Weimar Germany

Reading this now. See how it goes

“Excellent and splendidly illustrated. . . . [A] superb introduction. . . . probably the best available.” –Eric Hobsbawm

“The constitution was written between January and August 1919 in the town of Weimar who gave its name to the republic. The constitution established the most democratic conditions under which Germans had ever lived”

All rights enshrined in founding constitutions since the American, French, and Latin American revolutions written into, like freedom of speech, assembly, and press, and security of person and property. Men and women declared equal under the law. Universal suffrage and unions.

“New theatrical forms pioneered by Bertolt Brecht; the collages of John Heartfield and Hannah Höch; the extraordinary modernist buildings designed by, not only Walter Gropius”

“The novels of Thomas Mann; the sculptures of Käthe Kollwitz; the philosophical reflections of Martin Heidegger; the cinema of filmmakers like Walter Ruttmann and Billy Wilder”

“The Nazis hardly invented the stab-in-the-back legend, the notion that Jews, Socialists, and other “traitors” at home had undermined the great cause, leading to the defeat of Germany when it was on the verge of victory”

“Even before the end of the war, Generals Paul von Hindenburg and Erich Ludendorff fostered that notion to divert from themselves responsibility for the disaster. The Nazis then made great use of the stab-in-the-back legend.”

“The Versailles Treaty imposed serious financial and political burdens. Leaders had the opportunity in 1918–19 to lay accountability for the war on the kaiser and his generals, ministries, army, and bureaucracy, as well as the business class, of those hostile to democracy

“But the Social Democrat Friedrich Ebert, the first chancellor and his circle were too timid, and left Germany’s conservative, antidemocratic, and anti-Semitic elite in place, a fateful move that would come back to haunt the republic in its last years. ”

“Weimar did not collapse like a house of cards. It was systematically and relentlessly attacked by both old-style conservatives and the dynamic Nazi Party, which represented something entirely new on the political scene.”

“Weimar is the prime example of the fragility of democracy and what can happen when the institutions and personnel of a democracy are subject to unrelenting attacks; when politics becomes a war for total domination by one side”

George Grosz: Eclipse of the sun

Against the backdrop of a city in flames, the central figure depicted is Paul von Hindenburg, the nearly-eighty-year-old president of Germany (walrus moustache) wearing his military uniform, bedecked with medals and with a laurel leaf crown

Max Beckman: Paris Society

portrait of émigrés, aristocrats, businessmen, and intellectuals engaged in disjointed festivity on the eve of the Third Reich. Beckmann painted the work on an invitation from the German embassy in Paris. First sketches 1925

Thomas Mann the Magic Mountain 1925 remains in print

The principles of Bauhaus

No border between artist and craftsman. …

The artist is an exalted craftsman. …

«Form follows function». …

Gesamtkunstwerk or the ‘complete work of art’. …

True materials. …

Minimalism. …

Emphasises on technology. …

Smart use of resources.

erich mendelsohn schocken department store

“This was a world in which most individuals worked for a wage or salary; people patronized the icons of a commercial economy and culture by reading newspapers, shopping in department stores, listening to prizefights on the radio, and going to the movies at least once a week”

“A defeated army on its return home is never a pretty sight. Bandaged wounds, missing limbs, the hobbled walk on crutches shadowed by the sullen mood. In sharp contrast with pictures from August 1914 showing troops joyously departing for front, showered with flowers and praise”

😬” Joyfully we welcome you back in the homeland…. No enemy has prevailed over you. Only when the opponent’s superiority of men and matériel became ever more oppressive did we give up the struggle…. You have protected the homeland”

“More than thirteen million men, 19.7 percent of Germany’s 1914 population, served in the army during World War I. Nearly eight million were still in arms at the time of the armistice. Not all Germans had gone to war willingly; calls for peace and negotiations were numerous”

“In Elkenroth, a tiny village of about 700 people in Rheinland-Pfalz, 91 men served in the army during the war, 21 percent of whom died and another 23 percent of whom came back wounded. All told, roughly 2 million German men were killed and 4.2 million wounded in World War I”

“Many survivors lived the rest of their lives with physical and psychological wounds. Some were spirited away by their families yet the war-wounded, (masks covering blown away faces, dark glasses covering blinded eyes, wheelchairs + shell shock autism and tremors were everywhere”

“Women left behind had endured their own ordeal. Food rationing had been instituted. In the winter of 1916–17, children five to seven years were allotted only one-quarter liter of milk three times per week, bread was unpalatable because of additives—bean flour and sawdust”

Women had also gone to work in the munitions factories. Before 1914 large numbers of women already labored in Germany’s industrial plants. But the demands of total war meant that many women moved into metalworking and munitions factories as skilled machine operatives.”

“Long hours and deplorable conditions, industrial poisoning, sexual harassment + countless hours searching for food and fuel. Grandmothers and aunts took to the queues, waiting for meager rations of bread and spread out over railroad yards to pick up chunks of coal”

“For many women, the factory and the city got them away from the strict gaze of parents, pastors or priests, and village gossips. As hard as the labor was, money in their own hands gave them a sense of emancipation that would carry over into the Weimar years.”

“The war also destroyed conventional notions of respectability and faith in authority. This was, after all, a total war instigated by the elites of Germany and Europe. The state promised great things, a prosperous, powerful Germany that stood astride the continent”

“On March 1918, the German army threw everything into the last offensive: The malnourished German troops fell upon the provisions they found when they took the Allies’ first lines, and all the threats of their officers could not get them to move on until they were satiated”

Ludendorff and Hindenburg were already looking to the future, and wanted to foist the responsibility for the disaster onto a civilian government based on the parliamentary parties (and not just the kaiser’s wishes)

“They suffered from the grand illusion that they could negotiate as equals after having lost the most destructive war in history. Allies were demanding immediate demobilization and withdrawal from occupied regions”

“The German navy had fought a rather inglorious war. Indeed, the admirals were attempting one last great sea battle against the British to prove the mettle of the German navy and secure its future. Most Important, they wanted to destroy the cease-fire negotiations under way”

“On board and in port the enlisted sailors suffered from bs food while officers, within hearing distance had quite satisfactory and well-prepared portions. The men, moreover, endured an extremely regimented disciplinary system: Better for the sailors to die at sea”

“But the sailors were having no part of it. The Port city of Kiel mutinied, and in so doing set off the revolution that would finally destroy imperial Germany. The revolt quickly spread from the sailors on board to the garrisons in town and then to workers all over the city”

“They went to Bremen, Hamburg, Bochum, Essen, Braunschweig, Berlin, Munich and Bavaria. The news of the mutiny found a warm reception. Soldiers stationed at home began leaving their barracks. Prince Max handed over the Reich chancellorship to Friedrich Ebert, the head of the SPD”

“It was a momentous event that came to them in an inglorious fashion—by the action of the last chancellor of the last imperial government at a desperate moment in Germany’s history, when the burdens of war and the anxieties of defeat cast a dark pall over every action.”

