weimar Republic, one of the most productive and influential phases in German filmmaking began unfolding, a creative era that went on to shape international perception of the country’s film culture, even to the present day. For “Weimar Cinema Revisited”, the festival will present a total of 28 programmes of narrative, documentary, and short films made between 1918 and 1933. … Most of the silent film screenings will be accompanied by music played live by internationally renowned musicians.”

Return of the “Wilden Zwanziger”

The historical image of the Weimar Republic has long been dominated by the trope of the “Wilden Zwanziger”: the juxtaposition of an all-consuming crisis with a supposedly uniquely modern culture and decadent nightlife. In the past decade or so, historians have questioned and complicated this cliché (see the Reading List on this site), but to no avail: this year, Babylon Berlin, the most expensive TV series every produced in Germany and which promises to be an international hit, has reanimated the view of 1920s Berlin full of “growing poverty and unemployment [that] stand in stark contrast to the excesses and indulgence of the city’s night life and its overflowing creative energy”. Continue reading “Return of the “Wilden Zwanziger””

New book: Conflict in Weimar and the Creation of Post-Nazi Germany

In Lions and Lambs. Conflict in Weimar and the Creation of Post-Nazi Germany Noah Strote analyses the generation that shaped the post-Nazi reconstruction to arrive at a “bold new interpretation of Germany’s democratic transformation in the twentieth century”: “Not long after the horrors of World War II and the Holocaust, Germans rebuilt their shattered country and emerged as one of the leading nations of the Western liberal world. In his debut work, Noah Strote analyzes this remarkable turnaround and challenges the widely held perception that the Western Allies—particularly the United States—were responsible for Germany’s transformation. Continue reading “New book: Conflict in Weimar and the Creation of Post-Nazi Germany”

The “Flapper Spirit” Today

Writing for the Smithonian Magazine, Linda Simon, author of Lost Girls. The Invention of the Flapper, argues that the women of the “Roaring Twenties” had a lot in common with today’s millennials: “Many young feminists embrace the flapper’s sassy, independent spirit of seeming to play at adulthood, and are perfectly comfortable referring to themselves as ‘girls’—notably, the questing young women on Lena Dunham’s TV show ‘Girls.’ Flapper styles may be relegated to costume museums, but the flapper spirit lives again after a hundred years.”

New book: The “sick” Republic

Knut Langewand’s study on metaphors of bodies and sickness in Weimar’s political discourse shows how the discussion about the health of some of Weimar’s leading statesmen undermined the legitimacy of the new Republic itself. On the basis of the cases of Stresemann, Ebert, Braun, Müller, and Brüning, the book discusses the construction of terms such as “kranker Volkskörper” and their impact on the political culture of the time.

Exhibition on Alfred Flechtheim

Alfred Flechtheim, the art dealer who brought Picasso to Berlin and founded the magazine Querschnitt, was one of the most important figures of Weimar Germany’s cultural scene. 80 years after his death, the Georg Kolbe Museum has put on a show about his life and work, featuring works by the artists he represented: Continue reading “Exhibition on Alfred Flechtheim”