Weimarer Kultur

© Peter Crawford 2014
© Peter Crawford 2014
'Großstadt - Metropolis' - (1927-28) - Otto Dix
(Entartete Kunst)
Weimarer Kultur

Weimar culture refers to the arts and sciences that happened during the Weimar Republic (between Germany's defeat at the end of World War I in 1918, and Hitler's rise to power in 1933).
1920s Berlin was at the hectic center of the Weimar culture.
Although not part of the Weimar Republic, some authors also include the German speaking Austria - (the Ostmark), and particularly Vienna, as part of Weimar culture.

Brandenburger Tor - Berlin - 1920s
Germany, and Berlin in particular, were exceptionally fertile ground for intellectuals, artists, and innovators from many fields during the Weimar Republic years.
The social environment was chaotic, and politics were passionate.
A significant new development in Germany's intellectual environment happened in 1918, when the faculties of German universities became fully opened to prominent Jewish scholars for the first time.
Leading Jewish intellectuals on university faculties included physicist Albert Einstein; sociologists Karl Mannheim, Erich Fromm, Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer, Herbert Marcuse; philosophers Ernst Cassirer and Edmund Husserl; political theorists Arthur Rosenberg and Gustav Meyer; and many others.
Jewish intellectuals and creative professionals were among the leading figures in many areas of Weimar culture.
With the rise of National Socialism and the ascent to power of Adolf Hitler in 1933, many German intellectuals and cultural figures, both Jewish and non-Jewish, left Germany for the United States, the United Kingdom, and other parts of the world.
The culture of the Weimar year was later reprised by the left-wing intellectuals of the 1960s, especially in France.
Deleuze, Guattari and Foucault reprised Wilhelm Reich; Derrida reprised Husserl and Heidegger; Guy Debord and the Situationist International reprised the subversive-revolutionary culture.

Social Environment

By 1919, an "influx" of labor had migrated to Berlin turning it into a fertile ground for the modern arts and sciences.
This caused "a boom in trade, communications and construction."

Old Berlin
In response to the shortage of pre-war accommodation and housing, tenements were constructed not very far from the Kaiser's Stadtschloss and all the other majestic structures. People used their backyards and basements to run small shops, restaurants, workshops and haulage carts.
This led to the establishment of bigger and better commerce in Berlin, including its first department stores, prior to World War I.
An "urban petty bourgeoisie" along with the middle class colonized and flourished the wholesale commerce, retail trade, factories and crafts.
Types of employment were becoming more modern, shifting gradually, but noticeably, towards industry and services.
Before World War I, in 1907, 54.9% of German workers were manual labourers.
This dropped to 50.1% by 1925.
Berlin - 1920s
Office workers, managers, and bureaucrats increased their share of the labour market from 10.3% to 17% over the same period. Germany was slowly becoming more urban and middle class.
By 1925, only a third of Germans lived in large cities; the other two-thirds of the population lived in the smaller towns or in rural areas.
The total population of Germany rose from 62.4 million in 1920 to 65.2 million in 1933.
The Wilheminian values were further discredited as consequence of World War I and the subsequent inflation, since the new youth generation saw no point in saving for marriage in such conditions, and preferred instead to spend and enjoy.
The Fritz Lang movie 'Dr. Mabuse the Gambler' (1922) captures Berlin's postwar mood very well.
The film moves from the world of the slums to the world of the stock exchange and then to the cabarets and nightclubs, and everywhere chaos reigns, authority is discredited, power is mad and uncontrollable, wealth inseparable from crime.
Politically and economically, the nation was struggling with the terms and reparations imposed by the Treaty of Versailles (1918) that ended World War I and endured punishing levels of inflation.

Sociology

Max Weber
Martin Hiedegger
During the era of the Weimar Republic, Germany became a center of intellectual thought at its universities, and most notably social and political theory (especially Marxism) was combined with Freudian psychoanalysis to form the highly influential discipline of Critical Theory - with its development at the Institute for Social Research (also known as the Frankfurt School) founded at the University of Frankfurt am Main.







Erich Fromm
The most prominent philosophers with which the so-called 'Frankfurt School' is associated were Erich Fromm, Herbert Marcuse, Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin, Jürgen Habermas and Max Horkheimer.
Among the prominent philosophers not associated with the Frankfurt School were Martin Heidegger and Max Weber.
The German philosophical anthropology movement also emerged at this time.



Science

Many foundational contributions to quantum mechanics were made in Weimar Germany or by German scientists during the Weimar period.

Das Kätzchen von Schrödinger
© Peter Crawford 2012
Werner Heisenberg
Prominent German physicists included Erwin Schrödinger, and Werner Heisenberg, who formulated his famous 'Uncertainty Principle', and, with Max Born and Pascual Jordan, accomplished the first complete and correct definition of 'quantum mechanics', through the invention of Matrix mechanics.

Werner Karl Heisenberg (5 December 1901 – 1 February 1976) was a German theoretical physicist who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1932 "for the creation of quantum mechanics". Heisenberg, along with Max Born and Pascual Jordan, set forth the matrix formulation of quantum mechanics in 1925. In 1927 he published his uncertainty principle, upon which he built his philosophy and for which he is best known. He also made important contributions to the theories of the hydrodynamics of turbulent flows, the atomic nucleus, ferromagnetism, cosmic rays, and subatomic particles. Considerable controversy surrounds his work on atomic research during World War II.

Göttingen was the center of fluiddynamic and aerodynamic research in the early 20th century.

Ludwig Prandtl 
Mathematical aerodynamics was founded by Ludwig Prandtl before WW I (by understanding boundary layers and progressing calculation in the down stream direction).
It was there that compressability drag and its reduction in aircraft was first understood.
Messerschmitt Me 262 Schwalbe
A striking example of this is the Messerschmitt Me 262, which was designed in 1939, but resembles a modern jet transport more that it did other tactical aircraft of its time.
Albert Einstein rose to public prominence during his years in Berlin, being awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1921.
He was left Germany for America in 1933.


