Although the Breslau arts scene was one of the most vibrant in all of Weimar-era Germany, it has largely disappeared from memory. Studies of the influence of Weimar culture on modernism have focused almost exclusively on Berlin and the Dessau Bauhaus, yet the advances that occurred in Breslau affected nearly every intellectual field, forming the basis for aesthetic modernism internationally and having an enduring impact on visual art and architecture. Breslau boasted a thriving modern arts scene and one of the premier German arts academies of the day until the Nazis began their assault on so-called degenerate art. This book charts the cultural production of Breslau-based artists, architects, art collectors, urban designers, and arts educators who operated in the margins of Weimar-era cultural debates. Rather than accepting the radical position of the German avant-garde or the reactionary position of German conservatives, many Breslauers sought a middle ground.
This richly illustrated volume is the first book in English to address this history, constituting an invaluable addition to the literature on the Weimar period. Its readership includes scholars of German history, art, architecture, urban design, planning, collecting, and exhibition history; of the avant-garde, and of the development of arts academies and arts pedagogy.
In 1932 and 1933, during the months surrounding the Nazi seizure of power, Daniel Guérin, then a young French journalist, made two trips through Germany. The Brown Plague, translated here into English for the first time, is Guérin’s eyewitness account of the fall of the Weimar Republic and the first months of the Third Reich. Originally written for the popular French left press and then revised by the author into book form, The Brown Plague delivers a passionate warning to French workers about the terror and horror of fascism. Guérin chronicles the collapse of the German workers’ movement and reports on the beginnings of clandestine resistance to the Nazis. He also describes the Socialist and Communist leaderships’ inability to recognize the danger that led to their demise. Through vivid dialogs, interviews, and revealing descriptions of everyday life among the German people, he offers insight into the tragedy that was beginning to unfold. Guérin’s travels took him across the countryside and into the cities of Germany. He describes with extraordinary clarity, for example, his encounters with large groups of unemployed workers in Berlin and the spectacle of Goering presiding over the Reichstag. Staying in youth hostels, Guérin met individuals representing a range of various groups and movements, including the Wandervögel, leftist brigades, Hitler Youth, and the strange, semicriminal sexual underground of the Wild-frei. Devoting particular attention to the cultural politics of fascism and the lure of Nazism for Germany’s disaffected youth, he describes the seductive rituals by which the Nazis were able to win over much of the population. As Robert Schwartzwald makes clear in his introduction, Guérin’s interest in Germany at this time was driven, in part, by a homoerotic component that could not be stated explicitly in his published material. This excellent companion essay also places The Brown Plague within a broad historical and literary context while drawing connections between fascism, aesthetics, and sexuality. Informed by an epic view of class struggle and an admiration for German culture, The Brown Plague, a notable primary source in the literature of modern Europe, provides a unique view onto the rise of Nazism.
The Chatter of the Visible examines the paradoxical narrative features of the photomontage aesthetics of artists associated with Dada, Constructivism, and the New Objectivity. While montage strategies have commonly been associated with the purposeful interruption of and challenge to narrative consistency and continuity, McBride offers an historicized reappraisal of 1920s and 1930s German photomontage work to show that its peculiar mimicry was less a rejection of narrative and more an extension or permutation of it—a means for thinking in narrative textures exceeding constraints imposed by “flat” print media (especially the novel and other literary genres).
McBride’s contribution to the conversation around Weimar-era montage is in her situation of the form of the work as a discursive practice in its own right, which affords humans a new way to negotiate temporality, as a particular mode of thinking that productively relates the particular to the universal, or as a culturally specific form of cognition.
Constitutional Failure is a major contribution to studies of the German political philosopher Carl Schmitt (1888–1985), the Weimar Republic, and the relationship of constitutionalism, political economy, and democracy. An internationally renowned scholar of Weimar legal theory, Ellen Kennedy brought Schmitt’s neglected work to the attention of English-speaking readers with her highly regarded translations of his work and studies of its place in twentieth-century political theory. In this eagerly awaited book, she tracks Schmitt’s contribution to the canon of Western political philosophy during its most difficult and dangerous moment—the time of Weimar Germany and the Third Reich—demonstrating the centrality of his thought to understandings of the modern constitutional state and its precarious economic and social foundations.
Kennedy reveals how Schmitt’s argument for a strong but neutral state supported the maximization of market freedom at the cost of the political constitution. She argues that the major fault lines of Weimar liberalism—emergency powers, the courts as “defenders of the constitution,” mass mobilization of anti-liberal politics, ethnic-identity politics, a culture of resentment and contested legitimacy—are not exceptions within the liberal-democratic orders of the West, but central to them. Contending that Schmitt’s thought remains vital today because liberal norms are inadequate to the political challenges facing constitutional systems as diverse as those of Eastern Europe and the United States, Kennedy develops a compelling, rigorous argument that unsettles many assumptions about liberalism, democracy, and dictatorship.
