- Hardcover: 448 pages
- Publisher: Princeton University Press (September 24, 2007)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 069101695X
- ISBN-13: 978-0691016955
- Product Dimensions: 6.5 x 1.5 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 22 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #697,833 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Weimar Germany: Promise and Tragedy
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. University of Minnesota history professor Weitz takes readers on a walk through Weimar Republic–era Berlin in the footsteps of a 1920s flâneur, an urban ambler. Wandering among cafes and department stores, Weitz notices the New Women, the jazz bands, the prostitutes, the beggars, the war wounded. He considers how radio and motion pictures changed public gatherings, internationalizing mass entertainment. Separate chapters, with a wealth of well-chosen illustrations, explore Weimar's new theories of architecture, graphic arts, photography, theater, philosophy and sexuality. Weitz selects key exemplars of each discipline—Brecht, Weill, Mann, Bruno Taut, Erich Mendelsohn, August Sander, László Moholy-Nagy, Hannah Höch, Siegfried Kracauer, etc.—for in-depth focus before turning to the backlash that their radicalism aroused. In his closing discussion of the collapse of the republic, Weitz elaborates on the right's resistance to modernization, as well as the overall fragility of the democratic spirit. A lively style and excellent illustrations make this intellectually challenging volume accessible to both academics and armchair scholars. 8 color (not seen by PW) and 52 b&w photos. (Oct.)
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A New York Times Book Review Editor's Choice
A History Book Club selection
One of Financial Times's Best Books for 2007
"In his engaging readings of these works, Weitz forgoes abstruse analysis. Instead, he presents them as fresh attempts to make sense of a world in which reliable beliefs about authority and order, class and gender, wealth and poverty, no longer held. His most innovative chapter is an imaginary walk through Berlin, observing the daily lives of the city's different classes. . . . Better than most histories, the book connects culture, politics and city life."--Brian Ladd, New York Times Book Review
"Weimar Germany is elegantly written, generously illustrated and never less than informative. It is also history with attitude. In that respect, it perhaps also reflects in itself something of the fractious period which its pages so convincingly evoke."--Peter Graves, Times Literary Supplement
"Excellent and splendidly illustrated. . . . Weimar was more than a German phenomenon. . . . [Weimar Germany] is a superb introduction to its world, probably the best available."--Eric Hobsbawm, London Review of Books
"Weitz takes readers on a walk through Weimar Republicera Berlin in the footsteps of a 1920s flâneur, an urban ambler. . . . Separate chapters, with a wealth of well-chosen illustrations, explore Weimar's new theories of architecture, graphic arts, photography, theater, philosophy and sexuality. Weitz selects key exemplars of each discipline--Brecht, Weill, Mann, Bruno Taut, Erich Mendelsohn, August Sander, László Moholy-Nagy, Hannah Höch, Siegfried Kracauer, etc.--for in-depth focus. . . . A lively style and excellent illustrations make this intellectually challenging volume accessible to both academics and armchair scholars."--Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"Weitz has produced an elegant and captivating study of Germany's Weimar years, that turbulent period from 1918 to 1933 when the old German society seemed to break apart. In this period, Germany became a constitutional democracy, the arts blossomed, modern and liberal ideas flourished, and the economic and political situation staggered from one crisis to another, ending in the Nazi ascendance to power. This period is often treated as simply the forerunner to the Nazi era, but Weitz shows that it was far more than that. . . . Weitz has synthesized in clear and engaging fashion a great deal of the huge primary and secondary literature of Weimar. . . . If you have only one book on the Weimar period, this should be it. For all libraries."--Barbara Walden, Library Journal (starred review)
"[Weitz] is a reliable guide through Weimar's political and economic maze, and a good one on the social revolution that made many women--far from all--less dependent on husband, hearth and home. In one of his best chapters, Mr. Weitz takes us on a ramble through the sleepless metropolis of 1920s Berlin: from the glittering cafes around Potsdamer Platz to Isherwood's cabarets and seedy bars, from the bracing beaches of Wannsee Lake to the dank and stifling dwellings of the workers' quarter, Wedding."--The Economist
"Brilliantly maps a pivotal era."--Peter Skinner, Foreword Magazine
"Weitz offers a comprehensive history of the Weimar Republic that combines a sober approach to the politics and economics of this conflicted era with a highly engaging and readable new take on its famous cultural and social experiment...One of the book's achievements compared to previous Weimar histories is Weitz's integration of important work on gender, sex, and the body throughout his nine chapters."--H.D. Baer, Choice