Magnus Hirschfeld
Physician Magnus Hirschfeld established the 'Institut für Sexualwissenschaft' (Institute for Sexology) in 1919, and it remained open until 1933.
Hirschfeld believed that an understanding of homosexuality could be arrived at through science.
Hirschfeld was a vocal advocate for homosexual, bisexual, and transgender legal rights for men and women, repeatedly petitioning parliament for legal changes. 
His Institute also included a museum.
If we also include the German speaking Vienna, during the Weimar years Mathematician Kurt Gödel published his ground-breaking 'Incompleteness Theorem'.



The Arts

During the fourteen years of the Weimar era German artists made contributions in the fields of literature, art, architecture, music, dance, drama, and the new medium of the motion picture.
German visual art, music, and literature were all strongly influenced by German Expressionism at the start of the Weimar Republic.
The early twentieth century was a period of wrenching changes in the arts.
In the visual arts, such innovations as cubism, Dada and surrealism - following hot on the heels of symbolism, post-Impressionism and Fauvism - were not universally appreciated. The majority of people in Germany, as elsewhere, did not care for the new art which many resented as elitist, morally suspect, and too often incomprehensible.
By 1920, a sharp turn was taken towards the 'Neue Sachlichkeit' (New Objectivity) outlook. Neue Sachlichkeit was not a strict movement in the sense of having a clear manifesto or set of rules.
Under the Weimar government of the 1920s, Germany emerged as a leading centre of the avant-garde - the birthplace of Expressionism in painting and sculpture, of the atonal musical compositions of Arnold Schoenberg, and the jazz-influenced work of Paul Hindemith and Kurt Weill.
Robert Wiene's 'Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari' (1920), and F.W. Murnau's 'Nosferatu' (1922), brought Expressionism to cinema.

Neue Sachlichkeit is a term used to characterize the attitude of public life in Weimar Germany as well as the art, literature, music, and architecture created to adapt to it. Rather than some goal of philosophical objectivity, it was meant to imply a turn towards practical engagement with the world—an all-business attitude, understood by Germans as intrinsically American: "The Neue Sachlichkeit is Americanism, cult of the objective, the hard fact, the predilection for functional work, professional conscientiousness, and usefulness."
The term was originally the title of an art exhibition staged by Gustav Friedrich Hartlaub, the director of the Kunsthalle in Mannheim, to showcase artists who were working in a post-expressionist spirit, but it took a life of its own, going beyond Hartlaub's intentions. As these artists rejected the self-involvement and romantic longings of the expressionists, Weimar intellectuals in general made a call to arms for public collaboration, engagement, and rejection of romantic idealism.
The movement essentially ended in 1933 with the fall of the Weimar Republic and the rise of the NSDAP to power.

Entartete Kunst Exhibition
Entartete Kunst
Artists gravitating towards this aesthetic defined themselves by rejecting the themes of expressionism, romanticism, fantasy, subjectivity, raw emotion and impulse—and focused instead on precision, deliberateness, and depicting the factual and the 'real'.
Much Weimar art was political - a questionable position for the arts - and was fiercely experimental, iconoclastic and left-leaning, spiritually hostile to business and bourgeois society.
Not surprisingly, the old autocratic German establishment saw it as 'Entartete Kunst' (decadent art), a view shared by Adolf Hitler who became Chancellor of Germany in January 1933.
The National Socialists viewed the culture of the Weimar period with disgust.
Their response stemmed partly from a conservative aesthetic taste, and partly from their determination to use culture as a propaganda tool.
For the National Socialists, the model for the arts was to be classical Greek and Roman art, seen by Hitler as an art whose exterior form embodied an inner racial ideal.

The Jewish and left wing nature of all art that was indecipherable, distorted, or that represented depraved subject matter was explained through the concept of degeneracy, which held that distorted and corrupted art was a symptom of an inferior race.
By propagating the theory of degeneracy, National Socialism combined their anti-Semitism with their drive to control the culture, thus consolidating public support for both campaigns.
Modern art was seen as an act of aesthetic violence by the Jews against the German spirit (Deutsch Geistes).

One of the first major events in the arts during the Weimar Republic was the founding of an organization, the 'Novembergruppe' (November Group) on December 3, 1918.
This group was established in the aftermath of the November beginning of the German Revolution of 1918–1919, when Communists, anarchists and pro-republic supporters had fought in the streets for control of the government.
In 1919, the Weimar Republic was established.
Around 100 artists of many genres who identified themselves as avant-garde joined the November Group.
They held 19 exhibitions in Berlin until the group was banned by the Third Reich in 1933.

Walter Gropius
Kurt Weill
The group also had chapters throughout Germany during its existence, and brought the German avant-garde art scene to world attention by holding exhibits in Rome, Moscow and Japan.
Its members also belonged to other art movements and groups during the Weimar Republic era, such as architect Walter Gropius (founder of Bauhaus), and Kurt Weill and Bertolt Brecht (agitprop theatre).
The artists of the 'Novembergruppe' kept the spirit of radicalism alive in German art and culture during the Weimar Republic.
Many of the painters, sculptors, music composers, architects, playwrights, and filmmakers who belonged to it, and still others associated with its members, were the same ones whose art would later be denounced as 'entartete Kunst' by Adolf Hitler.

Fine Arts

The Weimar Republic era began in the midst of several major movements in the fine arts that continued into the 1920s.
German Expressionism had begun before World War I and continued to have a strong influence throughout the 1920s, although artists were increasingly likely to position themselves in opposition to expressionist tendencies as the decade went on.
Dada had begun in Zurich during World War I, and became an international phenomenon. Dada artists met and reformed groups of like-minded artists in Paris, Berlin, Cologne, and New York City.

