top of page

GERMANY 1919–1932: The Weimar Culture / Vol. 39, No. 2 (Summer 1972)

Arien Mack, Editor

Whatever the ultimate evaluation of the conference on the Weimar Republic held last year at The New School, few in attendance could remain unimpressed by the variety and direct influence or symbolic importance of many Weimar phenomena.

The following remarks deal with certain aspects of the political role of the intelligentsia in the Weimar Republic. Who belonged to the intelligentsia? If we apply a loose definition to the term, we are bound to reach the conclusion that the intelligentsia was omnipresent and all-powerful. Generally politically naïve and with a history of diversity within its ranks, the German intelligentsia was further polarized during the Weimar period, taking the role of commentators rather than actors and joining in sectarian activities, utopianism, and irresponsible behavior.

Looking back at ancient Athens or the first German Republic, one is tempted to say the cultural elite speaks most contemptuously of those states that give its greatest freedom—and a glance at the contemporary scene in the United States might confirm that impression.

The idea that the Weimar Republic may have produced a “culture” has been until recently rather alien to historical writing and the reason for this is undoubtedly itself historical. In a view of the shattering experience of National Socialism, political and intellectual historians have emphasized what, to use Kurt Sontheimer’s terminology, might broadly be called the “antidemocratic” currents in Weimar.

Asserts that the exiled Germans who comprised the Institute of Social Research, also known as the Frankfurt School, in America were neither Marxist Humanists as is commonly believed nor scientific Marxists, but rather an intermediary group which provided critiques of both other points of view.

During the period of the Weimar Republic German literature was altogether more versatile and often also better than that most other epochs in German history. Almost all the writing whether or conservative or progressive, were influenced by the catastrophe of the first world war.

Analyzes characteristics of the Weimar Republic in Germany which heralded the decline of the democratic state, 1919–1932, and compares these to trends in the United States, 1930s-1960s, which many feel indicate a similar movement toward fascism.

Compares social, political, and economic trends of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1919–1932, with those of the United States during the 1960s, drawing parallels, but concluding that after the Vietnam War, domestic protest ended and similarities indicating movement toward fascism broke down.

Warns that all similarities and dissimilarities of historical social movements must be examined before analogies are drawn: makes specific reference to analogies drawn between the Weimar Republic in Germany, 1919–1932, and the United States in the 1960s.

bottom of page