😲 “The demobilization was nuts. Hundreds of thousands of men streamed back from France, Russia, Turkey. Many of them, consumed by the desire to get home, had simply started off on their own. Ominously, many soldiers did not give up their arms as they were required to do”

“As each trainload of returning soldiers pulled into a station, nervous city officials went out to greet them with victory speeches telling them to keep moving until they reached home, that the towns and cities they passed could offer them neither employment nor ration cards”

“The orderly German, so frequently stereotyped and satirized, had become an unruly figure. The disdain for authority was also evident in the way soldiers removed epaulettes and walked around with their shirts open at the collar, or raced in cars, blasting trumpets and horns”

“Proclamations were written and read, printing plants seized and the printers ordered to set type for a revolutionary declaration. Through the winter, the demands became increasingly radical. Calls for the socialization of industry, rank be abolished, citizens’ militia“

“Liberals were also aghast at the chaos and disruption that the revolution spawned. Germany would not tolerate Bolshevik conditions. Management would eventually reassert its power, the army preserve its officer corps—but the taste of change lingered”

“With luck, elections and a constitutional convention would do the trick.” Ebert worked feverishly to channel political energies down disciplined, regulated paths. “Germans were hungry and cold; food and coal had to be procured, men put back to work, institutions constructed”

“Army officers agreed to recognize the government and offered loyal troops for the suppression of the councils and the radical Left, and the socialist government agreed not to attack the integrity of the officer corps, nor to challenge its control over Germany’s military”

Capitalists agreed to recognize unions and grant 8-hour day, and government agreed to respect the rights of private capital and private property. The Governement preserved status and privileges of civil servants and they agreed to put their knowledge at the government’s disposal”

“Once the sense of panic had passed, once officers, civilian officials, and capitalists felt the balance of power again shifting in their direction, they would look for other allies, which they found, ultimately, in the Nazi Party”

“Berlin worker staged an armed revolt in January 1919, but the failure marginalised them and enhanced the Social Democracy reliance on the army and right-wing paramilitary units that operated with the express approval of the government even when they assassinated Rosa Luxemburg”

Ebert was still full of illusions about what would be placed on the table at the peace talks.

“The war not only exhausted us. It also tremendously exhausted our opponents. And from this feeling of exhaustion comes their efforts to recover their losses from the German people”

“The victors summoned Germany’s representatives to Versailles at the end of April 1919. Their French hosts made a point of humiliating the 180-man German delegation by having their Berlin-to-Paris trains crawl slowly through the devastated French countryside.”

“Most glaring to Germans was article 231, by which Germany and its allies were compelled to assume sole responsibility for the war’s outbreak. The “war guilt clause,” established the legal basis for reparations claims. However, the amount of reparations was not yet established“

From a speech: “Alsace is German to the core and had been stolen by the Bourbons; Upper Silesia had been separated from the Polish crown since 1253; English swear by self-determination, but what about Ireland and India? And what can Belgium say to after its behavior in Congo?”

“John Maynard Keynes, a member of the British delegation, quickly penned an eloquent essay against the treaty, which he denounced as a “Carthaginian peace.” His book The Economic Consequences of the Peace, 1919, was a bestseller.

“The right and to a lesser extent the left promoted a new style of politics that had emerged among the front generation—a style that glorified war and the trenches, that sought continually to re-create the sense of solidarity among men in battle” 😉

2: Berlin was a economic machine that churned out electrical goods, textiles, and confectionary products in huge quantities. It also had the State Opera, the Comic Opera, scores of theaters, museums, artists, poets, the young and ambitious, glittering nightclub scene

“It was a city of leisure, with neighborhoods of elegant wealth and amusement parks, a zoo and several lakes accessible by rail. Also infamous tenements blocks to rival London, Paris or New York for darkness. Tens of thousands of Russians and Poles added to the cosmopolitan feel

“Berlin’s Jewish community was the largest in Germany. Architecture from neoclassical to modern, elegant shops and the everyday kitsch of working class with carved cheap furniture and oil cloth table covers. Campaign posters, party headquarters draped in banners. Faux Greecoroman

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By the day, sight, taste and smell of traffic congestion, smog, polluted rivers and canals, crowds jostling in the streets, train platforms and subway cars, the cool breeze and clean water of the Wannsee,

By night the glittering lights of movie theaters, restaurants, automobiles and traffic signals, illuminated advertisements, the seductive appeal of fashionable clothes elegantly displayed in shop windows. And after a long walk, one sits, a favored activity of just about everyone

Beer or coffee to ponder and look-at the passerby, at the auto and streetcar traffic, at the stores across the way. Stroll and gaze. The rush of others washes over you like a bath in the surf. One should not have a plan because there are so may possibilities to eat and drink…

To step into a theater, a movie house or a cabaret following an unplanned adventure that happens to capture the eye. Glass and lightbulbs compete for the last glimmers of daylight and dusk

5 mayor roads, 25 streetcars passengers on and off converge here along with 50 years of transportation modes from cars buses, taxis, horse drawn carts with kegs of beer, bicycles and pushcarts, all around hustle and bustle and everywhere people walking, talking and watching

“The lighted advertisements of the Kempinski Haus illuminate the square and, over time, accustom the passersby to the commercialization of daily life made possible by electricity

As daylight comes, the ordered illumination of advertisements gives way to the utter chaos of painted and printed and unlit electric signs: on one building, the Pschorr-Haus, another sign, “Fight against cancer,” directing pedestrians to a drug or health food store.

“But barely shielded from their vision, we see the men without limbs, without part of their faces, without sight, sometimes begging, sometimes hobbling around, sometimes members of Berlin’s legions of the homeless. Berlin alone had twenty establishments for the wounded”

“but you could look the other way for a plate of pork hocks, feeling the residue of the fat swirling around your mouth + coffee and dessert, pâtés as well as its confections, while you lose yourself in a crowd with the variety of bankers and officials, intellectuals, women”

“we might visit the Salomé, where in a gold- and red-painted interior, provincial Germans and foreign tourists come to eye the transvestites and lesbians. We can watch the Tiller Girls, whose dance line moves with military precision, at the more respectable Wintergarten theater.

“Perhaps we really want to hear some jazz, also easily available: an eight-piece band of African American musicians playing the fast-paced syncopations of New Orleans jazz, interspersed with the windy, blues-jazz It is American and American means modern”

“The new generation, male and female, has learned that satisfaction and pleasure are to be found in refinement, not in huge quantities and colossal portions. The new Berlin is more elegant, more Paris-like”

“The “new woman” of the 1920s, an image of elegance and refinement, of activity and athleticism, and one that flowed from its bourgeois origins to working women, from the capital city to the provinces. Women were out in public in far greater numbers than previously”

To be sure, working women, poor women, had always been out, fetching water from wells and pumps, provisions from the baker and the butcher, bringing their own household products to the market to sell. But bourgeois women of the nineteenth century had been more restricted.

Since the 1890s, even bourgeois women had begun to stake their claim on the streets. The department stores were the decisive innovation: they helped create the modern woman as spectator and consumer. The volume of wares on display created “traffic”

“Despite special taxes and restrictions on their activities, the Jewish community flourished. Beginning in the mid-nineteenth century, large numbers of East European Jews settled in the Scheunenviertel, crowding its tenements and streets”

“Scheunenviertel has odd street names for a Jewish quarter. It was once home to the gallows of Prussian justice and the stables of the Prussian army. Along streets with names like Dragonerstraße and Grenadierstraße

the men, with their ancient beards and sidelocks, walk in groups.

“Hebrew inscriptions are written on stores and beer halls. These streets remain a world unto themselves and a kind of home for the eternal outsider. Until, that is, a new wave of people comes from the east and pushes out the old-timers, who are already so well adapted to Berlin”

Reform and Orthodox Jews pass one another on the street; eastern European jostle with well-attired businessmen and shop owners. Then there are the petty thieves, prostitutes, gamblers, and pimps, who spill over into the Scheunenviertel from nearby Alexanderplatz ”

“And mixed in with them are the refugees, the Jews from all over eastern Europe who are fleeing pogroms. Many want to move on, to America, Holland, or Palestine. Some came straight from Russian prisoner-of-war camps.