Richard Huelsenbeck
In Germany, Richard Huelsenbeck established the Berlin group, whose members included Jean Arp, John Heartfield, Wieland Hertzfelde, Johannes Baader, Raoul Hausmann, George Grosz and Hannah Höch.
Machines, technology, and a strong Cubism element were features of their work.
Jean Arp and Max Ernst formed a Cologne Dada group, and held a Dada Exhibition there that included a work by Ernst that had an axe "placed there for the convenience of anyone who wanted to attack the work".
Kurt Schwitters
Kurt Schwitters established his own solitary one-man Dada "group" in Hanover, where he filled two stories of a house (the Merzbau) with sculptures cobbled together with found objects and ephemera, each room dedicated to a notable artist friend of Schwitter's.
The house was destroyed by Allied bombs in 1943.
The 'Neue Sachlichkeit' artists did not belong to a formal group.
Various Weimar Republic artists were oriented towards the concepts associated with it, however.

George Grosz
Broadly speaking, artists linked with New Objectivity include Käthe Kollwitz, Otto Dix, Max Beckmann, George Grosz, John Heartfield, Conrad Felixmüller, Christian Schad, and Rudolf Schlichter, who all worked in different styles, but shared many themes: the horrors of war, social hypocrisy and moral decadence, the plight of the poor.
Otto Dix and George Grosz referred to their own movement as Verism, a reference to the Roman classical Verism approach called verus, meaning "truth", warts and all.
While their art is recognizable as a bitter, cynical criticism of life in Weimar Germany, they were striving to portray a sense of realism that they saw missing from expressionist works.
'Neue Sachlichkeit' became a major undercurrent in all of the arts during the Weimar Republic.

Design

The design field during the Weimar Republic witnessed some radical departures from styles that had come before it.

Marcel Breuer
Wassily Chair - Bauhaus
Bauhaus-style designs are distinctive, and synonymous with modern design.
Designers from these movements turned their energy towards a variety of objects, from furniture, to typography, to buildings.




Marcel Lajos Breuer (22 May 1902 Pécs, Hungary – 1 July 1981 New York City), was a Hungarian-born modernist, architect and furniture designer of Jewish descent. One of the masters of Modernism, Breuer  displayed interest in modular construction and simple forms.
Known to his friends and associates as Lajkó, Breuer studied and taught at the Bauhaus in the 1920s. The Bauhaus curriculum stressed the simultaneous education of its students in elements of visual art, craft and the technology of industrial production. Breuer was eventually appointed to a teaching position as head of the school's carpentry workshop. He later practiced in Berlin, designing houses and commercial spaces. In the 1920s and 1930s, Breuer pioneered the design of tubular steel furniture. Later in his career he would also turn his attention to the creation of innovative and experimental wooden furniture.

Dada's goal of critically rethinking design was similar to Bauhaus, but whereas the earlier Dada movement was an aesthetic approach, the Bauhaus was literally a school, an institution that combined a former school of industrial design with a school of arts and crafts.
Wilhelm Wagenfeld
Wagenfeld Lamp WG25
Bauhaus 
The founders intended to fuse the arts and crafts with the practical demands of industrial design, to create works reflecting the 'Neue Sachlichkeit' aesthetic in Weimar Germany.

Wilhelm Wagenfeld (* 15 April 1900, Bremen, Germany — † 28 May 1990, Stuttgart, Germany) was an important German industrial designer of the 20th Century, disciple of Bauhaus. He designed glass and metal works for the Jenaer Glaswerk Schott & Gen., the Vereinigte Lausitzer Glaswerke in Weißwasser, Rosenthal, Braun GmbH and WMF. Some of his designs are still produced until these days. One of his classics is a table lamp, known as Wagenfeld Lampe, 1924, which he designed together with Karl J. Jucker. In cooperation with Charles Crodel his works found their way in exhibitions and museums.


Adolf Loos - Villa Karma 1906
Precursor to Albert Speer ?
Adolf  Loos
The origins of Weimar design and architecture are to be found in the works and writings of Adolf Franz Karl Viktor Maria Loos (10 December 1870 – 23 August 1933), who was an Austrian architect.
He was influential in European Modern architecture, and in his essay 'Ornament and Crime' he repudiated the florid style of the 'Vienna Secession', with the Austrian version of Art Nouveau.
Adolf Loos
Decorative Console
In this and many other essays he contributed to the elaboration of a body of theory and criticism of Modernism in architecture.
Ornament and Crime in no way reflects his architectural style.
Adolf Loos - Table
Loos authored several polemical works.
'In Spoken into the Void', published in 1900, Loos attacked the Vienna Secession, at a time when the movement was at its height.
In his essays, Loos used provocative catchphrases and has become noted for one particular essay/manifesto entitled 'Ornament and Crime', spoken first in 1910.
In this essay, he explored the idea that the progress of culture is associated with the deletion of ornament from everyday objects (?), and that it was therefore a crime to force craftsmen or builders to waste their time on ornamentation that served to hasten the time when an object would become obsolete.
Loos' stripped-down buildings influenced the minimal massing of modern architecture, and stirred controversy.


Adolf Loos - Villa Karma 1906
Pendant Light - Adolf Loos
Perhaps surprisingly, some of Loos's own architectural work was elaborately decorated, although more often inside than outside, and the ornamented interiors frequently featured abstract planes and shapes composed of richly figured materials, such as marble and exotic woods.
The visual distinction is not between complicated and simple, but between "organic" and superfluous decoration.
Loos was also interested in the decorative arts, collecting sterling silver and high quality leather goods, which he noted for their plain yet luxurious appeal.
He also enjoyed fashion and men's clothing, designing the famed Kníže of Vienna, a haberdashery.
His admiration for the fashion and culture of England and America can be seen his short-lived publication 'Das Andere', which ran for just two issues in 1903 and included advertisements for 'English' clothing.


