The Strange Time
'Tween the Wars.
from Ebert to Hitler.
CornDancer's Council of Quarrelers are presently in debate over the question: When did the term "Weimar Republic" come to be?
One camp of counselors contends that "Weimar Republic" is a revisionist term popularized by historians and journalists trapped in the acrid psychic fallout of World War II's immediate aftermath. "I think the government birthed by the National Assembly in Weimar in 1919 might have been known as the Second Reich," a learned sage said. "After Hitler and his Third Reich, any use of the word 'Reich' in connection with Germany was just too brutish and rude to contemplate."
"Nein! Nein! Nein! Du darfst das nicht," countered a youngish bard in goatee and lederhosen. "The New Reich was Bismarck. That was the First Reich. The Second Reich was the Republic. The Third Reich was National Socialism."
A maven of the forward-looking camp in CornDancer's debating society sighs and mutters, "Who cares? Let's watch a movie. Perhaps a midnight screening of Das Kabinett des Doktor Caligari? Our colleague Dr. Faustus tells me it's now showing at the Carfax Abbey Theatre."
Here are the facts as we claim them.
Emperor William II abdicated on November 9, 1918, after the signing of the Armistice by a defeated Germany. The Emperor's dukes and princes fled, or morphed into commoners. Provisional authorities cast forth solemn decrees. Very quickly, Imperial Germany dissolved into a republic. An electorate of men and women (minimum age twenty-one) chose 423 members of a National Assembly. The Assembly met at Weimar in February, 1919, and choose Friedrich Ebert as President of the First Republic.
Why Weimar? We can speculate. As the capital of the state of Thuringia, the city of about fifty thousand folk was centrally located and well appointed for hosting political assemblies. Many fondly called it the Athens of Germany because of its association with literary giants Goethe, Schiller, Herder, Bach, and Weiland. A pacific tradition of education, courtly government, and art — as well as the stately physical beauty of its architecture and geography — must have made Weimar an ideal retreat from the blatant intrigues and ultraurban bustle of Berlin.
By mid-summer, 1919, the National Assembly at Weimar had written and adopted the constitution of the new German Republic.
How briefly it stood.
The completion of Hitler's rise to power in August of 1934 ended it. The fifteen years between Ebert and Hitler is popularly known today as the Weimar Republik. It symbolized Germany's failed experiment with democracy.
That's one version of history — lite and loose. We stand to be corrected. Step forth now.
W E I M A R D E M O C R A C Y :
A N A L I E N I M P O S I T I O N .
Not by way of correction, but amplification, historian and intellectual provocateur Dr. Anna Bramwell writes: "The new democratic constitution signed at Weimar was unpopular with the Communists, with the conservatives, with broad middle-class opinion, and with the nationalist 'fatherland' movement. Furthermore, democracy was seen as alien to German political traditions. For the second time in 120 years, it had been brought in as a result of armed defeat, and was seen by many as being an essentially alien imposition; a concomitant of defeat."
An environmental historian of critical acclaim, Dr. Bramwell wrote her pithy account of Weimar's democratic foundation as background information to the strange and compelling story of Richard Walther Darré, Hitler's Minister of Agriculture from 1934 to 1942. Blood and Soil: Richard Walther Darré and Hitler's 'Green Party' (The Kensal Press, 1985) raised the hackles of leftist critics for its audacious refusal to condemn the entirety of the German race during the rise and fall of National Socialism, and for its willingness to view with favor a few Germans of the period for their accomplishments in farming and ecology. Dr. Bramwell's previously established reputation as a mainstream player in the academic arena of historical ideas, the integrity of her research methods, the cold eye she cast upon Nordicists and anti-semites, and her unapologetic objective rationalism enabled her to survive the reactionary left's intense critical assault on Blood and Soil. The label of fascist revisionist just wouldn't stick to her reputation. When we last checked in autumn of 2003, Dr. Bramwell remained employable, serving the European Union as Principal Administrator of the EuropeAID Directorate-General in Brussels.
A few of the bolder holders of endowed chairs on CornDancer's Council of Quarrelers recommend Dr. Bramwell's book to all but the most squeamish of Euro-progressives and U.S.A. yellow-dog Democrats.
