Worrying Parallels Between the Weimar Republic and Modern Western Society
Feminine 'Freedoms' – Moral Corruption – Immoral Entertainment – Homosexual and Lesbian Openess – Weakened Police Authority
Any Of This Sound Familiar?
(Reading advice: To get the explosive message of this article please read until the end)
t is Germany, 1928. Raucous laughter from the cabaret seeps outside as Lotte passes in the shadows of the cold Berlin night. The streets are sexually charged, lined with a heady concoction of prostitution, homosexuality, transvestism and drugs. Still spinning from the collective lust roaring unashamedly through the theatre that evening, Lotte heads now for the café bar at the Eden Hotel where she lives. Jostling with leggy glamour girls as she takes her drink, Lotte pushes a straying strand of short hair behind her ear, settles her slender trouser-suited body into the deep folds of an armchair and smiles provocatively as she lights a cigarette.
Berlin's interwar reputation of hedonistic decadence and debauchery is familiar through scenes from Metropolis by Fritz Lang, images of Marlene Dietrich in The Blue Angel by Josef von Sternberg and stage productions of The Threepenny Opera by Bertolt Brecht. A ferment of artistic and sexual experimentation, the Weimar Republic (1918-1933) privileged an outpouring of cultural creativity in the Bauhaus movement of modern art and the development of the International Style in modern architecture. Against a background of inflation and depression, Berlin drew the talent and energies of the rest of Germany towards its glittering cabaret performances and burgeoning sex tourism industry. From within this hotbed of frenzied immorality, supposedly constitutional sexual equality worked to create the myth of the sexually liberated and financially independent 'New Woman' in Weimar German society.'
So Kasey West begins her brief essay , Life is (more than just) a Cabaret: the 'New Woman' in Weimar Germany Her introduction is a very vivid description of night-life in Germany's Weimar Republic.
Field Marshall Von Hindenburg became German chancellor in 1925. Much later he encountered circumstances which required him to work with Hitler but he never seems to have trusted the Austrian World War I corporal.
The German Weimar Republic (1919-1933) is an especially interesting period in German history since it bridged the gap between Germany's loss of the Great War (1914-1918) and Adolf Hitler's coming to power in 1933.
The Treaty of Versailles (1919) had imposed painful financial penalties on Germany following their defeat in the Great War (especially painful, perhaps, because right up to the end, the German public had been told that they were winning the war!), and the next few years were years of unrest and political turmoil yet – paradoxically – also unparalled artistic freedom.
In 1923 Germany actually defaulted on its war repayments and the Ruhr was occupied but this very difficult period quickly led to the best period of the Weimar Republic due to some wise, canny and fleet-footed leadership by Gustav Stresseman who became Chancellor in 1923 and then a very adept foreign minister until 1929. Stresseman could see that runaway inflation was best solved by a very strict monetary policy including the refusal to print more money and the establishment of a new currency, the Rentenmark. Largely due to Stresseman's influence, 1923-1929 was a period of relative stability for Germany when there were fewer uprisings and seemingly the beginnings of an economic recovery. Suddenly there was again hope and people looked to enjoy themselves: cafes, clubs and cabaret bars opened everywhere in a new spirit of liberty.
So this first attempt to establish a liberal democracy in Germany began during a time of civil conflict, and ultimately collapsed with the ascent of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party in 1933.
It is interesting to consider some fascinating parallels between this fledgling liberal democracy and western democratic society at the beginning of this 21st century:
Women Become Assertive Leaders
Probably one of the least expected results of the new Weimar government was a sudden relaxing in previously widely-accepted gender roles and sexual moral conduct. German society had always represented women as 'mothers of the nation' but now German women suddenly found themselves in a strong political position and they dominated the Weimar electorate. This is because, out of a total population of 60 million Germans, two million young men between the ages of 18 and 34 had been killed in World War I and another two million had been so severely physically or mentally injured that they could play little role in government at any level. Many other older men of experience in government were now becoming too old and their influence had waned. This set of unusual circumstances presented the women of Germany with an unusual and unique opportunity to become major players right across German life!
Marlene Dietrich during the Weimar years. To her left stands Richard Tauber (1891-1948) the famed Austrian tenor.
Although women had not been allowed to participate in any political organizations prior to 1914, they now readily grasped the new opportunities that the war and its aftermath brought to them. In the earliest years of the Weimar Republic women voted in large numbers and keenly supported the pro-Republican parties that had granted them the vote; later on women also became avid supporters of the Nazi Party. This high profile of many assertive women was an entirely new thing in German society. Women became leaders in the arts, show business and even in business and commerce. It is no surprise that the very long career of sexual icon Marlene Dietrich was launched during the Weimar years, her film The Blue Angel appeared in Germany in 1930. Numerous other women also forged out sparkling careers during these years, including the dramatic actress, Elizabeth Berger and the famed cabaret director, Trude Hesterberg. The fame, power, success and independence of women during these years has led to some calling the Weimar days, 'the first experiment in women's liberation.'