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Bauhaus Building - Model
Walter Gropius, a founder of the Bauhaus school, stated "we want an architecture adapted to our world of machines, radios and fast cars."
Berlin and other parts of Germany still have many surviving landmarks of the architectural style at the Bauhaus.
The mass housing projects of Ernst May and Bruno Taut are evidence of markedly creative designs being incorporated as a major feature of new planned communities.
Mies van der Rohe
Barcelona Pavilion
Erich Mendelsohn and Hans Poelzig are other prominent Bauhaus architects, while Mies van der Rohe is undoubtedly the greatest architect to emerge from the Weimar design movement.


Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (born as Maria Ludwig Michael Mies; March 27, 1886, Aachen – August 17, 1969, Chicago) was a German-American architect. He is commonly referred to, and was addressed, as Mies, his surname.


Mies van der Rohe - Barcelona Pavilion
Mies, like many of his post-World War I contemporaries, sought to establish a new architectural style that could represent modern times just as Classical and Gothic did for their own eras. He created an influential twentieth century architectural style, stated with extreme clarity and simplicity. His mature buildings made use of modern materials such as industrial steel and plate glass to define interior spaces. He strived towards an architecture with a minimal framework of structural order balanced against the implied freedom of free-flowing open space. He called his buildings "skin and bones" architecture. He sought a rational approach that would guide the creative process of architectural design. He is often associated with the aphorisms "less is more" and "God is in the details".
The architecture of Mies is in fact a continuation, using modern materials, of the neo-classical revival of the late nineteenth century.




Ehrenmal - The Hall of Honour - 1929 - Nuremberg
During the Weimar Republic (1919–1933), the City of Nuremberg had a monument erected, to commemorate the 9,855 Nuremberg soldiers killed in World War I. The design was by architect Fritz Mayer. A rectangular yard is adjacent to the arcaded hall, with a row of pillars carrying fire bowls on either side. Lord Mayor Hermann Luppe officially opened the hall in 1930.


Painter Paul Klee was a faculty member of Bauhaus.
Bruno Taut and Adolf Behne founded the 'Arbeitsrat für Kunst' (Workers' Council for Art) in 1919.
Their aim was to assert pressure for political change on the Weimar Republic government, that would benefit the management of architecture and arts management, similar to Germany's large councils for workers and soldiers.
This Berlin organization had around 50 members.
Still another influential affiliation of architects was the group 'Der Ring' (The Ring) established by ten architects in Berlin in 1923-24, including: Otto Bartning, Peter Behrens, Hugo Häring, Erich Mendelsohn, Mies van der Rohe, Bruno Taut and Max Taut.
The group promoted the progress of modernism in architecture.


Literature

Tadzio
Thomas Mann 
Writers such as Alfred Döblin, Erich Maria Remarque and the brothers Heinrich and Thomas Mann presented a bleak look at the world, and the failure of politics and society through literature.

Mann's diaries, unsealed in 1975, tell of his struggles with his homosexuality, which found reflection in his works, most prominently through the obsession of the elderly Aschenbach for the 14-year-old Polish boy Tadzio in the novella 'Der Tod in Venedig' (Death in Venice - 1912).


His works also present other sexual themes, such as incest in 'Wälsungenblut' (The Blood of the Walsungs) and 'Der Erwählte' (The Holy Sinner).
Balancing his humanism and appreciation of Western culture, was his belief in the power of sickness and decay to destroy the ossifying effects of tradition and civilisation. Hence the "heightening" of which Mann speaks in his introduction to 'Der Zauberberg' (The Magic Mountain).

Foreign writers also travelled to Berlin, lured by the city's dynamic, freer culture.
The decadent cabaret scene of Berlin was documented by Britain's Christopher Isherwood, such as in his novel 'Goodbye to Berlin' which was later transposed to the musical film 'Cabaret'.

Cabaret - Tomorrow Belongs to Me
'The Berlin Stories' (Die Berliner Geschichten) is a book consisting of two short novels by Christopher Isherwood: 'Goodbye to Berlin' and 'Mr Norris Changes Trains'. It was published in 1945.
'The Berlin Stories' was chosen as a Time 100 Best English-language novels of the 20th century.

The two novellas are set in Berlin in 1931, just as Adolf Hitler was moving into power. Berlin is portrayed by Isherwood during this transition period of cafes and quaint avenues, grotesque nightlife and dreamers, and powerful mobs and millionaires.
'The Berlin Stories' was the starting point for the John Van Druten play 'I Am a Camera', which in turn went on to inspire the film 'I Am a Camera', as well as the stage musical and film versions of 'Cabaret'.
The character Sally Bowles is probably the best-known character from 'The Berlin Storie's because of her later starring role in the 'Cabaret' musical and film, although in 'The Berlin Stories', she is only the main character of one short story in 'Goodbye to Berlin'.

Poetry

Probably the most significant poet of the Weimar period was Stefan George.


Stefan George
George was born in Bingen in Prussia in 1868.
He spent time in Paris and began to publish poetry in the 1890s, while in his twenties. George founded and edited an important literary magazine called 'Blätter für die Kunst' (Magazine for the Arts).


Stefan George was also at the centre of an influential literary and academic circle known as the 'George-Kreis' (George Circle), which included many of the leading young writers of the day, (for example Friedrich Gundolf and Ludwig Klages).
In addition to sharing cultural interests, the circle reflected mystical and political themes. 
Stefan George was a homosexual, yet exhorted his young friends to lead a celibate life, like his own.
In 1914 at the start of the war he foretold a sad end for Germany, and between then and 1916 wrote the pessimistic poem 'Der Krieg' (The War).
He died near Locarno in 1933.

Maximilian Kronberger
Some of his most significant work includes 'Algabal', and the love poetry he devoted to a gifted adolescent of his acquaintance named Maximilian Kronberger, whom he called "Maximin", and whom he identified as a manifestation of the divine.