A C A P I T A L O F C U L T U R E
W I T H A D A R K E R S I D E .
"Weimar is considered the capital of classical German culture," Terrence Petty of The Associated Press wrote (September 19, 2004, in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette). "But Weimar has a dark side as well. Adolf Hitler was adored here, and the Buchenwald concentration camp sits on a hill overlooking the city. For four decades after World War II, the city was under Communist rule. Today it is one of Germany's loveliest cities, appealing to everyone from lovers of literature and music to history buffs."
Mr. Petty characterizes Weimar as "a window upon the German soul." What might one see on the other side of that window?
One might visit the Duchess Anna Amalia Library, named after the dowager duchess of the late 18th century. Located in a grand palace, the library claims to shelve 850,000 volumes.
You can visit houses where Goethe, Schiller, Franz Lizst, and Friedrich Nietzsche lived.
You can also reflect on the city's ties to Hitler and National Socialism. "The Hitler youth organization was founded at a 1926 Nazi Party Congress at the German National Theater," Mr. Petty wrote. "Hitler made frequent visits to Weimar, staying at the Hotel Elephant. Crowds of Weimar citizens would congregate beneath the balcony of Hitler's room, shouting: 'Dear Fuehrer, come on out, come on out of the Elephant House.' The Nazi leader obliged, to the cheers of his admirers. Hitler also liked to visit Nietzsche's sister, who twisted her deceased brother's writings to support Nazi ideology."
You can visit the Marstall building, former headquarters for the Gestapo. Nearby is the Gauforum, former Nazi parade ground and convocation center.
Among the many cultural attractions in the thousand-year-old city are the City Castle museum (Cranach, Duerer, Rembrandt, Monet), the New Museum, the Bauhaus Museum, the Belvedere Palace, and the Wittums Palace.
Some visitors choose to walk past the Ilm River and climb Ettersberg Hill. There stands the ruins of Buchenwald concentration camp. "It was built at the request of Thuringia's Nazi leaders," Mr. Petty wrote. "More than 50,000 people died there from 1937 until the war's end in April 1945. A steady stream of travelers — including busloads of school children — come up to Ettersberg Hill to see the remnants of the camp. More than two centuries ago, Goethe sat on this same hill, gathering inspiration."
An Informal Biographical Glossary
of Weimar's Cast of Characters.
Compiled by Planet Deutch Outsiders and other Conspirators.
Speaking In Tongues,
Guided by Voices:
The New Objectivity.
By Anna Glazova
The Fate Of The Avant-Garde:
Modern Art In The Weimar Republic 1918-1928
A Minor Digression into the Caretaker Rat.
Loose Notes and Fragmentary Inquiries
into the Nature, Meaning, and Import of Weimar.
What to Read?
- Bertolt Brecht, Baal, A Man's a Man, The Elephant Calf (Grove Weidenfeld)
- Peter Gay, Weimar Culture (Harper)
- Eberhard Kolb, The Weimar Republic (Unwin Hyman)
- Thomas Mann, Death in Venice and Seven Other Stories (Vintage)
- Bärbel Schrader and Jürgen Schebera, The "Golden" Twenties: Art and Literature in the Weimar
- Sefton Delmer, Weimar Germany: Democracy on Trial
- Erich Eyck, A History of the Weimar Republic (2 vols)
- Otto Friedrich, Before the Deluge: A Portrait of Berlin in the 1920s
- Christopher Isherwood, The Berlin Stories
The City Today.
Willkommen bei der Stadt Weimar.
*This is the first step toward THE One World Language.
Step Two: Your pronoun on a pike!
Planet Deutsch is ruled by Planetary WebMistress Frau Freddie Bowles
, an instructor at the University of Arkansas in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction. An independent entity in the CornDancer consortium of planets, Planet Deutsch is dedicated to the study and exploration of the German language and culture. CornDancer is a developmental website for the mind and spirit maintained by the circle of sharers at Cricket Song,
a haven of goodwill on the Planet Earth. Submissions are invited.