In their eyes I saw millennial sorrow”

There were women there too. They carried their children on their backs like bundles of dirty washing. Other children, who went scrabbling through on crooked legs, gnawed on dry crusts…The odd one among these will go on to New York and make a million”

“Social reformers and government officials alike sought to create new, more hygienic, and rationalized apartments. The results were prodigious: 2.5 million new apartments were built in the Weimar era. In 1930, around 14% of the entire population lived in newly built apartments”

“Construction plans “recall the maps general staff,” sewage, power, water, transportation, schools all taken into account. The architecture both reflects and molds the new-model family 2 adult, 2 children. Small but functional: two bedrooms, “rationalized” kitchen, living room.”

Hessel described the factory as a “temple of the machine … [a] church of precision.” He goes up to the gallery and, looking down, feels he has the same sight line as if he were standing at the top of a cathedral. He is overwhelmed by the sight of “lengths of steel and casings”

“For many Germans, our walking tour would not have been a pleasant experience. Accustomed to the slower pace of smaller cities, the darkness of the countryside at night, they experienced Berlin as artificial, parasitical. Why are the natural rhythms challenged by streetlights?

“Joseph Goebbels fumed at the lit-up city; the confusion between night and day signified its degeneration. The noise of the city, the lights, prostitutes, the confusion of gender roles caused by homosexual men and modern, nonmaternal women,

“Degenerate Berlin feeds off working Berlin, exploits the solid citizenry who toil away, only to see the fruits of their labor dissipated by the flaneur, the sophisticate, the Jew, parading around the city, whiling the time away in cafés, looking but doing nothing productive”

“The famed satirist Kurt Tucholsky depicted Germany outside Berlin as a place ruled by “provincial philistines” and other assorted reactionaries, a world of “surreptitious Catholicism” and superstition, of dim-witted peasants and aristocrats and craven officials”

Chapter 3

“Everything has remained the same. But one thing has changed: The Old One [the kaiser] is no longer around. This one thing: the possibility of looking up to the throne and finding it empty, of knowing that no majesty can interrupt the direct link between God and me”

“Weimar politics were loud, contested, unruly—and strikingly democratic. Almost any political party could muster enough votes to find representation in the Reichstag. Weimar’s deepest enemies, let alone its supporters, published their newspapers and gathered their followers.”

“And yet: periodic states of emergency led the state to close down the publishing houses of the Communist Party, and even Adolf Hitler was banned from public speaking in virtually all German states from 1924 to 1927.

“White terrors and Political assassinations conducted by shadowy yet well-connected right-wing groups were commonplace between 1919 and 1923. The courts were notorious bastions of conservatism that barely prosecuted acts of errors while they assiduously pursued the Left.”

“The economy, though retooled for peacetime , proved highly unstable, with a few intermittent years of expansion/crises. The collapse of commodity prices, productivity, and high levels of unemployment placed constraints on government and made millions of Germans miserable”

3 phases. “In 1918–23, it was the Left and center; 1924–29, largely the center Right; 1930–33, the authoritarian Right. The first two, at least, demonstrated Weimar’s promise, the last, Weimar’s pathologies. Each ended amid a combined, catastrophic economic and political crisis”

SPD Social Democratic Party: Pillar of the welfare state with unquestioned commitment to democracy, though willing to use force against the other Left. Oriented toward “heavy metal,” coal and steel industries but its class-oriented viewpoint, profoundly limited its appeal.”

“The DDP was the progressive liberal party and drew to its side many middle-class professionals, including Jewish. It advocated the juste milieu, that is, balance in politics and society. The DDP opposed both monopolies and socialization, supported individual initiative”

“Catholicism saturated the party. Priests and bishops played leading roles in its internal affairs; Catholic teaching shaped the program bu many Germans viewed Germany, for good or bad, as a Protestant (Kulturkampf, Bismarck’s attack on Catholic influence in politics and society)

“On the left, Communists and assorted radicals demanded a political and social system dominated by labor—or by the parties that claimed to represent the working class. “Proletarians!” “Working Men and Women,”Workers” began virtually every leaflet, every appeal of the KPD”

“Socialization of industry and agriculture. Over the Weimar period, the loyalty toward the Soviet Union and exclusionary language turned a lot of people off. For Communists the enemies were omnipresent, bosses, bureaucrats, priests, but also workers aligned with SPD or Center”

“The major parties of the Right were the German National People’s Party (DNVP) and the German People’s Party (DVP). The latter cooperated intermittently with the Weimar Coalition parties. But it never gave full-fledged support to the republic or even to the idea of democracy

“It always hedged its commitments based on whether its concerns were adequately reflected. That meant, a probusiness policy that signified limited taxation, property rights, the revision of Versailles, and, especially, the rollback of the gains won by workers in the revolution”

“The grand fulminations against the republic came from the DNVP, powerfully rooted in the old Prussian landowning nobility, certain business segments, army officers, some high-level state officials, and assorted others who despised democracy. At one time had been monarchists.”

“Germany’s sorry state was a result of its betrayal at home since 1914 by Jews and socialists, complete with monstrous images of bloodthirsty hounds, apes (often with caricatured African features),or Asians setting Germany aflame, or of the spirit of death representing communism”

“the DNVPs was a radicalism of the powerful and well-situated and they trafficked with those still further to the right. All over Germany, and especially in Bavaria, extreme right-wing groups included the Freikorps, paramilitary bands with good connections to the upper ranks”

“At first welcomed by the Social Democratic government, the Freikorps repressed strikes and fought against Communists up and down eastern Europe. They also exercised summary justice against radical workers—they lined up striking workers and shot them—and pogroms against Jews”

“All this indicates that Hitler invented nothing in terms of right-wing ideology. His great innovations lay in the organizational and rhetorical realms. It also indicates that the marketing of anti-Bolshevism and anti-Semitism together was one of the Right’s great innovations”

“The Feme (comes from a form of medieval vigilantism) were a series of politically motivated murders 19–23 by the German far right against political opponents. The victims included left-wing activists killed for exposing German military anti-Versailles”

“While the Weimar judiciary rigorously prosecuted leftists involved in the German Revolution of 1918–1919 little was done before amnesty was declared in 1930, Germans who exposed the killings were tried and convicted for insulting the military establishment even if it was true”

Inflation had begun in 1914 because the huge expense of war largely via loans. Germany lost the war. By 1919 the value of the mark had fallen, the inflation depreciated the currency making German goods attractive and enabling businesses to meet worker demands for higher wages”

“But then inflation kicked into hyperinflation (discussed in next chapter), the likes of which have rarely been seen in the annals of national economies. The allies convinced that Germany was delaying shipments of gold and manipulating its currency moved and occupied the Ruhr”

“The government declared a policy of passive resistance: whenever French or Belgian troops moved into a factory, the workers were to chill and go home. By June, the economy had come to a virtual standstill. Germans fumed at the French, the Belgians, and their own government”

“Money printer go brrr to support passive resistance, which sent an already incredible hyperinflation into the stratosphere. By the end of November 1923, a single U.S. dollar bought 4.2 trillion marks, a barely comprehensible exchange rate.”

“Communists attempted a revolution; Nazis attempted a march on Berlin. Both were fiascoes. Large segments of population saw their life deteriorate drastically (see pushed wheelbarrows full of money to buy a loaf of bread or shoes). Prices changed two and three times a day.”