Maximilian Kronberger, known familiarly as Maximin (April 15, 1888 — April 16, 1904), was a German poet and a significant figure in the literary circle of Stefan George (the so‑called George‑Kreis).
Maximin came to the attention of Stefan George in Munich in 1903 -  he died unexpectedly of meningitis the following year, on the day after his 16th birthday. He was idealized by George to the point of proclaiming him a god, following his death... the cult of 'Maximin' became an integral part of the George circle’s practice.

Albert Speer
George  thought of himself as a messiah of a new kingdom that would be led by intellectual or artistic elites, bonded by their faithfulness to a strong leader.
In his memoirs, Albert Speer claims to have seen George in the early 1920s and that his elder brother, Hermann, was a member of his inner circle: George "radiated dignity and pride and a kind of priestliness... there was something magnetic about him."
George's late works include 'Geheimes Deutschland' ("Secret Germany") written in 1922, and 'Das neue Reich' (The New Empire), which was published in 1928, which outlines a new form of society ruled by hierarchical spiritual aristocracy.
Although George was never a member of the NSDAP, his later works paved the way for the acceptance of National Socialist philosophy in upper class, intellectual circles.

Theatre

Original German poster for 'Die Dreigroschenoper' (The Threepenny Opera) by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill (1928).

"Das Moritat von Mackie Messer", (The Ballad of Mack the Knife) is a song composed by Kurt Weill with lyrics by Bertolt Brecht for their music drama 'Die Dreigroschenoper'. It premiered in Berlin in 1928 at the Theater am Schiffbauerdamm. The song has become a popular standard.

A moritat (from mori meaning "deadly" and tat meaning "deed") is a medieval version of the murder ballad performed by strolling minstrels.
In  'Die Dreigroschenoper', the moritat singer, with his street organ, introduces and closes the drama with the tale of the deadly Mackie Messer, a character based on the dashing highwayman Macheath in John Gay's 'The Beggar's Opera' (who was in turn based on the historical thief Jack Sheppard). The Brecht-Weill version of the character was far more cruel and sinister, and has been transformed into a modern anti-hero.


'Und der Haifisch, der hat Zähne,
Und die trägt er im Gesicht.
Und Macheath, der hat ein Messer,
Doch das Messer sieht man nicht'


The theatres of Berlin and Frankfurt am Main were graced with drama by Ernst Toller, Bertolt Brecht, cabaret, and stage direction by Max Reinhardt and Erwin Piscator.
Many theatre works were sympathetic towards Marxist themes, or were overt experiments in propaganda, such as the agitprop theatre by Brecht and Weill.
Bertolt Brecht
Agitprop theatre is a named through a combination of the words "agitation" and "propaganda".
Its aim was to add elements of left wing public protest (agitation) and persuasive politics (propaganda) to the theatre, in the hope of creating a more activist audience.
Toller was the leading German expressionist playwright of the era.
He later became one of the leading proponents of 'Neue Sachlichkeit' in the theatre.
The avant-garde theater of Bertolt Brecht and Max Reinhardt in Berlin was the most advanced in Europe, being rivaled only by that of Paris.

Music

Concert halls and conservatories exhibited the atonal and modern music of Alban Berg, Arnold Schoenberg, and Kurt Weill.
Hanns Eisler and Paul Dessau were other modernist composers of the era.
Undoubtedly the two greatest German composers of the Wiemar period were Richard Strauss and Hans Pfitzner.

Richard Georg Strauss (11 June 1864 – 8 September 1949) was undoubtedly the leading German composer of the late Romantic and early modern eras.
His significant works of the Weimar period were:
'Film music for Der Rosenkavalier' (1925), and the operas 'Die Frau ohne Schatten' (1919), 'Intermezzo' (1923), 'Die ägyptische Helena' (1927), 'Arabella' (1932).
Strauss continued to compose into the era of the Third Reich and beyond (he died in 1949).
Hans Pfitzner

Hans Erich Pfitzner (5 May 1869 – 22 May 1949) is undeservedly less well known. He was a German composer and self-described anti-modernist.
His own music — including pieces in all the major genres except the symphonic poem — was respected by contemporaries such as Gustav Mahler and Richard Strauss. 
Pfitzner's works combine Romantic and Late Romantic elements with extended thematic development, atmospheric music drama, and the intimacy of chamber music.
His greatest work of the period was the romantische Kantate 'Von deutscher Seele' (Of the German Soul) (1921).
During this period he also composed a 'Sonata in e-minor for Violin and Piano' Op. 27 (1918), and his 'String Quartet [Nr. 3] in C-Sharp minor' (1925).
Other Orchestral works composed during the Weimar period include the 'Piano concerto in E-flat Major' (1922), the 'Violin Concerto in b-minor' (1923) and the Symphony in C-sharp Minor (1932).

Cinema

At the beginning of the Weimar era, cinema meant silent films.
Some films from this period have remained among the most well known in all of German cinema, however, a testament to the creative power of the artists who made them using the most basic of early film technology.
Expressionist films featured plots exploring the dark side of human nature.
They had elaborate expressionist design sets, and the style was typically nightmarish in atmosphere.
Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari
'Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari' (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari) (1919), directed by Robert Wiene, is usually credited as the first, and one of the greatest German expressionist film.
The sets depict distorted, warped-looking buildings in a German town, while the plot centres around a mysterious, magical cabinet that has a clear association with a casket. F. W. Murnau's vampire horror film 'Nosferatu' was released in 1922.

Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari
'Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari' (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari) is a 1920 German silent horror film directed by Robert Wiene from a screenplay by Hans Janowitz and Carl Mayer. It is one of the most influential of German Expressionist films and is often considered one of the greatest horror movies of the silent era. The film used stylized sets, with abstract, jagged buildings painted on canvas backdrops and flats. These unique sets gave off somewhat of a theatrical sense. To add to this strange style, the actors used an unrealistic technique that exhibited jerky and dancelike movements. This movie is cited as having introduced the twist ending in cinema.

