Primary Sources: Weimar Culture

Weimar Germany was a center of artistic innovation, great creativity, and considerable experimentation. In film, the visual arts, architecture, craft, theater, and music, Germans were in the forefront of the most exciting developments. The unprecedented freedom and widespread latitude for varieties of cultural expression led to an explosion of artistic production. In the Bauhaus arts and crafts school, in the studios of the film company UFA, in the theater of Max Rinehardt and the studios of the New Objectivity (Neue Sachlickeit) artists, cutting edge work was being produced. While many applauded these efforts, conservative and radical right-wing critics decried the new cultural products as decadent and immoral. They condemned Weimar Germany as a new Sodom and Gomorrah and attacked American influences, such as jazz music, as contributors to the decay.

In addition to the images below, please explore:

Images

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Democracy & Civic Engagement

"The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari," directed by Robert Wiene (1919)

Still image from the silent expressionist film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. This horror film follows a mentally ill hypnotist who uses a hypnotized person to commit murders. The writers, Hans Janowitz and Carl Mayer, derived the idea for the script from their experiences with authority and obedience in the military during World War I.

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Democracy & Civic Engagement

"Memorial for Karl Liebknecht," Käthe Kollwitz (1921)

"Memorial for Karl Liebknecht" by Käthe Kollwitz, 1921. Karl Liebknecht and Rosa Luxemburg were among the founders of the Berlin Spartakusbund (Spartacus League) that evolved into the Communist Party of Germany. On January 15, 1919, Liebknecht and Luxemburg were shot to death during the Spartacus Revolt on the pretext that they were attempting escape.

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Holocaust
Weimar Republic

Otto Dix, Gross Stadt (Metropolis), 1928

In addition to his depictions of World War I, Otto Dix was also known for his ruthless criticism of German society during the Weimar years. See full-sized image for analysis.

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Cabaret Songs

Weimar Cabarets were of two types: There were larger halls or theaters where crowds of all ages and classes came together to witness variety shows which consisted of singers, dancers, acrobats, and comedians. Then there were smaller clubs where the audience was largely middle and upper class, younger and middle aged adults, and where the songs were political and social satire. The freer atmosphere of Weimar was demonstrated in these small clubs by intense criticism of government officials and political party leaders and the airing of previously taboo themes of gender conflict, clergy corruption and homosexuality.

Some of Weimar's best known composers, lyricists and performers such as Friedrich Hollaender, Trudi Hesterberg, Kurt Tucholsky, Rudolf Nelson, Kurt Gerron and Bertold Brecht wrote music for--and peformed in--these Cabarets. Hitler and the National Socialists were frequent targets of the satire of Cabaret performers, and when the Nazis came to power in 1933, most of the political cabarets were closed and those that remained open were heavily censored.

Listen to a selection of Cabaret songs here.

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Democracy & Civic Engagement
Holocaust

The Lavender Song (Das Lila Lied)

"The Lavender Song" (Das Lila Lied) is a Cabaret song from the Weimar Republic in Germany, 1920. The music was composed by Mischa Spoliansky, and the lyrics were written by Kurt Schwabach. Music by Mischa Spoliansky, original lyrics by Kurt Schwabach (1920)

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Democracy & Civic Engagement
Holocaust

Mir ist heut so nach Tamerlan!

"Mir ist heut so nach Tamerlan!" is a Cabaret song from the Weimar Republic in Germany, 1922. Music was composed by Rudolf Nelson and lyrics were written by Kurt Tucholsky.

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Democracy & Civic Engagement
Holocaust

Chuck Out the Men (Raus mit den Männern)

"Chuck Out the Men" (Raus mit den Männern) is a Cabaret song composed by Friedrich Hollaender in 1926 during the Weimar Republic in Germany.

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Holocaust

Night Ghost (Nachtgespenst)

"Night Ghost" (Nachtgespenst) is a Cabaret song from the Weimar Republic in Germany, 1930. The music was composed by Rudolf Nelson and the lyrics were written by Friedrich Hollaender.

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Democracy & Civic Engagement
Holocaust

It's All a Swindle (Alles Schwindel)

"It's All a Swindle" (Alles Schwindel) by Mischa Spoliansky and Marcellus Schiffer is a Cabaret song from the Weimar Republic in Germany, 1931.

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