The harsh Armistice terms of 1918, the short-lived Weimar Republic, Hindenburg's senile vacillations, and behind-the-scene power plays form the backbone of this excellent study covering German history during the first three-and-a-half decades of the century.
"Sace Elder has exhaustively researched both newspaper and other popular and professional treatments of murder cases and archival sources of police investigations and trials in Berlin between 1919 and 1931. Murder Scenes is an innovative and insightful exploration of the ways in which these investigations and trials, and the publicity surrounding them, reflected and shaped changing notions of normality and deviance in Weimar-era Berlin."
---Kenneth Ledford, Case Western Reserve University
Using police reports, witness statements, newspaper accounts, and professional publications, Murder Scenes examines public and private responses to homicidal violence in Berlin during the tumultuous years of the Weimar era. Criminology and police science, both of which became increasingly professionalized over the period, sought to control and contain the blurring of these boundaries but could only do so by relying on a public that was willing to participate in the project. These Weimar developments in police practice in Berlin had important implications for what Elder identifies as an emerging culture of mutual surveillance that was successful both because and in spite of the incompleteness of the system police sought to construct, a culture that in many ways anticipated the culture of denunciation in the Nazi period. In addition to historians of Weimar, modern Germany, and modern Europe, German studies and criminal justice scholars will find this book of interest.
Sace Elder is Associate Professor of History at Eastern Illinois University.
Weimar Germany (1919–33) was an era of equal rights for women and minorities, but also of growing antisemitism and hostility toward the Jewish population. This led some Jews to want to pass or be perceived as non-Jews; yet there were still occasions when it was beneficial to be openly Jewish. Being visible as a Jew often involved appearing simultaneously non-Jewish and Jewish. Passing Illusions examines the constructs of German-Jewish visibility during the Weimar Republic and explores the controversial aspects of this identity—and the complex reasons many decided to conceal or reveal themselves as Jewish. Focusing on racial stereotypes, Kerry Wallach outlines the key elements of visibility, invisibility, and the ways Jewishness was detected and presented through a broad selection of historical sources including periodicals, personal memoirs, and archival documents, as well as cultural texts including works of fiction, anecdotes, images, advertisements, performances, and films. Twenty black-and-white illustrations (photographs, works of art, cartoons, advertisements, film stills) complement the book’s analysis of visual culture.
Popular Sovereignty and the Crisis of German Constitutional Law is a historical analysis of competing doctrines of constitutional law during the Weimar Republic. It chronicles the creation of a new constitutional jurisprudence both adequate to the needs of a modern welfare state and based on the principle of popular sovereignty. Peter C. Caldwell explores the legal nature of democracy as debated by Weimar’s political theorists and constitutional lawyers. Laying the groundwork for questions about constitutional law in today’s Federal Republic, this book draws clear and insightful distinctions between strands of positivist and anti-positivist legal thought, and examines their implications for legal and political theory. Caldwell makes accessible the rich literature in German constitutional thought of the Weimar period, most of which has been unavailable in English until now. On the liberal left, Hugo Preuss and Hans Kelsen defended a concept of democracy that made the constitution sovereign and, in a way, created the "Volk" through constitutional procedure. On the right, Carl Schmitt argued for a substantial notion of the "Volk" that could overrule constitutional procedure in a state of emergency. Rudolf Smend and Heinrich Triepel located in the constitution a set of inviolable values of the political community, while Hermann Heller saw in it a guarantee of substantial social equality. Drawing on the work of these major players from the 1920s, Caldwell reveals the various facets of the impassioned constitutional struggles that permeated German legal and political culture during the Weimar Republic.
This book traces transformations in German views of Russia in the first half of the twentieth century, leading up to the disastrous German invasion of the Soviet Union in 1941. Casteel shows how Russia figured in the imperial visions and utopian desires of a variety of Germans, including scholars, journalists, travel writers, government and military officials, as well as nationalist activists. He illuminates the ambiguous position that Russia occupied in Germans’ global imaginary as both an imperial rival and an object of German power. During the interwar years in particular, Russia, now under Soviet rule, became a site onto which Germans projected their imperial ambitions and expectations for the future, as well as their worst anxieties about modernity. Casteel shows how the Nazis drew on this cultural repertoire to construct their own devastating vision of racial imperialism.