Dr. Mabuse der Spieler
Director Fritz Lang created perhaps the most globally well-known cinema examples of German Expressionism.
Lang's 'Dr. Mabuse der Spieler' (Dr. Mabuse the Gambler) (1922) was a hugely popular film when it was released.
It is described as "a sinister tale" that portrays "the corruption and social chaos so much in evidence in Berlin and more generally, according to Lang, in Weimar Germany".

Fritz Lang
'Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler' is the first film in the Dr. Mabuse series, about the character Doctor Mabuse who featured in the novels of Norbert Jacques. It was directed by Fritz Lang and released in 1922. The film is silent and filmed mostly 16 frames per second.
It is about four hours long and divided into two parts: Der große Spieler: Ein Bild der Zeit and Inferno: Ein Spiel um Menschen unserer Zeit. The title, Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler, is plurivalent. Der Spieler means the player in German, and can be translated as the gambler, the actor, or the puppeteer. Dr. Mabuse, who disguises, plays with emotions and tricks other people, is probably all of them in some sense.
The film is included in the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, being the first of five Lang films to be entered.

Futurism is another favourite expressionist them, shown corrupted into a force of oppression in the dystopia in one of the greatest films ever produced - 'Metropolis' (1927).

Metropolis - the Workers
Metropolis - Rotwang
Metropolis is a 1927 German expressionist science-fiction film directed by Fritz Lang. The film was written by Lang and his wife Thea Von Harbou, and starred Brigitte Helm, Gustav Fröhlich, Alfred Abel and Rudolf Klein-Rogge. A silent film, it was produced in the Babelsberg Studios by UFA.
Metropolis is set in a futuristic urban dystopia, and follows the attempts of Freder, the wealthy son of the city's ruler, and Maria, whose background is not fully explained in the film, to overcome the vast gulf separating the classist nature of their city.
Metropolis
Metropolis was filmed in 1925, at a cost of approximately five million Reichsmarks.
The appearance of the city in Metropolis is strongly informed by the Art Deco movement; however it also incorporates elements from other traditions. The architecture featured in Metropolis is eclectic and represents both functionalist modernism and art deco, whilst also featuring the scientist’s archaic little house, with its high-powered laboratory, and the catacombs and the Gothic cathedral. The film’s use of art deco architecture was highly influential, and has been reported to have contributed to the style’s subsequent popularity in Europe and America.

The self-deluded lead characters in many expressionist films echo Goethe's Faust, and Murnau indeed retold the tale in his film 'Faust'.
German expressionist films represented a significant stylistic and thematic development in film that has had a lasting worldwide influence, however, they were not the dominant type of popular film in Weimar Germany, and were outnumbered by the production of costume dramas, often about folk legends, which were enormously popular with the public.
The Weimar era's most groundbreaking film studio was the UFA studio.

Universum Film AG - UFA
Universum Film AG, better known as UFA or Ufa, is a film company that was the principal film studio in Germany, home of the German film industry during the Weimar Republic and through World War II, and a major force in world cinema from 1917 to 1945. After World War II, UFA continued producing movies and television programmes to the present day, making it the longest standing film company in Germany.
UFA was created during November 1917 in Berlin as a government-owned producer of World War I propaganda and public service films.
It was created through the consolidation of most of Germany's commercial film companies, including Nordisk and Decla.
Decla's former owner, Erich Pommer, served as producer for the 1920 film 'The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari', which was not only the best example of German Expressionism and an enormously influential film, but also a commercial success.


UFA-Palast am Zoo
During the same year, UFA opened the UFA-Palast am Zoo theatre in Berlin.
During the Weimar years the studio produced and exported an enormous, accomplished, and inventive body of work. Only an estimated 10% of the studio's output still exists. Famous directors based at UFA included Fritz Lang and F.W. Murnau; under chief producer Erich Pommer the company created landmark films such as 'Dr. Mabuse' (1922), 'Metropolis' (1927), and Marlene Dietrich's first talkie, ''Der blaue Engel' (1930).
These films were produced at Filmstudio Babelsberg, located in Potsdam-Babelsberg, Berlin.

Silent films continued to be made throughout the 1920s, in parallel with the early years of sound films during the final years of the Weimar Republic.
Silent films had certain advantages for filmmakers, such as the ability to hire an international cast, since spoken accents were irrelevant, thus, American and British actors were easily able to collaborate with German directors and cast-members on films made in Germany (for example, the collaborations of Georg Pabst and Louise Brooks).
When sound films started being produced in Germany, some filmmakers experimented with versions in more than one language, filmed simultaneously.

'The Threepenny Opera' - 1931
When the popular musical 'The Threepenny Opera' was filmed by director Georg Pabst, he filmed the first version with a French-speaking cast (1930), then a second version with a German-speaking cast (1931).
An English version was planned but never materialized.
'Der blaue Engel' (The Blue Angel) (1930), directed by Josef von Sternberg with the leads played by Marlene Dietrich and Emil Jannings, was filmed simultaneously in English and German (a different supporting cast was used for each version).
Although it was based on a 1905 story written by Heinrich Mann, the film is often seen as topical in that it depicts the doomed romance between a Berlin professor and a cabaret dancer, reflecting the popular image of the city during the era.




Karl Vollmöller
Der Blaue Engel
'Der blaue Engel' is a 1930 film directed by Josef von Sternberg and starring Emil Jannings, Marlene Dietrich and Kurt Gerron. Written by Carl Zuckmayer, Karl Vollmöller and Robert Liebmann – with uncredited contributions by von Sternberg – based on Heinrich Mann's 1905 novel Professor Unrat ("Professor Garbage"), and set in Weimar Germany, 'Der blaue Engel' presents the tragic transformation of a man from a respectable professor to a cabaret clown, and his descent into madness. The film is considered to be the first major German sound film, and brought Dietrich international fame. In addition, it introduced her signature song, Friedrich Hollaender and Robert Liebmann's 'Ich bin von Kopf bis Fuß auf Liebe eingestellt' (Falling in Love Again - Can't Help It).
Karl Gustav Vollmöller, (May 7, 1878 – October 18, 1948) was a German playwright and screenwriter.
He is most famous for two works, the screenplay for the celebrated 1930 German film 'Der Blaue Engel' (The Blue Angel), which made a star of Marlene Dietrich, and 'Das Mirakel' (The Miracle), which he wrote in collaboration with Max Reinhardt.