“Finally the government abandoned passive resistance and introduced a new currency, the Rentenmark that in one fell swoop, expropriated the holdings of most Germans. Shortly France and Belgium withdrew from the Ruhr in return for a promised schedule of reparations”

Business, with the support of government, rolled back many of the social gains. Gov’ employees were laid off in substantial numbers and factory workers were back on twelve-hour shifts, miners on eight and one-half hours. A miners’ strike in spring went down to bitter defeat”

“In 1924, then, the entire political constellation shifted to the right, opening Weimar’s second phase. The visions remained constant. The center left still advocated democracy and social welfare, but were weakened by loss of voters to the Right for DDP, and to the Left for SPD”

“New laws permitted the censorship of “filth and trash”, established comprehensive unemployment insurance; international recognition and relief; veterans’ demonstrations and communist marches; army scandals and achievements—flash points of conflict over thebasic political values

“Unemployment insurance was passed it by a wide majority (356 to 47, with 16 abstentions). The law turned unemployment insurance into a right instead of means tested providing benefits for 26 to 39 weeks, at the rate of 35 to 75 percent of the basic wage”

“It was financed by a tax divided between employers and wage earners. It extended a law that protected women’s jobs six weeks prior to childbirth to six weeks after as well (though without pay). The six-week postpartum period could be extended with a doctor’s certification.

“So toward the end of the second phase of the republic, Germans could look at the international situation with some optimism. Germany had been incorporated into the League of Nations and had won some relief from its reparations obligations.

“But should have been clear that the Right wasn’t playing ball. The army chiefs spent a good deal of time surreptitiously circumventing the Versailles treaty and secretly recruited men above and beyond the 100000 limit into the Black Reichswehr with secret budget appropriations”

“Also a series of agreements with the Soviet Union provided for the construction of German arms factories and training facilities on Soviet soil. All sorts of ties—personal, professional, political, class—bound the regular army to the wide array of right-wing paramilitary”

“And then came the stock market crash in 1929, which turned into a banking + production crisis. So much of the economic upturn had been fueled by American capital that when the US called in their loans, German banks fell into a liquidity crisis that sent the economy reeling”

“The Right had come to understand that politics could no longer consist solely of secret handshakes. It had to “win the support of millions of people who would march behind elite men: followers who would vote, march, and rally: there was power to be found in mass mobilization.”

Chapter 4 “Die Wirtschaft ist das Schicksal” (the economy is destiny)”

“Compared to the periods before 1914 and after 1945, Weimar’s real growth rates were meager and the macroeconomic effect of technological innovations limited”

No leading-sector innovations with a broadly stimulating impact on the economy emerged in the 1920s. There was no textiles production as in the early industrialization, or innovations in the steel industry in the 1880s or in the chemical industry from the 1890s to 1914”

“At the same time that Germany’s economy, in relative terms, stagnated, it also became more modern. The proportion of the population engaged in industrial labor continued to grow. Young women fled the farms for the greater independence of the cities and factory labor.

“A exponential growth of the new middle class of the age cohort born around 1900 were everywhere, pressing on the very limited, sometimes nonexistent, jobs in industry and government while Engineers and business owners wrote rhapsodically about , streamlined production”

“Reparations can be understood as a “tax collected from German citizens by the German government acting as the Allies’ fiscal agent.” However, this tax lacked the “moral legitimation” that normally accompanies tax collection. German government and citizenry felt it fully unjust”

“The government, faced with a virtually universal opposition to higher taxes, was effectively bankrupted and had to look to the capital markets. In essence, the German government faced a strike by taxpayers, miserable credit rating and no one to buy government bonds)”

“While Germany pleaded poverty + inability to meet its obligations, observers noted what inflation had wrought—a manufacturing revival, restaurants and nightclubs filled with patrons, and a lively export trade. Only a closer look revealed extensive unemployment and soup kitchens”

“In the summer 1921, rising prices set off another round of demands for wage increases which government and business could meet by paying in depreciated currency, and business, at least, by raising prices”

“A galloping wage-price spiral emerged, a kind of contagion in which entire industries as well as individual businessmen abandoned restraint. The government, unable to raise taxes or to counter wage demands, printed currency and used other methods to increase the money supply”

At home and abroad, confidence in the German economy deteriorated, stimulating speculation. Everyone who had some currency holdings began speculating—would the mark go up or down against the pound, franc, and the dollar? It further weakened the mark and intensified inflation

“Then, in the summer of 1922, galloping inflation kicked into hyperinflation, accompanied by a business slowdown, declining exports, and rapidly escalating unemployment. Businesses faced a liquidity crisis, and everyone faced a shortage of paper currency”

“The Reichsbank was convinced that it had to ensure the availability of credit for business and paper currency for daily transactions. “Only these measures would keep the economy humming and maintain social peace. So by various instruments it continually increased money supply”

In December, the Prussian statistical office concluded that unskilled chemical workers were earning only 69.4 percent of the minimum existence requirement for a married couple with one child; for skilled workers, it was 76.1 percent, and printers only 58.2 percent of the minimum

“To support the policy of passive resistance, the government provided unemployment benefits to workers and giant welfare payments to companies while various ministries and agencies paid out wages, unemployment benefits, and welfare support”

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By the end of June, the government had guaranteed 2.5 trillion paper marks’ worth of credits to business, and had provided another 5.2 trillion marks in additional subventions without neither the gold reserves, the moral legitimacy, nor the economic output required”

“More price escalation. The Reichsbank issued paper currency in ever larger denominations, finally a 100-trillion-mark note on Nov 1923. Toward the end of the month, the mark had reached the exchange rate $1 = 4.2 trillion marks. Germany’s sacred currency was worthless”

“Firms used multipliers to calculate wages—one day, the set wage times 27 billion; a few days later, the set wage times 67 billion. Merchants did the same, or switched to a foreign-currency or simply bartered. People binged up goods since the money was worthless within hours”

Pianos, bicycles, sewing machines, motorcycles, stocks of shoes: better to have real goods than cash savings. In market squares, women plundered stalls and stores. Swarms of urban dwellers descended on countryside, stealing potatoes, chickens, and whatever else they could find”

“Small traders who protested found themselves unceremoniously roughed up, sometimes stripped of their clothing. Wildcat strikes ran through all sorts of industries. By the fall, workers were being paid every two or three days, and sometimes twice a day”

“Long food, wages, or unemployment lines; unpaid bills or what to do with billions of worthless currency. For the poor and the unskilled, the situation was utterly catastrophic Homeowners who rented out rooms and apartments, along with pensioners, found their incomes evaporated ”

“Those with savings accounts or financial cushions watched the value of their hard-earned savings rendered worthless. Health conditions plummeted and communicable diseases like tuberculosis spread rapidly, the children are anemic, listless, weak and subject to illness”

“The overall effect was not only a disastrous decline in living standards, but also a severe disruption of the boundaries between social groups. To find a skilled worker, perhaps, or a speculator living better than oneself, to discover one’s liquid assets reduced to nothing”

“To be repaid in worthless currency for loans granted to friends, relatives, or associates, to be waiting on line for hours for a loaf of bread—or to sell off their porcelain, silver, upholstered antique chairs, and anything else of value”

“In well-furnished houses there are chairs devoid of leather which has been used for shoes, curtains without linings, turned into garments for kids, and a women nightdresses or two has to cut them up to wear as chemises, using bits from the sleeves and hem to make handkerchiefs”

“Social resentments, never far below, became acute. Industrialists blamed workers for laziness. Workers called businessmen speculators. City dwellers attacked country people for gorging themselves on sausages while the cities starved. Everybody blamed civil servants.”

