Weimar Germany: Promise and Tragedy

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9780691157962: Weimar Germany: Promise and Tragedy
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Weimar Germany still fascinates us, and now this complex and remarkably creative period and place has the history it deserves. Eric Weitz's Weimar Germany reveals the Weimar era as a time of strikingly progressive achievements--and even greater promise. With a rich thematic narrative and detailed portraits of some of Weimar's greatest figures, this comprehensive history recaptures the excitement and drama as it unfolded, viewing Weimar in its own right--and not as a mere prelude to the Nazi era.



Weimar Germany tells how Germans rose from the defeat of World War I and the turbulence of revolution to forge democratic institutions and make Berlin a world capital of avant-garde art. Setting the stage for this story, Weitz takes the reader on a walking tour of Berlin to see and feel what life was like there in the 1920s, when modernity and the modern city--with its bright lights, cinemas, "new women," cabarets, and sleek department stores--were new. We learn how Germans enjoyed better working conditions and new social benefits and listened to the utopian prophets of everything from radical socialism to communal housing to nudism. Weimar Germany also explores the period's revolutionary cultural creativity, from the new architecture of Erich Mendelsohn, Bruno Taut, and Walter Gropius to Hannah Höch's photomontages and Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill's theater. Other chapters assess the period's turbulent politics and economy, and the recipes for fulfilling sex lives propounded by new "sexologists." Yet Weimar Germany also shows that beneath this glossy veneer lay political turmoil that ultimately led to the demise of the republic and the rise of the radical Right.


Thoroughly up-to-date, skillfully written, and strikingly illustrated, Weimar Germany brings to life as never before an era of creativity unmatched in the twentieth century-one whose influence and inspiration we still feel today. In a new chapter, Weitz depicts Weimar's global impact in the decades after the destruction of the republic, when so many of its key cultural and political figures fled Nazi Germany. The Weimar style they carried with them has powerfully influenced art, urban design, and intellectual life from Tokyo to Ankara, Brasilia to New York. They made Weimar an example of all that is liberating, and all that can go wrong, in a democracy.

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"This is not another standard history of the Weimar Republic. Eric Weitz effortlessly blends politics and economics, philosophy and literature, art and architecture in a gripping portrait of a culture whose pathology was exceeded only by its creativity. From Heidegger to Hitler, from Bauhaus to 'our house,' from Thomas Mann to Fritz Lang, much of Western modernity was invented here-its glories as well as its horrors. This is history at its best."--Josef Joffe, publisher and editor of Die Zeit and fellow of the Hoover Institution, Stanford University

"This superb book not only finally delivers a satisfying general history of Weimar that has been missing for many years, but, more important, is a remarkable accomplishment in that it covers all the main themes of Weimar Germany, ranging from politics to literature, architecture to economy, cinema to ideology. Elegantly written and cleverly structured, this is an outstanding achievement by a mature, erudite, balanced, and intellectually sophisticated scholar."--Omer Bartov, Brown University

"Implied throughout this book is the question of whether it is possible for contemporary democracies to succumb to neofascist forces in the same way that the Weimar Republic fell to the Nazis. For Weitz, the downfall of Weimar does not simply provide a lesson of what we should avoid today. Rather his insightful book vividly portrays the Weimar period as a historical epoch filled with creative experiments and utopian projects that still need to be realized."--Jack Zipes, University of Minnesota

"Eric Weitz, a leading American historian of the German Left, has given English-language readers the most textured, encompassing, and engaging history of Weimar to date. He presents the first German republic, and Berlin in particular, as a beleaguered experiment in mass politics and mass culture: overshadowed by the terrible costs of a lost war, deeply divided politically, but still an open-ended wager on modernity."--Charles Maier, Harvard University

"Weitz has written a simply magnificent history of the Weimar Republic, one that incorporates its economic, political, and cultural history in a way that no other book has succeeded in doing. The book is knowledgeable, lively, lucid, and thorough, and Weitz's enthusiasm for his subject is palpable. Undoubtedly, this will be the standard history of Weimar Germany for years to come."--Richard Wolin, author of The Seduction of Unreason: The Intellectual Romance with Fascism from Nietzsche to Postmodernism

"Enriched by many contemporary photos, Weitz's comprehensive and highly readable account of the Weimar Republic incorporates the latest research on post-World War I Germany. To my knowledge, there is no other book that does a better job of examining the country's precarious existence between liberal-democratic modernity and conservative-authoritarian backlash."--V. R. Berghahn, Columbia University

"This is an important and evocative book that balances broad cultural developments and richly detailed analyses of, for example, the cultural criticism of Siegfried Kracauer, the collages of Hannah Höch, and the pessimistic ruminations of Oswald Spengler. Weimar Germany should find a broad audience given its subject, its lucid and lively style, and its wonderful illustrations."--Mary Nolan, New York University

About the Author:

Eric D. Weitz is Dean of Humanities and Arts and Professor of History at City College, City University of New York. He is the author of A Century of Genocide and Creating German Communism, 1890-1990 (both Princeton).

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