Politics is an unpredictable thing.
That’s good, much of the time—it speaks to the vitality and openness of political activity—but it can also lead to instability, violence, and a form of anti-politics which suppresses dissent and difference and which turns political opponents into enemies to be destroyed.
So how can the “promise of politics” (as Hannah Arendt terms it) be broken? Over the course of this semester we’ll consider 15 years in contemporary history: the years of the rise, and fall, of the Weimar Republic in Germany. This is a fascinating period: monarchists, republicans, communists, liberals, conservatives, and fascists all battled for supremacy amidst the tumult of the post-WWI period. And they didn’t confine their battles to the political arena: theater, film, photography, music, education, poetry, painting, architecture, and more were all drawn in and often made part of the ideological playing fields. Some artists sought to defend their art against politics, while political parties and actors were eager to bring German culture to (their) political heel.
Weimar, then, serves up a complex history which we can use to explore larger questions about politics and culture. We’ll talk about power and violence, authority and legitimacy, freedom, unity, and race, as well morality, fear and fearlessness, the avant-garde and the reaction against it. We’ll set up camp in Weimar, but with any luck, range over the world.
How this works: While the bulk of class time will be given over to discussion, there is a fair amount of reading, both online and in books, required for the course. It is recommended that you read the material prior to class, so that you can participate fully in the discussions.
I like a lively class and encourage the expression of a wide range of views. You can be forceful, but you must be respectful: every student in the class deserves to be there, so act accordingly. And, of course, if you’re not sure what to think, questions are always welcomed.
Two essays: 25% each
Essay 1: October 20
Essay 2: November 17
Final essay, 35%, due December 14
All work must be handed in during class on the due date. If you run into any problems with the course or with deadlines, it is imperative that you speak with me immediately. An extension will only be granted if it is cleared with me (via email) before a paper is due.
Regarding tablets/computers: You may use for notes as long as WIFI IS TURNED OFF; please stow cell phones.
Regarding food and drink: Feel free to bring something to drink to class, but please, no eating. They’ll be a short break in each class session during which you can get something to eat.
Required reading: books (available at the bookstore)
Richard Evans, The Coming of the Third Reich
Carl Schmitt, The Crisis of Parliamentary Democracy
Handout: Bernard Crick, In Defence of Politics (chapters 1-2)
Required reading: online
- Population by Religious Denomination (1910-1939)
- Keil sailors’ revolt: 14 points
- Paul von Hindenburg, The stab in the back
- Adolph Hitler, on the November Revolution
- Versailles Treaty articles 27-30 | 159-163 | 231-238
- Weimar Constitution
- Kurt Binding & Alfred Hoche, Permitting the Destruction of Life Unworthy of Living (1920)
- Ludwig Meidner, “To All Artists, Musicians, Poets” (January 1919)
- Kurt Eisner, “The Socialist Nation and the Artist” (1919)
- Arthur Moeller van den Bruck, “The Third Empire” (1923)
- Hitler’s Speech at the Putsch Trial (February 1924)
- Fritz Wildung, “Sport is the Will to Culture” (1926)
- Paul Schultze-Naumburg, “Art and Race” (1928)
- Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung: “Enough is Enough! Against the Masculinization of Women” (1925)
- Joseph Goebbels, “Around the Gedächtniskirche” (1928)
- Rudolf Kayser, “Americanism” (1925)
- Stefan Zweig, “The Monotonization of the World” (1925)
- Ernst von Salomon, “We and the Intellectuals” (1930)
- Edgar J. Jung, “Germany and the Conservative Revolution” (1932)
- Hilde Walter, “Twilight for Women?” (1931)
- Hitler’s Speech to the Industry Club in Düsseldorf (January 27, 1932)
- Adolf Hitler, “Appeal to the German People” (January 31, 1933)
- Hamburg Schoolteacher Louise Solmitz on Hitler’s Seizure of Power (January-February 1933)
- Reichstag Fire Decree (1933)
- Enabling Act (1933)
- Government Guidelines for Radio Broadcasters (1932)
- The Economic and Social Status of the Jewish Population (1933 and 1939)
Sources which may be of interest/use (not required):
- Catawba College The Great War
- German History Documents and Images | Weimar | Nazi Germany
- US Holocaust Museum | State of Deception: The Power of Nazi Propaganda (alt view of images)
The University of Texas, Austin’s Perry-Casteñeda’s Library contains a terrific online collection of maps, which you access here. Poke around—it’s a great way to waste time! For our course purposes, I direct you to the following [set of] maps in particular:
- The German Zollervein (2 maps), pre- and post-1834
- The North German Federation and the German Empire, 1866-1871
- Europe 1871-1914
- Summary of Operations of World War I index (92 maps)
- Europe in 1924
Click on any of the maps to zoom in.