“The foreigner,” some kind of Slav or especially a Jew, who lived as a speculator, profiting off German misery, was an ever-present image. Often stereotypically Jewish, a monocled nouveau riche, cigarette dangling, late-model automobile, with short-haired short-skirted new woman”

“Everyone, it seems, tried to dodge the law; the better-off just did it in a more genteel way. While small-scale retailers might try to doctor books or stash money in a milk can, big business speculated in the international markets and hid assets abroad or in ghost subsidiaries”

“Hans Von Raumer explains: We in business can no longer live from the depreciation of the currency. That has exhausted itself. At the beginning it was that. Then we lived from the capital of our pensioners. This is also gone. Then the liquidity of the factories. Also gone”

“A central problem for sorting out the monetary mess was the Reichsbank itself. The term of its president, Rudolf E. A. Havenstein, was for life, and he was literally unstoppable: under Havenstein, the Reichsbank kept going Brrr by ever greater amounts of Papiermark”

Then, on 15 November 1923, the Reichsbank was made to stop monetizing government debt and issuing new money. At the same time, it was decided to make one trillion Papermark (a number with twelve zeros: 1,000,000,000,000) equal to one Rentenmark.

Days later, Havenstein died, all of a sudden, 😐 through a heart attack and Hjalmar Schacht, who would become Reichsbank head stabilized the Papermark against the US dollar and through foreign exchange market interventions, made 4.2 trillion Papermark equal to one US Dollar.

And as one trillion Papermark was equal to one Rentenmark, the exchange rate was 4.2 Rentenmark for one US dollar. This was exactly the exchange rate that had prevailed between the Reichsmark and the US dollar before World War I”

“Unbacked paper money is political money and as such it is a disruptive element in a system of “free” markets. Paper money, produced “ex nihilo” and injected into the economy through credit, is not only chronically inflationary, it also causes malinvestment, boom-and-bust cycles”

“It halted the inflation and thereby placed the country on a stable financial footing. Then the give slashed the size of the public payroll by nearly one-quarter. Temporary employees and married women were the first to go; higher-level employees with tenure (were protected)”

“On two major fronts, the government virtually yielded its role to the representatives of major industrial and financial interests. The crisis of enabled business to destroy—not totally, but to a significant degree—the social measures it had only reluctantly conceded in 1918–19”

“By today estimates,reparations, had they been fully paid, would have amounted to 10 to 12 percent of Germany’s national income each year. Substantial but manageable in accounting terms but not politically manageable”

“The paradox of reparations was that they imposed demeaning obligations on the German state while undermining the legitimacy and stability required by the state to fulfill them.”

“The Weimar Republic lost the middle class in the inflation and the working class in the stabilization, and it never had very much at all of the agrarian sector—something of an exaggerated characterization, but broadly accurate nonetheless.”

“Still, the stabilization program had its successes. It secured the territorial integrity and put an end to revolutionary attempts on the extreme right and left. It gave Germany a solid currency with the Rentenmark and then the Reichsmark, which was placed on the gold standard”

“All of this created conditions for an economic revival, financed by influx of American capital. German companies, along + municipalities + state governments, were eager customers for inexpensive American loans. Business got plants and equipment and municipalities built housing”

“These were the storied “golden years” of the Weimar Republic, evident in statistics but also in lifestyles. Germans went on a consumption binge, and they did it with modern flair. Even workers were looking for display and style, and more and more were prepared to buy on credit”

“Rigid class lines dissolved even further around consumption. Even middle-class people were buying on credit, whereas before the war only the poorest had gone into debt for consumer purchases”

“Better to enjoy life now than live for the future. It was an attitude both well suited for and cultivated by the advertising industry, which blossomed in this era of mass consumption. Advertisers merged the appeal of sex with the clean lines of modernist design”

“Advertisers targeted women drawing and creating the image and reality of woman as consumer. They deployed the allure of elegance, style, and sex to sell and to suggest the possibilities of a utopia of plenty in which possession of objects would serve as path to self-fulfillment”

“Modern consumption was one sign of the golden years: “rationalization” was the other. The term meant the application of scientific methods to production in order to expand output, with less labor. More than seven hundred institutes—state, private were involved in this research”

“America was the very model of rationalization. Nothing drew them like the iconic Henry Ford: In comparison, Germany seemed static. Where would one find a German farmboy who had created his own company and risen to the top? Germany’s class system would never allow such a thing.”

What they saw in the 1920s was the “American system” that would reach such heights in the 1950s and 1960s—high-tech, low-cost production; mass marketing; and high wages. “It was a formula that dazzled. But could it be successfully imitated at home? Few thought so”

“Instead of adopting the assembly line, German businessmen, engineers, psychologists, and sociologists focused on time-motion studies and psychological techniques designed to enhance the productivity of labor, quality work(Qualitätsarbeit) skilled craftsmen and precision labor.”

“Major companies deployed an array of welfare programs designed to bind workers. But major benefits like housing were limited to an elite stratum. For the rest, it was sports teams, parks and playgrounds, churches, cultural events, newspapers, and recreational associations”

Rationalization, far from bringing prosperity, made lives more difficult. While wages did rise between 1924 and 1929, so did unemployment, and employed workers found the intensified pace destructive.Any worker objecting was told thousands of others were ready to take his place”

“Size of the workforce at the end of the decade was 60 percent of the 1923 level, while output had risen 50 to 60 percent. Tighter control over the labor process and increased mechanization. Piecework, far more than the assembly line”

Elevator pitch 🙂

A pieceworker receives a fixed rate for each unit (“piece”) produced or action performed. In part, the rate reflects a cost of monitoring output. A timeworker receives a fixed wage rate per hour that, in the short term, does not vary with output performance.

“The health costs were high—a faster pace of work and longer hours resulted in more industrial accidents, causing amputations, damaged lungs, and scalding burns. Industrial labor remained long, hard, and dirty, and now became more intense and dangerous.”

“Female workers faced even more daunting circumstances: sleep-deprived: and endless household labor. “Before they took their places at the loud, fast-moving looms or spinners, they had already made beds, swept and dusted, prepared meals, washed dishes, wakened children etc”

“Germany’s highly modern economy also needed trained technical staff in offices and laboratories. White-collar workers was one of the few realms of significant social mobility in Germany different from the older middle class of shopkeepers and highly skilled artisans”

“In every one of its aspects the modern office workplace was like the military, disciplined and hierarchical. Owners and managers prized subordination above all else with batteries of aptitude tests. “The employees were like line infantry, an anonymous and servile mass

“Work had become automated. punchcards that were fed into tabulating machines, the forerunners of the modern computer. Typewriters, calculating machines, mechanical letter openers and sealers, addressing machines and messages shot through pneumatic tubes from one place to another

“A typist would not become an accounts specialist, nor a salesperson an office employee. As office work became automated, women increasingly staffed the positions—and office work suffered a decline in status. Female white-collar were around two-thirds of men’s salaries”

“A chasm yawns between technical and commercial employees in industry. Commercial employees treated technical employees in the same firm with disdain, while the technical employees thought they were the only onesproductive. Civil servants looked down upon private industry.”

“The agrarian situation varied. No area represented only one kind of land tenure though there were prevailing trends. In East Prussia large estates worked either by tenant or by agricultural laborers still predominated, though there were many small peasant holdings as well.

Saxony had a mix of estate and peasant holdings. “The south and southwest as well and the same was true of the north and northwest where dairy farming predominated. All of the farmers hated market and price controls imposed during the war and most dodged, bent, and undermined it.