Science Fiction in the Wiemar Republic

One fitting example of this is found in a German film that was thought lost forever.
Only recently a copy of this film, entitled 'Wunder Der Schöpfung' (The Miracle Of Creation), has been found.


'Wunder Der Schöpfung' - 1927
'Wunder Der Schöpfung' was to be, in the words of one critic, UFA's greatest achievment.
UFA put itself more and more in the mind-frame necessary for its most ambitious project yet: Fritz Lang's 'Metropolis', that was relased in 1927, two years after 'Wunder Der Schöpfung'. Contrary to 'Metropolis' that obtained only a lukewarm reception, 'Wunder Der Schöpfung' was a tremendous hit.
It still is a remarkable film with for that time highly ingenious and elaborate special effects.

In the context of Germany's Kulturfilm phenomenon, 'Wunder der Schöpfung' was among the greatest achievements of the 1920s.
The production was constructed, rehearsed, and shot over a period of two and a half years, under the supervision of Hanns Walter Kornblum.
The idea to describe the universe and man's place in it well suited UFA's Grossfilm mentality, one year before 'Metropolis'.
Hundreds of skilled craftsmen participated in the project, building props and constructing scale models drawn by 15 special effects draughtsmen, while 9 cameramen in separate units worked on the historical, documentary, fiction, animation, and science-fiction sequences.
Without star roles or even protagonists, the film's plot is crowded with meticulously structured and skillfully acted single scenes an artful mosaic of small vignettes.
No less than four credited university professors ensured the factual background behind the scientific and historical events portrayed.
The film's symbol of progress and the new scientific era is a spacecraft, travelling through the Milky Way, making all the planets and their inspiring worlds familiar to us, with the extravaganza of their distinctive features.
There is also a general feeling amongst connoisseurs that certain scenes might have served as a template for Stanley Kubrick's 2001.
In the film a German scientific team travels through the universe in a spacecraft that serves as the symbol of progress and an age of new technologies, explaining all that is to be seen. 'Wunder Der Schöpfung' was not meant as lighthearted science fiction
Instead, the film that was meant as an educational device begun in 1923.
'Jetzt gehort und Deutschland, morgen das ganse Sonnensystem' (Now Germany belongs to us, tomorrow the whole solar system), as thetrilogy coyly states, is the apt slogan.
One could, perhaps, remark that, since Germany had lost most of its colonies, space formed the final formidable frontier.
One author who envisioned the path to solar conquest in the dream-tanks of the Third Reich was Walter Heichen (1876 - 1970).
His 'Jenseits der Stratosphäre. Erlebnisse zwischen Mond und Erde. Eine Erzählung für die Jugend' (On the Other Side of the Stratosphere. Experiences between the Moon and the Earth. A Story for the Youths) was published in 1931 and was reprinted in 1939 as 'Luftschiff im Weltenraum' (Airship in Space).
Heichen, who lived in Berlin, already had published propaganda lecture to kindle pattriotic interest during the outbreak of the First World War.
During the Third Reich his pattriotism adhered to the National Socialist cause.
In Heichen's book, the protagonists travel to the planet of Sigma, where they encounter highly developed humanoids.
Heichen died in Berlin in 1970.
In 1925, a chronically ill and impoverished engineer in Vienna devoted himself entirely to space travel.


'Das Problem der Befahrung des Weltraums -
der Raketen-motor'
Herman Potočnik (1892 - 1929), published in 1928 his only book, 'Das Problem der Befahrung des Weltraums - der Raketen-motor' (The Problem of Space Travel, the Rocket Motor) was published.
The Verein für Raumschiffahrt also published a magazine titled 'Die Rakete' (The Rocket), from 1927 till 1929,
Gernsback, born in 1884 as Gernsbacher, at ten years of age was an insatiable reader.
At that time he found a translation of Percival Lowell's 'Mars as the Abode of Life'.
He devoured the book and went into a delirious phase that lasted two days, during which he rambled almost non-stop about the Martians and their technology, a theme to which he would return in later years.
This experience would prove a pivotal point in the life of young Gernsbacher.


'Die Rakete'
In 1904, then still named Gernsbacher, he went to the United States and changed his name into Gernsback. There he would come to know inventors like Tesla, de Forrest, Fessenden and Grindell-Matthews.
Gernsback would also publish an impressive list of science fiction magazines and coin the very phrase 'science fiction'.
As such, a case is to be made for Germany as the birthplace of 20th century weird and science fiction magazine publishing.
Recent years have seen the emergence of information about a crashed UFO in the Black Forrest in 1936, which was spirited away by the SS.
There it was to be dismantled and dilligently studied by members of the Vril Society.


 'Algol' - 1920 - UFA
The possibility of alien technology that has fallen into the hands of a select group, was already the subject of a film in Germany in 1920.
Just two years after the defeat of Germany in the First World War, a little known silent film was released.
Entitled 'Algol', it tells the story of a superior extraterrestrial from the Dogstar, who donates incredible technology that enables a wealthy industrialist to enslave the world by this free energy device.
Lost for decades, copies of the film have surfaced in recent years.
The first image is of the alien being, poised far away in the eternal blackness of the universe. The second the industrialist poised over the weird extraterrestrial technology.
One wonders how a film like 'Algol' helped transform the ancient intelligences, the angelic beings and the demons of old, into alien entities from far away planets. All in the strange and feverish undercurrents of the German occult.