The cabaret and night club scene of the Weimar Republic has become legendary! The entertainment was often dominated by scantily-clad women and on-stage nudity. Lines of frequently topless stage 'chorus girls,' in various revues and cabarets became more and more common as the Weimar years progressed. The popular songs also became heavily charged with sexual innuendo.
This cartoon of the time seems to sum up the new atmosphere in Weimar in which a people deprived of former leaders turned to the model of the 'assertive female.'
But this is not all: Homosexual and lesbian bars also started appearing in major German cities, especially in Berlin. Of course, this shocked many Germans but a certain momentum had been unleashed which would now be difficult to control. It is probably fair to say that while earlier German societies had glorified Motherhood, and the Mother's duty to the Fatherland (which later returned under Hitler), the Weimar years glorified Women, Sexuality and Free Expression. Hedonism (the belief that the good of men and women is best served by the pursuit of pleasure), was actually seized upon by the liberal Weimar government as a way to unite the ever-present political squabbles of German life. There was a feeling that the Germans had suffered long enough and - in a land with an unreliable economy – all should enjoy themselves while they could! Then, in 1927 prostitution was de-criminalized.
“...Fears about the loss of a stable sexual and moral order played a key role in Weimar democracy’s fall. The decriminalization of prostitution in 1927 entailed vital gains in prostitutes’ rights and marked a radical break with their precarious legal status under the old system of police-controlled prostitution. Despite certain limitations,the 1927 reforms represented a major political victory for liberal feminists, socialists, and sexual reformers. This explains why prostitution became such a central target of right-wing (and ultimately Nazi) attacks...” (Weimar's Crisis Through the Lens of Gender: The Case of Prostitution. Julie Roos, Fritz Stern Dissertation Prize Presentation, Princeton University, November 15, 2002).
“The Law for Combating Venereal Diseases (anti-VD law), which introduced the prostitution reforms, also lifted the ban on the advertisement and display of certain contraceptives that could function as prophylactics. After 1927, many cities installed vending machines for the sale of condoms in public lavatories. For women, the improved access to certain contraceptives marked an important gain in reproductive rights...”
Is any of this starting to sound familiar?
Weakened Police Authority Leading to Lawlessness
Famed actress and cabaret director Trude Hesterburg epitomized much of the frequently female-led and often wild 'entertainment' of Weimar Germany.
The Weimar Republic, with it's liberal agenda, soon led to weakened policing and to a haven for criminals.
In the Holocaust Encyclopedia's article German Police: From Weimar Republic to Nazi Dicatatorship we read this,
“The police faced funding cuts in hiring, training, promotions, and raises. Nor was there money for modernization, such as buying new forensic equipment or firearms...”
Of course, part of the problem here was the plain lack of cash due to the burden of war reparations. But another problem was that courts were not properly punishing offenders, because it was sometimes simpler and more inexpensive simply not to press charges. All of these factors affected police morale. The Holocaust Encyclopedia article continues,
“Even as police manpower suffered from budgetary cuts, the economic distress endemic to the Weimar Republic contributed to a rapid increase in crime. Criminal gangs involved in prostitution, narcotics, gambling, pornography, robbery, and burglary developed and flourished. These gangs were well organized and often operated across state lines, frustrating police investigations......Policemen were frustrated by restrictions on police authority. Some criminal cases were dismissed because the police failed to safeguard the rights of the accused or because important evidence was excluded because of improper police procedures. The emergence of a free press highly critical of police operations exacerbated these police failures.”
The police were often simply powerless to pursue criminals and crime became rampant; the public perception, undoubtedly, was that criminals could simply bribe their way out of trouble if they needed to since they often seemed to have more money than law-abiding people.
In short, the population lost confidence in both the police and the courts to properly apprehend and punish law-breakers. Sound familiar? It will sound familiar to modern Britons for sure!
The Backlash To All Of This.....
Hitler with Field Marshall Von Hindenburg. Hindenburg was so popular with the people that the Nazi state could not be established until his death.
Of course, there is always a backlash and from 1932 Catholic and Lutheran groups succeeded in again banning official state-sanctioned prostitution. The backlash gathered momentum when the Nazi Party came to power in 1933. It is true that, to quote the old saying, 'Hitler again got the trains running on time' – but it is often forgotten today that one of the major reasons that Hitler became so popular is because he was seen as a 'strong leader' who would rid Germany of the moral corruption of the Weimar Republic! For, as the 1920s progressed, there was a growing moral revulsion among ordinary Germans about the immorality, widespread corruption and weakened police authority which a liberal government had presided over.
Of course, as we now know, Hitler was no solution and he was to lead Germany into a truly devastating war within seven years of his coming to power.
We would be blind indeed if we did not note the obvious parallels between the Weimar Republic and modern Europe, Britain and the United States. Of course, the big difference is that today we are economically strong and the Weimar years were economically perilous (although recovery certainly promised between 1923 and 1929). But economic health for a nation is never guaranteed!
Just when the Weimar years were beginning to promise real prosperity the 1929 Wall Street Crash came along. This led to the Great Depression of the 1930s and to a worldwide recession. Germany was particularly affected because she depended heavily on American loans. In 1932, somewhere between 4 and 7 million Germans were unemployed. Many people blamed the Weimar Republic for this – Don't people always blame their governments when economic catastrophe strikes? Eventually neither left-wing nor right-wing factions had any will to save the Weimar government and a certain Herr Hitler stepped in – the rest (as they say) is history!