“At all the crisis moments—1918–19, 1920–21, 1923—rumors ran rife that farmers were hoarding huge stocks of grain, meat, and dairy products. The “golden years” certainly did not apply to Weimar’s agrarian sector. And farmers were quick to blame socialists and Jews for their woes”

“They bemoaned the shortage of labor, especially the paucity of girls and young women willing to put up with the strain of agricultural labor. On the farms girls and women endured sixteen- hour days, dirty conditions, and heavy lifting, under the ever-watchful eye of the owner”

“To the dismay of farmers and officials, thousands of young women fled the rural areas for factories and the city. The work may have been no easier, but at least they did not suffer under the constant gaze of their employers. They felt freer and happier”

“The U.S. stock market crash in 1929 set off a banking crisis that spread to Germany as U.S. banks called in their short-term loans. It turned into a production crisis that spiraled downward as firms laid off workers, government revenues declined, and demand collapsed.

By the beginning of 1932, six million Germans were officially unemployed, about one-third of the labor force. All told, roughly an almost unbelievable 40 percent of the workforce. German unemployment rates were higher than even those in the United States”

“In specific industries the picture was still worse: 41.9 percent unemployment in iron and steel, 48.9 percent in machine building, and 63.5 percent in shipbuilding. From a GNP high of 88,486,000 RM in 1928, the figure plummeted to 55,544,000 RM in 1932”

“Again the economic disaster became an existential crisis of the Weimar system. Just under lurked the question is the social democracy capable of resolving the country’s problems? Or was it, perhaps, part of the cause? For the Right especially, it provided a golden opportunity”

“Brüning followed the conventional wisdom. The way out of a crisis was to adopt deflationary policies slashing public expenditures, labor costs cuts and prices had to fall. Once things had bottomed out, business would have incentives to invest, and the economy would revive.”

“Like Herbert Hoover in the United States, Brüning would pay a political price for his narrow-minded policies, but the political outcome in Germany would be far more drastic and frightening. He essentially ruled by decree the outcome of a completely paralyzed political system“

“He raised taxes, cut social welfare benefits, slashed the number of government employees cut the salaries and forced localities to balance their budgets. His immediate successor in 1932, Franz von Papen, did much the same, only in more sinister fashion”

“The struggle to find sufficient food and clothing was a big deal. Schoolchildren had lunches packed only on the day when welfare payments were disbursed; otherwise they went hungry. Some families held themselves together with dignity in the most while others disintegrated”

“Men drank heavily; Some simply absconded, women suffered under the burdens of providing for a family with fewer resources. People tried their hands at breeding rabbits, or were thrown back on growing their own vegetables on meager plots. Cats and dogs were slain and eaten” 🙁

“The social and psychological effects were just as devastating. People were worn down by poverty and hopelessness. Without jobs to structure men’s lives, their days became an empty void— time blending without demarcation, their walking pace slowed down; their posture stooped”

The surroundings deteriorated as well, the factory now a shambles, the once well-tended park overgrown with weeds. Even reading seemed pointless. Men stayed in bed for hours on end or hung around in stairwells and courtyards. Nothin was urgent anymore. There was no need to hurry”

“For the women, the day still had demarcations: they still had to cook and clean and tend to children. Their labor had become more intensive and oppressive, because they now had to scrounge for food and fuel, keep tattered mend clothes together and take in wash to earn a little”

“Many women still longed to return to the mill. “If I could get back to the factory it would be the happiest day of my life. It’s not only for the money; stuck here alone between one’s own four walls, one isn’t really alive” 😬

“Thirty-nine, married, three children…. Three years earned nothing. Future? Work, madhouse, or turn on the gas”

“I am spiritually broken and sometimes entertain thoughts of suicide. Moreover, I have lost confidence in all men. Thirty-eight years old, divorced, four children”

“Before the war, I was a businessman which I had to give up as a result of the war and my call-up. When I came home my wife died. All my savings were stolen away by the great national fraud. Now I am 51 so they don’t take people my age.” The final step for me is suicide”

“I had been trying to make a go of it as sales agents living off commissions but it was just begging from door to door. My independence consist in the necessity of bearing my misery alone, without the social protection enjoyed by wage earners”

“As in any market-driven economy, some people proved quite good at taking advantage of fast-moving speculative opportunities. But the overall impact was one of disruption and immiseration. Germans had never seen anything like the hyperinflation or the Great Depression of 1930–33”

“But the trends of the Weimar years were also the result of policy choices that gave major industrial and financial interests preponderant influence over the economy.

More forceful and imaginative policies on the part of the SPD could have reined in big business, which, after all, was not just antisocialist, but largely antidemocratic as well. Instead, the SPD banked everything on a quick revival of production”

“Of course, not all businesses prospered. They, too, had to live with unpredictability, and many made poor calculations wathever the concessions to their interests. “Many Germans blamed socialists, and Jews, but the real problem was much closer at hand.”

Chapter 5 – Building a new Germany

“Ill-conceived and inferior architecture, combined with other factors, can promote stress, encourage exhaustion, induce psychosomatic symptoms and even promote physical discomfort”

“Humans have a holistic perception: Our senses influence our thinking, feelings and actions. As a result, spaces can promote motivation and strengthen our performance or concentration. If we feel uncomfortable this can lead to restlessness, hypersensitivity or lethargy”

“Taut, Mendelsohn and Gropius, believed that the structures they designed: Taut’s apartment blocks, Mendelsohn’s Einstein Tower and department stores, and Gropius’s Bauhaus heralded a new, modern era, creative, joyous and dynamic, in harmony with nature and urban industrial life”

Taut was a deeply committed pacifist who sought deep meanings in Christian-tinged spirituality, Japanese culture and socialism. In the Glass Dome he wanted to place humankind in an environment that marries the dramatic, natural landscape of the Alps and the human-made technology

“But Taut learned to control his most fervent longings in order to realize some of the most important public housing developments of the Weimar era. Taut managed to combine visionary beliefs with practical concerns in the service of social reform”

“In 1921 he was named building commissioner (Stadtbaurat) in Magdeburg, a medium-sized, heavy-industrial town with an SPD-led city council. They could not alleviate the housing crisis in total, but in certain areas they had a profound impact. “Licht, Luft, Sonne”—light, air, sun”

“Now many Germans for discover indoor plumbing, electricity and gas, and clean apartments open to the sun and greenery. White-collar workers in government and business poured into the new places designed in modernist fashion with clean lines, flat roofs, and recessed windows”

“2.5 million new dwellings, housing about 9 million people, were built in the Weimar era. In 1930, around 14 percent of the entire German population lived in newly built apartments. Between 1924 and 1929, Berlin alone built 135,000 units”

“The construction plans were like a Gesamtkunstwerk (a total artwork)—the architects provided for adequate infrastructure and playgrounds, gardens, and schools for leisure, rest, and self-development. Interior design was intended to make family life “modern” and “rational”.

