Weimar Culture The Insider as Outsider (1968) by Peter Gay should be the first book anyone interested in Germany history and culture from 1919 when a new constitution was drawn up Weimar, Germany instituting democracy and civil rights to 1933. The Weimar period is considered to have ended in 1933 with the full ascension of Hitler to power bringing the end of constitutional government and individual rights.
Weimar Culture can be seen as a reaction to the terrible crushing humiliation brought on by Germany's defeat in World War One. Germans had never had much individual liberty and the liberties of the period produced a great outburst of creativity in the arts, various forms of literature, in theater and in personal life styles. This was the Berlin of Christopher Isherwood's Good Bye to Berlin, vividly dramatized in the movie Cabaret. Gay lets us see how the relaxing of a centuries old Prussian culture of obedience radically changed Germany radically.
I was very interested in learning from Gay about literature during the Weimar Period, I was pleased to see I have posted upon the major novelists he mentions, Alfred Doblin, Erich Marie Remarque whose All Quiet on The Western Front is surely one of the very best war novels ever written, down to the Nobel Prize Winning Thomas Mann. Gay goes into detail about Weimar movies. Most were thematically dark probing the corruption in Berlin. The first famous film, a silent, was The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari, still disturbing today. (You can watch it and other Weimar movies on YouTube and they are still striking and weird!). Vampire movies were popular, the most famous was Nosferatu. Futuristic movies were very popular, such as Fritz Lang's Metropolis. Gay talks about the theater also, focusing on The Three Penny Opera written by Bertolucci Brecht as well as the work of Kurt Weil.
The most important philosopher of the period was Martin Heidiger, a founding father of existentialism. Gay treat him with contempt, which I enjoyed, for his boot licking attitude toward Hitler.
I have placed a few images of Weimar art in my collage. Gay talks a lot about this.
Gay's style is elegant. He goes into some detail on the failure of Weimar Culture to stand up to Nazis.
Weimar Culture is a nearly fifty year old book. Much of the information in Gay's book can now be found online. I was motivated to finally read this book, which had been on my To Be Read List for a very long time. I was motivated to read it when I was notified it was in for sale for $1.95 in a Kindle edition. I just checked and is back to $9.95. For sure it is a value at $1.95, $9.95 I will let you decide.
This is a first rate popular history. It helped me draw together my knowledge of the period.
in Berlin, Germany
June 20, 1923
May 12, 2015
The son of a glassware maker, Peter Joachim Fröhlich grew up in Germany as the Nazis rose to power. Escaping in 1938 with the rest of his family on the last boat of refugees admitted to Cuba, he gained entry with them to the United States two years later, whereupon he changed his name to Gay. He graduated from the University of Denver in 1946 and earned a master's and doctorate in history from Columbia University.
Gay taught at Columbia from 1947 until 1969. In 1969 he joined the faculty at Yale University, where he taught until he retired as Sterling Professor of History in 1993. He was a former director of the New York Public Library's Center for Scholars and Writers from 1997 until 2003. Gay was the recipient of numerous awards, including the National Book Award and the received the American Historical Association's (AHA) Award for Scholarly Distinction. He died in 2015