Berlin Between the Wars
W 2017


Willkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome--to our exciting SDG on Berlin Between the Wars.  In the period after World War I, Berlin was among the most electrifying, cosmopolitan and intellectually stimulating cities in the world.  For a few brief years it became the scene of one of the greatest cultural flowerings the west had experienced, acting like a magnet to the most talented artists, writers,  scientists, composers, actors, theater directors, film makers and architects of the age.  The Weimar Republic, born of defeat, was trying hard to maintain democracy in the face of attacks from the right and the left.  Even though it eventually succumbed to the economic and political despair of the ‘30’s, Germany was experimenting for the first time in its history with the rule of the people, with Berlin as its capital.   How then did this metropolis go from the home of Berthold Brecht, Albert Einstein, and George Grosz to the city of Adolph Hitler and the thugs of the Nazi regime? 


This SDG will examine the artists, philosophers, cinema, theater and cabarets of Berlin in the 1920’s along with the rise of the Nazis, the movie productions of Leni Riefenstahl, the Nazi Olympics of 1936 and the increasingly brutal treatment of the Jews.  We’ll attempt to understand the concept of national identity, the two natures of Germany (the one of Goethe and Schiller and the other of Prussian militarism) and how, in the aftermath of the Crash of 1929 and economic chaos, a totalitarian regime overcame a culture of individual expression and freedom to conclude the 1930's with the condemnation of what it called Degenerate Art and Music.

We will have the opportunity to view breakthrough German films from the 1920's and 1930's, thanks to The Goethe Institute.

    Caveat!  This is not a comprehensive history of The Third Reich, but an attempt to contrast the sharp differences in politics and culture in an advanced Western country over the short period of two decades.  How, indeed, did it happen? 

Weekly Topics

1. Fractured:  The World after WWI

2. Politics of The Weimar Republic:  Germany's First Experiment in Democracy

        The Avant Garde Culture of Weimar

3. Theater/Cinema

4. Sexuality:  The Research of Magnus Hirschfeld; The Cabarets

5. Politics of the Universities; Developments in Philosophy and Science

6. Literature and Journalism

7. Art, Music and Architecture

        The Nazi Era

8. End of Weimar and the Rise of Hitler

9. Fire!  The Reichstag Fire and Book Burnings

10. The Nazi Idealization of Women and Youth; 1936 Olympics & Leni Riefenstahl (possible separate session)

11. The War  on the Jews

12. Attack on the Culture of Weimar, culminating in the Degenerate Art (and Music) Exhibits

13. Those Who Stayed (supporters and resisters) and Those Who Left

14. How Did it Happen?  Why?