“The apartments were geared toward the small, nuclear family with two children not toward a multigenerational extended kin group or even a two-generational household. The two-bedroom unit was standard, and the kitchen was closed off from the rest of the apartment”

“Color provides “a certain warmth and depth,” especially on dull-gray days (of which there are many in Germany). Used properly, color also deepens perspective, creating the illusion of expanse. Color “can make the wall of a house appear to recede … to come meet the observer”

“The Frankfurt kitchen by Margarete Schütte-Lihotzky minimized bending and stretching, with countertops at the appropriate height; replaced open dish racks with cupboards. Metal and brick replaced wood, racks eliminated drying dishes; preset flour dispensers obviated measuring”

“Mendelsohn advocated a kind of creative internationalism, a play of fantasy and aesthetics that dissolves borders and brings people together. It was no surprise that an era of general want and misery—the war and its aftermath—had fostered the creation of a new consciousness”

“Mendelsohn was no socialist and, always cultivated very close relations with businessmen. By the late 1920s, he was the most successful architect in Germany, Head of a firm with forty employees designing the most distinctive commercial and private architecture in the world”

“Mendelsohn often used the metaphors of music and “force-field” (Kräftespiel) to illustrate his ideas. It is especially in counterpoint, where several different melodies are pieced together to create a unified composition, that Mendelsohn identified the essence of architecture”

“But his love for the organic beauty of a Bach fugue or a Gothic cathedral did not prevent him from seeing the same possibilities in the “hard clang” of a machine’s movements, the “metallic sheen” of its material, and the “precision of its rotations”

“Certainly, Mendelsohn was a firm defender of the modern. To businessmen, fellow architects, and an educated public he trumpeted the excitement of the present, with its new construction techniques and materials, mass consumption, automobiles, and advertising”

“It is unthinkable,” he wrote in 1923, “that we can turn back time…. Unthinkable that we leave unused the greatly broadened possibilities of technology. That we see the machine as the enemy of humanity, instead of as our powerful tool that we need to master….

That we found our personal lives on some original and ancient fatherland [Urväterland], instead of trusting the house key to modern times. For this modern time is our own time”

“Quoting Einstein , “organic” signified that “one cannot take any part away from it, neither mass, nor motion, nor logical development, without destroying the whole. It means that scientific facts and creative vision combine to an unbreakable pattern.”

“These qualities are also evident in the department stores Mendelsohn built in the 1920s and early 1930s. In these works, Mendelsohn tamed the expressionism so vividly conveyed in the cement and stucco of the Einstein Tower, yet his basic design principles remained constant.”

“Mendelsohn achieved its light, dynamic effect through the use of the modernists’ favored materials, reinforced concrete and glass. It is as if the very condition of modernity, the tension between stasis and movement, tradition and progress, rendered in this one building”

“The ability to use ever larger display windows also opened the building to the street, with passersby able to look in, not only to the display, but past it to the arrangements of goods in the store’s interior. All design elements, interior and exterior, had functional purpose.

“In many of his writings and speeches Mendelsohn developed an articulate critique of strict functionalism. His unnamed target was Walter Gropius, the famed founder of the Bauhaus school and another legendary twentieth-century architect.”

Gropius founded the Bauhaus in 1919 with the support of the SPD government of Saxe-Weimar. “He believed that World War I marked an break with the past: Today’s artist lives in an era of dissolution, without guidance. The old human spirit invalidated and in flux toward a new form”

“The curriculum entailed instruction in artisanal crafts as well as the traditional arts like sculpture and painting. The instructors included Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee. The school would break down barriers between the different fields of art, crafts, teachers and students”

“For him architecture had a unique role to play in the forging of a new society. The fruit of architectural creativity was not consigned to the mausoleum, but was visible in daily life. It was therefore the truly “organic” art form, into which all the others would be subsumed”

“The beauty of a building should derive from its function,” Instead of an exterior covered with a riot of disruptive ornaments, the new architecture would have clean lines and smooth surfaces. “Beauty should also derive from the very nature of the materiáls used in construction”

“There should be no historical references, no imitation of past styles, whether of classical Athens, Renaissance Rome, or baroque Vienna. A building’s only reference would be to itself, its function and the modern times of which it was a part.”

“Much lighter structures using steel, reinforced concrete, and plate glass. Load-bearing capacity is moved from the exterior walls to the steel skeleton. Windows no longer holes that have to be cut out of stone walls, but a sheen of glass separated only by thin steel frames”

“The building is composed of functionally related elements, three cubes linked together by enclosed bridges” Each cube serves distinct functions: workshops and auditorium; classrooms, offices, and library; and studios, dining room, and dormitory.

“The load-bearing structures are hidden, so the exterior becomes a playfield of airy lightness. The linkage of the cubes is clearly evident, a stirring emblem of Gropius’s belief in that hallowed word “organic. When lighted in the evening, the building gave off a compact glow”

“Many critics thought that the modernists degraded man to a mere material being. For them, beauty and history were inseparable. Taut, Mendelsson and Gropius were not artists but merely engineers. “A beautiful building had to evoke timeless values and historical rootedness”

“The attack on the modernists became entwined with ever-growing race thinking. In 1926, Emil Högg attacked the new buildings as representing a “nomadic architecture” This was not truly German “folk architecture” The break with the past promoted by Bauhaus was “bolshevist”.

“What they build represents a soulless, godless, mechanical world. The truly German house gives one the feeling that it grows out of the soil, like a tree that sinks its roots deep in the soil and forms a union with it. It is this that gives us our understanding of “heimat”

“Taut, Mendelsohn, and Gropius were members of an extraordinary generation of European architects born in the 1880s. Other architects of the era include Le Corbusier, Ernst May, Mies van der Rohe, Martin Wagner, Hendricus Theodorus Wijdeveld. All of them influenced by modernity”

“In exile, Mendelsohn’s buildings have none of the excitement of the Einstein Tower or the Schocken department store. In Japan and Turkey, Taut was unable to build at all. Gropius eminent career did not produced again the restrained elegance of the Bauhaus building”

Their buildings were not corporate office towers, as displays of wealth and power. They were housing developments, department stores, and educational and research institutions. Sun-drenched and stimulating places to shop, and learn—that, too, was the promise of Weimar

Chapter 6 – Sound and Vision

“Germans loved film and newsreels in grand, newly built movie palaces. Radio caught on like wildfire after its introduction in 1921. Radio brought music, plays, sermons, and news reports into bars and dance halls, and into people’s homes”

“The army used primitive radios during the war. As consumer costs came down, Germans were able to purchase radio sets, phonographs, and cameras. The new technologies appeared in a society in which most people acquired their needs through paid labor and marketplace purchases”

“They exposed Germans to worlds beyond their own borders—to photo images of strikes in Shanghai; the sounds, broadcast with only a few minutes’ delay, of a heavyweight boxing match in New York or a concert in Paris; or produced in Hollywood, of Charlie Chaplin in frigid Alaska.”

“Large cameras of the past had to be laboriously transported and set up. Subjects had to remain still for time on end as the chemically treated plate became exposed to light. Virtually the only shots possible were set pieces, with a married couple and family as the only subjects”

“Just before the war, the motion picture industry adopted 35 mm film as its standard. A New York businessman recognized that leftover lengths of movie film could be purchased for one-third the normal price. Manufacturers all over including Eastman Kodak, followed suit”

“Leica camera was developed by German firm Leitz, in 1925. The camera had been under development since 1911, and was a marvel that merged compact size, easy-to-use 35 mm roll film, and outstanding optics. The Leica was so small that it could be hidden away under a man’s jacket”

“Lifestyle products were especially prominent. Cigarettes, perfumes, health and beauty creams, lingerie, coffee, chocolate, champagne — everything one needed for the good life, and to make one look ten years younger. The men always handsome, the women always beautiful and free”

“Publishing houses hired freelance photographers and paid them a fee per photograph accepted—an employment structure that accentuated the blurring of all the boundaries—between art and commerce, high and low culture, professionalism and amateurism”

László Moholy-Nagy and August Sander were two of the greatest photographers of the Weimar period. Their aesthetic sensibilities and conception of the medium could not be different. Together, they represent the artistic possibilities of photography in the 1920s and early 1930s”

“Born in Hungary in 1895 and Influenced by the Dadaists, Moholy-Nagy never restricted himself to any single medium, painting, sculpture, architecture, typography, and film, along with photography. “He never quite went for the dadaist deliberate absurdism and provocation”

Instead, he was attracted by their commitment to abstract art, their fascination with technology” His art probed light and form, more than color. The photographs reveal a keen attentiveness to geometric shapes.