A growing majority in Germany had come to despise the Weimar experiment with its apparent encouragement of widespread moral corruption right across German life but when this was accompanied by complete economic collapse (on this occasion, hardly the fault of the German government) that was just too much! Quite suddenly the German people were prepared to give their full backing and support to a rather strange but charismatic individual who promised a glorious future – indeed, a 'thousand year reich.'
They were prepared to embark on a new course (or, so they thought!) of peace, prosperity and with a new and glorious Deutschland standing right at the centre of world affairs!
The Lesson For Us
There is no doubt that - over a period of time – liberal societies build up bigger and bigger opposition from an ever-present right-wing. As long as there is prosperity, however, with good food on the table and a good and abundant living for all the family, the anger against the moral weakness always inherent within liberalism can be deferred but when economic disaster strikes, weak leadership is always blamed and liberal societies always appear to be weak in leadership.
President Bush is not a weak leader – he is rightly considered a conservative, and yet liberal standards have permeated almost all of American life. Here in Britain and in Europe it is probably even worse: liberalism rules and political correctness paralyzes! Censorship is now so weak that it has almost gone. Even while European leaders constantly argue about 'rebates' and about increased union, our cities are filled with crime and violence and corruption is rife even in the formerly largely law-abiding British Isles, but somehow (being liberals) European leaders are not too concerned about that! Pornography now even has it's own television channels (several of them) – again, being liberals, our leaders think that is perfectly fine, yet I find that a growing majority of the public are angry at the way things are going and are so disenchanted with politicians that they now refuse to vote at all.
What is my point?
My point is that – at some point - there will be a right-wing backlash and if a charismatic leader with extreme solutions should suddenly appear on the scene he will quickly gain the support of countless thousands - many of whom may not have voted for years because of disillusionment with liberal politics.
Some would say that that could not happen now because our liberal governments have actually legislated against right wing politics – I mean, it is now actually illegal to make many comments which would have once been considered “right-wing.” But I have got news for these people: they are completely wrong! In view of Germany's volatile history, the Weimar Republic also thought they had come up with a system and a constituition which barred radical right-wingers from power! But that did not stop Adolf Hitler!!
The lesson of human history is that when
economic calamity strikes, civil unrest immediately follows
all conventional, polite Sunday-afternoon tea party politics immediately goes out of the window!!
I have not even drawn direct comparisons between the Weimar years and modern liberal western society in this article because I think that those parallels are so overwhelmingly obvious. If you still want to make direct connections just check out the sub-titles to this article's title right at the top of your screen. To save you doing that, here they are:
Feminine “Freedoms” – Moral Corruption – Immoral Entertainment – Homosexual and Lesbian Openess – Weakened Police Authority Leading to Criminals Going Unpunished...
I will let you draw your own conclusions. I do not think that you will find it too difficult.
I will close this article with a rhetorical question addressed to the reader:
If economic (or any other) calamity should strike the west, will a strong and charismatic right-wing leader again burst on to the scene in the United States, Great Britain or the European Union who will offer dynamic but dangerous solutions?
If that should happen, then make no mistake that Liberalism will have been the cause.
Think that could never happen again? Oh please, my complacent reader, learn the lesson of history: The lesson of human history is that evil can always happen again....
Robin A. Brace, 2006.
You will find additional
information on this topic in The Lessons of
Hitler's Amazing Rise to Power
Also, you really must read about how liberals lie about British Victorian society, and how modern liberalism is bringing modern Britain to its knees:
WHITHER GOST THOU?
Do you want to comment to me on this article? E Mail me HERE. (A huge amount of e mail comes to me through this address so please make it clear which article you have been reading. You could call this one 'Weimar')
Paul. Weimar Germany: the Republic of the Reasonable,
Manchester: Manchester University, UK. 1997.
Broszat, Martin. Hitler and the collapse of Weimar Germany, Leamington Spa: Berg Publishers.
Childers, Thomas. The Nazi Voter: The Social Foundations of Fascism in Germany, 1919-1933, Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1983
Dorpalen, Andreas. Hindenburg and the Weimar Republic, Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1964.
Everett, Susanne. Lost Berlin. Greenwich, CT. (USA): Bison Books, 1979.
Feuchtwanger, Edgar. From Weimar to Hitler: Germany, 1918-33 London: Macmillan, 1994.
Holocaust Encyclopedia. German Police: From Weimar Republic to Nazi Dictatiorship.(Copyright © United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, Washington, D.C.).
Roos, Julie. Weimar's Crisis Through the Lens of Gender: The Case of Prostitution. Fritz Stern Dissertation Prize Presentation, Princeton University, November 15, 2002.
West, Kasey. Life Is (More Than Just) a Cabaret: The New Woman in Weimar Germany. Online essay here: http://www.jolique.com/gender/cabaret.htm
Also, you really must read about how liberals freely lie about British Victorian society and how Liberalism's moral
decadence is fast bringing Britain to it's knees:
WHITHER GOEST THOU?