Health and Self-improvement

Germany had many innovators in health treatment, some more questionable than others, in the decades leading up to World War I.
As a group, they were collectively known as part of the 'Lebensreform', (Life Reform), movement.
During the Weimar years, some of these found support with the German public, particularly in Berlin.
Some innovations had lasting influence.
Joseph Pilates developed much of his Pilates system of physical training during the 1920s. Expressionist dance teachers such as Rudolf Laban had an important impact on Pilates' theories.
Nacktkultur
Nacktkultur, called naturalism or modern nudism in English, became popular in northern Germany in particular as part of the Lebensreform utopian projects.
Karl Wilhelm Diefenbach pioneered the concept in Vienna in the late 1890s.

German Nacktkultur, or Freikörperkultur (free body movement), refers to a network of clubs that promoted nudism as a way of linking the modern body more closely to nature, giving it a freer presence in the great outdoors. Heinrich Pudor (Heinrich Scham, 1865–1943) supposedly coined the term Nacktkultur around 1903. His book Nacktende Mensch (1893) and the three-volume Nacktkultur (1906) established an enduring, if not accurate, link between Nacktkultur, vegetarianism, social reform, and racial hygiene (including anti-Semitism).





Javelin Thrower
However, Rothschuh (113) claims that Nacktkultur first appeared in Germany in the 1870s, along with the animal protection, vegetarian, and natural healing movements. Nudity was an important feature of Freikörperkultur well before World War I, and the idea of nudity as a healthful activity apparently owed something to the medical profession's efforts to combat such diseases as tuberculosis with what before the war was called Luft und Licht Therapie (air and light therapy) or Heliotherapie. As late as 1922 a Munich filmmaker, Robert Reinert, released a film (Nerven ) that concluded with scenes of nude bodies in the mountains finally cured of neurasthenic ailments contracted in a decadent urban environment.

Resorts for naturalists were established at a rapid pace along the northern coast of Germany during the 1920s, and by 1931, Berlin itself had 40 naturalists' societies and clubs. A variety of periodicals on the topic were also regularly published.
Aufklärungsfilme (enlightenment films) supported the idea of teaching the public about important social problems, such as alcohol and drug addiction, venereal disease, homosexuality, prostitution, and prison reform.

Berlin's Reputation for Decadence

Prostitution rose in Berlin and elsewhere in the areas of Europe left ravaged by the World War.
This means of survival for desperate women, and sometimes men, became normalized to a degree in the 1920s.
During the war, venereal diseases such as syphilis and gonorrhea spread at a rate that warranted government attention.
Soldiers at the front contracted these diseases from prostitutes, so the German army responded by granting approval to certain brothels that were inspected by their own medical doctors, and soldiers were rationed coupon books for sexual services at these establishments.
Homosexual behaviour was also documented among soldiers at the front.
Soldiers returning to Berlin at the end of the War had a different attitude towards their own sexual behaviour than they had a few years previously.
Prostitution was frowned on by respectable Berliners, but it continued to the point of becoming entrenched in the city's underground economy and culture.
First women with no other means of support turned to the trade, then youths of both genders.
A byproduct of the tolerance for prostitution appears to have been a more visible tolerance for diverse sexual behaviour, mainly with the growth of a large underground homosexual culture in the city among both men and women.
Sexual experimentation became less hidden, and the pornography, cabaret and prostitution entrepreneurs found their consumer niche.
Crime in general developed in parallel with prostitution in the city, beginning as petty thefts and other crimes linked to the need to survive in the war's aftermath.
Berlin eventually acquired a reputation as a hub of drug dealing (cocaine, heroin, tranquilizers) and the black market.
The police identified 62 organized criminal gangs in Berlin, called Ringvereine.
The German public also became fascinated with reports of homicides, especially "lust murders" or Lustmord.
Publishers met this demand with inexpensive criminal novels called Krimi, which like the film noir of the era (such as the classic M), explored methods of scientific detection and psychosexual analysis.
Apart from the new tolerance for behaviour that was technically still illegal, and viewed by a large part of society as immoral, there were other developments in Berlin culture that shocked many visitors to the city.
Thrill-seekers came to the city in search of adventure, and booksellers sold many editions of guide books to Berlin's erotic night entertainment venues.
There were an estimated 500 such establishments, that included a large number of homosexual venues for men and for lesbians; sometimes transvestites of one or both genders were admitted, otherwise there were at least 5 known establishments that were exclusively for a transvestite clientele.
There were also several nudist venues, and many other well-known venues where underground figures such as crime bosses gathered.
Berlin also had a museum of sexuality during the Weimar period, at Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld's Institute of Sexology.
These were nearly all closed when the National Socialist regime came to power in 1933.
Artists in Berlin became fused with the city's underground culture as the borders between cabaret and legitimate theatre blurred.
Anita Berber, a dancer and actress, became notorious throughout the city and beyond for her erotic performances (as well as her cocaine addiction and erratic behaviour).
She was painted by Otto Dix, and socialized in the same circles as Klaus Mann.
Cinema in Weimar culture did not shy away from controversial topics, but dealt with them explicitly.
'Diary of a Lost Girl' (1929) directed by Georg Wilhelm Pabst and starring Louise Brooks, deals with a young woman who is thrown out of her home after having an illegitimate child, and is then forced to become a prostitute to survive.
This trend of dealing frankly with provocative material in cinema began immediately after the end of the War.
In 1919, Richard Oswald directed and released two films, that met with press controversy and action from police vice investigators and government censors.
'Prostitution' dealt with women forced into "white slavery", while 'Different from the Others' dealt with a homosexual man's conflict between his sexuality and social expectations.
By the end of the decade, similar material met with little, if any opposition when it was released in Berlin theatres.
William Dieterle's 'Sex in Chains' (1928), and Pabst's 'Pandora's Box' (1929) deal with homosexuality among men and women, respectively, and were not censored. Homosexuality was also present more tangentially in other films from the period.
In the light of such activities it is not difficult to see why the NSDAP received so much support in Germany towards the end of the 1920s.