“New Year’s Morning” is a study in geometry and light, of lines and shadows. Moholy-Nagy was especially drawn to shooting from an elevation. An untitled view from the Berlin radio tower, shot around 1928, composes all sorts of geometric forms. “

“In line with the Bauhaus ethos of finding beauty in the very materials used in composition, he went further. Some of the boats are so white that they almost leap off the printed image; others are so dark that they seem to blend into the darkness of the water”

“Sander had one great idea, and he spent forty years realizing it: he sought to photograph the entire spectrum of life among the German people. Sander believed unquestionably that he could depict the full panorama of the German people, he writes.

“He depicted not only the respectable members of society, but also the handicapped, vagabonds, effete artists, Communists, androgynous women, and others. Sander showed all sorts of Germans who did not fit the Aryan ideal and whom the Nazis persecuted”

His son died in a Nazi prison and he was persecuted for photographing marginalized people of all kinds

“Today we remember the great films of the Weimar era—The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Metropolis, M, The Blue Angel. They broke new ground technically and artistically, probing individual and collective psychologies, passion and desire, the modern cityscape, and death”

“But in fact the vast majority of films that Germans viewed were simple melodramas, which played to packed houses around the country.” “Or Charlie Chaplin comedies. Or, especially in the early 1920s, dramas made out of famous books which probably wasn’t a good idea”,

“The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari” 1920. The movie presented viewers with a highly ambiguous picture of reality and motivation. Are dreamworlds more real than reality? To whom do we give up our autonomy as individuals? Is there such autonomy, or are we all enmeshed in the matrix? 🤓

“Filmmaking moved from expressionism to New Objectivity. Film sought greater realism and less abstraction. New Objectives emerged after the flush of revolutionary hopes had waned. Business principles, rather than demands for democracy and justice, took on greater urgency”

One of the greatest of the silent-era German films, Berlin, Symphony of the City. Directed by Walter Ruttman, the film captures the speed and disorientation of the Weimar city. Workers, businessmen, schoolchildren, female office workers, male machine operators —

The full diversity of urban life is depicted in film. But who is directing whom? Are the machines running human life, or are humans running the machines? It is not totally clear, but the film conveys more than a hint of the condition of alienation.

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“Menschen am Sonntag (People on Sunday) 1930 “written by Billy Wilder and directed by Robert Siodmak and Edgar G. Ulmer, and the cameraman was Fred Zinnemann—all of whom would go on to stellar Hollywood careers, focuses on young Germans, members of the new middle class”

“On a weekend to the Nikolassee on the outskirts of Berlin. The film has an erotic charge as the women and men dress and undress, run after each other, and develop sexual rivalries. In a scene the debonair man and one of the women finally make love in the bushes”

“This young, aspiring middle-class Berliners are nicely attired in the style of the decade, the two women sporting short hair, short skirts, and lithe figures. They all seem to live apart from their families in a world consisting of other people of their age and class”

“But there is tension in the relationships, and at the end of the day they and thousands of others return to the city to work on Monday. Modernity means a fragmented existence, explored through visual representations. The film ends with the line “The next week—four million wait”

“Foreign films also had a powerful resonance among audiences and critics. Two of the greatest, Charlie Chaplin’s The Gold Rush and Sergei Eisenstein’s The Battleship Potemkin, premiered in 1926. The Gold Rush opened to immediate and enormous popularity; it was a great success”

“The German authorities tried to ban Potemkin as a work of Soviet propaganda. After a long court fight and public debate, they were forced to relent. Both films were signs of the globalization that the medium was creating”

“Both Potemkin and The Gold Rush signified Weimar Germany’s immersion in an international culture whose sources lay on the fringes of Europe, in the United States and the Soviet Union—to the great dismay of the German Right, in both its respectable and radical forms.”

“All of these were silent films. Yet another aesthetic shift was required when the German film industry, finally, in 1929, began to make movies with sound. Talking movies brought together auditory and visual revolutions into one very powerful new medium”

“While UFA viewed the new technique as a way to get out of its money troubles, sound also signified the growing nationalization of film industries worldwide. It was easy to replace the spare text in a silent film, much harder and expensive to develop synchronization or subtitles”

Fritz Lang’s M premiered in 1931. It is the story of a child murderer loose in the city. The spectacular direction conjured up an eerie aura. The setting is the very modern city, but it is made to appear as a place of danger, though also of transparency.

M is also social criticism in Brechtian fashion, as in The Threepenny Opera, the gangsters and the police get together, this time to chase down the murderer who has violated even the gangster code.

“That kind of moral ambiguity deeply irked the guardians of order. Clergymen, mayors, and city council representatives, trade union leaders and socialist politicians, all railed against the immoral and corrupting influence of cinema”

“They saw their own efforts to promote moral rectitude undermined by what they viewed as simply more “trash and dirt,” now transposed from the penny novel to the large, attractive screen”

In 1929 Germany had 5,600 movie houses, compared to only 2,400 ten years before. In Berlin alone more than four hundred million tickets were sold in 1924. In the mid-1920s, estimates ran that daily two million people went to the cinema in Germany.

“Hessel depicted Berliners’ love affair with the cinema: “We Berliners are passionate filmgoers. The weekly show substitutes for all of world history that we have not experienced” . The most beautiful women of both continents belong to us everyday”

“In 1925 the first phonograph was outfitted with an amplifier, the key technology in microphones as well, which permitted not only louder volumes but also the reproduction of a greater range of sound frequencies. A huge improvement over the old, cranked-up gramophone.”

Germans bought jazz records produced in America and France, operas from Italy, and concertos from Austria. They listened to records at homes, but also took them to the beach. Cafés and beer gardens played recorded music or offered live musicians the microphone and loudspeaker”

In 1931, there were 3.7 million registered radio sets in Germany. By 1932, probably one-fourth of all households had a radio. Many young, working-class people banded together in clubs to build radios, and transmit and receive radio signals.

Father: ‘Now there is something new and it’s called radio. If they make music in Munich, Frankfurt, or even America, one can hear it.

Mother: ‘You’re crazy, music can’t be so loud.’

Father: No, the music is cut up and turned into waves and comes through the air to us 😀

“The complete individualization of listening developed only slowly, as with the introduction of television after World War II,” one person remembers. Family members, neighbors and hobbyists gathered together around the big, boxy radios of the day”

Albert Einstein in 1930 waxed rhapsodic about radio as the voice of “true democracy” that can “reconcile the family of nations” Others saw radio as sign of dangerous degenerate “mass” society. Still others, especially in government and business recognized radio’s great potential

A new law in 1932 provided for complete state control over the radio. Efforts by the Communist and Social Democrat, to establish their own broadcasting stations foundered. Only state-approved broadcasts were allowed, and if you bought a radio you had to pay a license fee”

“Those who had envisaged radio as a freewheeling, democratic medium (much as some computer enthusiasts saw their medium in the 1980s) in which virtually anyone could broadcast, or that would serve as a venue for the radical critique of capitalist society—their hopes were dashed”

“The radio participates in the life work of the German nation. The natural ordering of people in home, family, work and state is to be maintained. The radio does not therefore speak to the listener only as an individual, but also a member of this natural national order.” 😬

“Radio can help [women] regain security in their place at the centre of the family. She can be connected to the outside world yet still remain at home. “Radio offers itself as a vade mecum. “Domestic cares, fragmentation and trivia will increase the distance from outside life”

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