Weimar Germany: Promise and Tragedy

Princeton University Press  2007


Professor Eric D. Weitz examines why Germany abandoned democracy for Nazism in the 1920’s and 30’s. Weitz states the main fault lay in the old imperial order’s reluctance to accept self-government. Their control of the military, the courts, and other key institutions never allowed democracy to flourish. The aristocracy also despised society’s new openness in art, sexuality, and women’s liberation and was receptive to Hitler’s promise of a return to order and past military glories.

Weitz’s meticulous research and excellent use of contemporary poster and photographs, along with other period pieces, make 1920’s Germany, especially Berlin, come alive. Readers will stroll down Potsdamer Platz with its elegant shops. They will hear political debates in beer halls, cabarets, and street corners. They will see the birth of modern architecture and view the neighborhoods of the Jews, Poles, and Slavs fated to become Nazi scapegoats.

Weitz concludes that the Great Depression caused the Weimar Republic’s final collapse, but he also asserts that it wasn’t inevitable. Had the elites been more agreeable to democracy, the Nazis might have been nothing more than an historical footnote. This is a thought provoking book that gives keen insight into a society teetering over the edge.

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