Society, Culture, and the State in Germany, 1870-1930 draws together important new work on the Kaiserreich--the period between Bismarck's unification of Germany and the First World War.
Work on the Kaiserreich built up impressive momentum during the 1970s and 1980s, when a series of inspiring but divisive controversies called into question the ways in which German historical development in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries was mainly understood. These discussions focused on issues of continuity between Bismarck and Hitler and the peculiar strength of authoritarianism in German political culture, raising important questions about the deep origins of Nazism and about Germany's alleged differences from the West.
The collection purposefully brings certain issues and approaches into the foreground. These include the value of taking gender seriously as a priority of historical work; the emergence of social policy and welfare during the early twentieth century; religious belief and affiliation as a neglected dimension in modern German history; the tremendous importance of the First World War as a climacteric; and the exciting potentials of cultural studies and the new cultural history.
A varied group, the contributors embrace different kinds of history and certainly do not subscribe to a common line. Some essays suggest alternative periodizations and focus on the early twentieth century decades rather than the integral unity of the Kaiserreich as such. Together, they take stock of the field, critically synthesizing existing knowledge and laying down agendas for the future.
Geoff Eley is Professor of History, University of Michigan.
In the second half of the Weimar period (1918–33), photographers produced books consisting almost entirely of sequenced images. The subjects ranged widely: from plants and nature to the modern metropolis, from exotic cultures to the German Volk, from anonymous workers to historical figures. While many of the books were created by key practitioners and theorists of modern photography, scholars have rarely addressed the significance of the book format to modern conceptions of photographic meaning. The term “photo-essay” implies that these photographic books were equivalent to literary endeavors, created by replacing text with images, but such assumptions fail to explore the motivations of the books’ makers.
Stop Reading! Look! argues that Weimar photographic books stood at the center of debates about photography’s ability to provide uniquely visual forms of perception and cognition that exceed the capacity of the textual realm. Each chapter provides a sustained analysis of a photographic book, while also bringing the cultural, social, and political context of the Weimar Republic to bear on its relevance and meaning.
The Weimar origins of political theory is a widespread and powerful narrative, but this singular focus leaves out another intellectual history that historian David L. Marshall works to reveal: the Weimar origins of rhetorical inquiry. Marshall focuses his attention on Martin Heidegger, Hannah Arendt, Walter Benjamin, and Aby Warburg, revealing how these influential thinkers inflected and transformed problems originally set out by Max Weber, Carl Schmitt, Theodor Adorno, Hans Baron, and Leo Strauss. He contends that we miss major opportunities if we do not attend to the rhetorical aspects of their thought, and his aim, in the end, is to lay out an intellectual history that can become a zone of theoretical experimentation in para-democratic times. Redescribing the Weimar origins of political theory in terms of rhetorical inquiry, Marshall provides fresh readings of pivotal thinkers and argues that the vision of rhetorical inquiry that they open up allows for new ways of imagining political communities today.
Orlow demonstrates that the success of parliamentary democracy in Prussia during the Weimar Republic found its roots in the strength of national unity developed during the nineteenth century, and the work of Catholics, Social Democrats, and Liberals during the time of Republic.
With the development of a strong parliamentary system, Orlow shows how close Prussia came to realizing its goal of lasting democracy for the entire Reich, and how far it fell when the Nazis took power.
"This book will make a valuable contribution to the field of German history, as well as the histories of gender and sexuality. The argument that Weimar feminism did bring about tangible gains for women needs to be made, and Roos has done so convincingly."
---Julia Sneeringer, Queens College
Until 1927, Germany had a system of state-regulated prostitution, under which only those prostitutes who submitted to regular health checks and numerous other restrictions on their personal freedom were tolerated by the police. Male clients of prostitutes were not subject to any controls. The decriminalization of prostitution in 1927 resulted from important postwar gains in women's rights; yet this change---while welcomed by feminists, Social Democrats, and liberals—also mobilized powerful conservative resistance. In the early 1930s, the right-wing backlash against liberal gender reforms like the 1927 prostitution law played a fateful role in the downfall of the Weimar Republic and the rise of Nazism.
Weimar through the Lens of Gender combines the political history of early twentieth-century Germany with analytical perspectives derived from the fields of gender studies and the history of sexuality. The book's argument will be of interest to a broad readership: specialists in the fields of gender studies and the history of sexuality, as well as historians and general readers interested in Weimar and Nazi Germany.
Julia Roos is Assistant Professor of History at Indiana University, Bloomington.
Jacket art: "Hamburg, vermutlich St. Pauli, 1920er–30er Jahre," photographer unknown, s/w-Fotografie. (Courtesy of the Museum für Hamburgische Geschichte.)