"It is impossible to talk about post-1918 Germany without focusing on its political and financial instability. . . . Weitz covers this ground clearly and in sharp detail, breaking down the complex tug-of-war between communists, democrats and conservatives. . . . But more gripping to Weitz (and to this reviewer) is the artistic and intellectual ferment that Weimar embodied--a cultural explosion he chronicles with a passionate, persuasive voice. . . . [Weitz] wins points for his no-frills language that transports us back to the racy, cosmopolitan atmosphere of 1920s Berlin--and for saving his best for last. In the book's resonant closure about the rise of authoritarianism, Weitz seems in directly to hold a mirror up to America's own political catastrophe in the post-9/11 Bush years."--Michael Levitin, The Financial Times
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Most books on Weimar tend to focus on the political developments that led to Hitler's rise; while that is covered in this book as well (the initial chapters focus upon the aborted German revolution and the "political worlds"), it is clearly secondary to other concerns of the author. He sees Weimar as fundamentally being about trying to cope with "modernism" and all of the technological changes that swept life in the 1920's and 1930's. So there is sustained discussion of the mass printed media, radio, theater and film, architecture, photography (Sander and Moholy-Nagy), music and expressionist art as well as political developments and the impact of economic crises on German life. Culture and the "mass society" is a constant focus here, including some interesting capsule discussions of individuals such as Thomas Mann, Bertold Brecht, Kurt Weill, Martin Heidegger, and an absolutely fascinating figure of whom I had not previously been aware, the artist Hannah Hoch. "Bodies and Sex" is another interesting topic which I have not encountered in other studies of Weimar.
All of this is discussed against the political background which is so critical to understanding the period. As such, the book is a richer study with wider sweep than Peter Gay's stupendous "Weimar Culture," which it complements nicely. The book contains extremely helpful notes, a useful bibliographic essay, and a number of incisive illustrations, many in full color. The author begins his book stating: "Weimar Germany still speaks to us." This fine study validates that perspective.
Ch 1: A Troubled Beginning - Broad overview of the environment in Germany prior to the creation of the Weimar Republic in midsummer 1919.
Ch 2: Walking the City - Interesting description of German society to include daily life, offices, hotels, cafes, entertainment, and the night life.
Ch 3: Political Worlds - Discusses deep political divisions within Germany and shifting alliances among Social Democratic Party (SPD), German Democratic Party (DDP), and the Catholic Center Party (with interesting discussions about the rift between liberal-social reform and conservative authoritarian wings). Discusses the major parties on the right to include the German National People's Party (DNVP) and German People's Party (DVP) with a focus on pro-business, private property, and low taxes (versus the Marxist message of class struggle). Introduces the concepts of Jewish Bolshevism versus German National Socialism. The discussion of printing money, monetary inflation and hyperinflation has frightening parallels to the US Government today.
Ch 4: A Turbulent Economy and an Anxious Society - Discusses postwar readjustment, inflation, hyperinflation and then the Great Depression to include printing too much money and introduction of new currency. Overview of German rationalization and the negative impact of German social welfare programs, and subsequent cuts to try to get their spending under control.
Ch 5: Building a New Germany - a focus on architecture
Ch 6: Sound and Image - focus on radio, photography and movies (great photos reprinted)
Ch 7: Culture and Mass Society - discussion of German intellectuals, philosophers, and social theorists to include their preoccupation with the meaning of the "masses" and "mass society"
Ch 8: Bodies and Sex - Eye opening description of social shifts in physical fitness and sexuality, to include Velde, who wrote "the key to enduring happiness in marriage lay in mutual, ongoing sexual pleasure" (p. 299). Discusses the "new woman" who emerged from the sexual revolution of the 1920s.
Ch 9: Revolution and Counterrevolution from the Right - Powerful discussion on the melding of German nationalism and socialism, and the emergence of the Nazi Party.
Superb historical analysis combined with an easy to read narrative and awesome photos. Five Stars!
Dr. B. Leland Baker, author of "Tea Party Revival"
Tea Party Revival: The Conscience of a Conservative Reborn: The Tea Party Revolt Against Unconstrained Spending and Growth of the Federal Government