Weimar Ger­many: Promise and Tragedy

Eric D. Weitz
  • Review
By – March 9, 2012

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.

Daniel L. Low­ery is the author of Bat­tling The Cor­po­rate Giants: The Ulti­mate David and Goliath Sto­ry .He has been a book review­er for Berrett-Koehler of San Fran­cis­co since 2001. He resides in San­ta Bar­bara, Cal­i­for­nia with his wife and son.

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