All of these maps, by the way, are taken from the 1923 edition of William Shepherd’s Historical Atlas. Again, dive into his collection to see what you can see.
Finally, some art & culture sources:
- Alex Ross, The Rest is Noise: Berlin audio
- Art & architecture
(And not in this time period, but a good resource on the ‘Degenerate Art’ exhibition of 1937: A Teacher’s Guide to the Holocaust: Degenerate Art, Univ of South Florida)
Class schedule (note: Evans and Schmitt are the books, Crick the handout; everything else is available in the list of links, above):
Day 1: August 25 What is politics? What is culture?
Day 2: September 1 Politics, cont.; intro to German history
*Crick: ch. 1, “The nature of political rule”
*Population by Religious Denomination (1910-1939)
Day 3: September 9 The end of the (old) world
*Evans, Preface, ch. 1
*Keil sailors’ revolt: 14 pointss
*A Hitler, on the November revolution
*P von Hindenburg, ‘The stab in the back’
Day 4: September 15 (Old) world, cont.
*Evans, ch 1, cont.
*Versailles Treaty articles 27-30 | 159-153 | 231-238
***September 22 & 29: High Holidays, NO CLASS***
Day 5: October 6 The beginning of the (new) world
*Evans, ch 2
*The Weimar Constitution
Day 6: October 13 (New) world, cont.
*Evans. ch 2, cont.
*K Binding & A Hoche, Permitting the Destruction of Life Unworthy of Living
*Ludwig Meidner, “To All Artists, Musicians, Poets”
*K Eisner, “The Socialist Nation and the Artist”
Day 7: October 20 Rumblings in and against the republic. . . . . ESSAY 1 DUE
*Evans, ch 3
*A Moeller van den Bruck, “The Third Empire”
*Hitler’s Speech at the Putsch Trial
Day 8: October 27 Rumblings, cont.
*Evans, ch 3, cont.
*Crick, ch. 2, “A defence of politics against ideology”
*F Wildung, “Sport is the Will to Culture”
*P Schultze-Naumburg, “Art and Race”
*Berliner Illustrirte Zeitung: “Enough is Enough! Against the Masculinization of Women”
Day 9: November 3 Cracks in the republic
*Evans, ch 4
*Schmitt, chs. 1-2
*J Goebbels, “Around the Gedächtniskirche”
*R Kayser, “Americanism”
*S Zweig, “The Monotonization of the World”
Day 10: November 10 Cracks, cont.
*Evans, ch 4, cont.
*Schmitt, chs 3-4
*E von Salomon, “We and the Intellectuals”
*EJ Jung, “Germany and the Conservative Revolution”
Day 11: November 17 Weimar falls. . . . . ESSAY 2 DUE
*Evans, ch 5
*H Walter, “Twilight for Women?”
*Hitler’s Speech to the Industry Club in Düsseldorf
*A Hitler, “Appeal to the German People”
*L Solmitz on Hitler’s Seizure of Power
NOTE: Tuesday, November 21 is on a FRIDAY schedule
Day 12: November 21 Falling, cont.
*Evans, ch 5, cont.
*Reichstag Fire Decree
***November 24, Thanksgiving: NO CLASS***
Day 13: December 1 Into the Reich
*Evans, ch 6
*Government Guidelines for Radio Broadcasters
Day 14: December 8 The Reich
*Evans, ch 6, cont.
*The Economic and Social Status of the Jewish Population (1933 and 1939)
FINAL ESSAY: due Thursday, December 14