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Berlin (Weimar Germany #AtoZChallenge)

B AtoZ Challenge 2018

The Weimar Republic was born from revolution in 1919 and died in totalitarianism in 1933. But in this short period (Die Goldenen Zwanziger – The Golden Twenties) it really shone, and today Weimar culture is considered one of the most influential periods for creativity – not just for Germany, but for all of humanity.

In all different aspects of life, Weimar culture was contradictory. Everything about it was extreme.
It was extremely tolerant towards everything, be it the new artistic movements or the new freedom of expression. Newspapers flourished, even the harshly satirical ones that ridiculed the republic itself. There were a number of homosexual-oriented magazines available at newsagents. Both communist and reactionaries had their own newspapers. All voices were allowed to be heard.

Historic photos of City Life of Berlin during the interwar period 1920s
Bank-Fusion Deutschlands grösster Banken!
Blick auf das Direktions-Gebäude der Deutschen Bank in der Mauerstrasse in Berlin.

It was extreme in its receptiveness of all forms of avant-garde, hard-core and subversive as they might be. Influenced by the war-experience, movements like Expressionism or Dada didn’t shy away from showing the most horrid faces of war: the maimed bodies, the violent, disturbing colours, the odd angles and the shadows. The non-sense of experience. Cinema, this most modern of arts, was thoroughly explored and advanced in Germany. The cabaret became one of the most popular forms of entertainment, which displayed nudity, sexual innuendo, genre bending and political satire liberally, in ways that many considered decadent.
Nothing was too risqué.

Too extreme for many Germans, the Weimar culture was, in fact, the culture of Berlin, the old imperial capital that had found, after the war, a new, shocking, extreme, modern way of life. Many Germans hesitated to consider it their capital. They even hesitated to consider it true Germany.

Too extreme for many Germans, Berlin was a city of shocking modernity. Many Germans hesitated to consider it their capital. They even hesitated to consider it true #Germany #history #WWI Click To Tweet
Vintage photos of City Life of Berlin during the interwar period 1920s

With four million people, Berlin was one of the most populated cities in Europe, and many of those people weren’t Germans. The vital artistic life attracted artists from all over the world and turned Berlin into a cosmopolitan city, a place where many languages were spoken and where people who may have been considered enemies lived a fulfilling life. It was also a city with an unusually numerous community of Jews who were deeply involved in every aspect of the city’s life.

Here was where the generation of the trenches expressed themselves at their fullest. The old imperial, authoritarian society had shattered, barriers and rules had become loose and young people – who had fought in the trenches or toiled at home to sustain those who were fighting – didn’t recognise the old values anymore. They wanted something new and different and sought it recklessly, never caring for what their elder could say. Some historians even suggest that young people were particularly reckless because, in some way, they sensed that this freedom would not last. That the political and economic insecurity would soon bring that freedom to an end and so they pushed on the accelerator as long as they could.

But along these people lived those Germans who didn’t recognise Berlin as their capital and thought all that freedom and modernity were in fact decadence. The women who didn’t need a man in their life were killing the nation. The Jews who controlled the artistic and cultural life were twisting the roots of true German tradition. Besides, the government was weak and treasonous and lacked the authority to lead the nation.
It was in Berlin – the capital of free expression, tolerant toward everything and the contrary of everything – that all the authoritarian forces who sought to kill that freedom finally converged.


Visit Berlin – The 1920s in Berlin
Spiegel Online – Berlin in the Golden Twnties
Monovisions – The Golden Twenties in Berlin (1920s)
The New Republic – What Babylon Berlin Sees in the Weimar Republic
1914-1918 Online – Post-war Societies (Germany)

Walter Laqueur,  Weimar, A Cultural History 1918-1933. Weidenfeld and Nicolson Ltd. London, 1971

AtoZ Challenge 2018 Berlin


  • Margot Kinberg
    Posted April 2, 2018 at 00:40

    Every time I think of Berlin during this time, I think of Christopher Isherwood’s Goodbye to Berlin. It was such an influential time for the city, for Germany, and for history, too. I’m really glad you’ve taken this perspective this month.

    • Post Author
      Posted April 2, 2018 at 09:44

      Ah! Isherwood is on my TBR list, of course!
      Berlin in the 1920s was definitely an enigmatic city, full of contradictions… and therefore potentialities, I suppose. Such a fascinating place.

  • Leanne |
    Posted April 2, 2018 at 09:18

    How interesting that a city that promoted freedom and modernity was still frowned upon by its people. I guess anything that is outside people’s comfort zone will cause tension and dissent – it’s a shame but that’s the way of the world isn’t it?

    Leanne |
    B for Believe in Yourself

    • Post Author
      Posted April 2, 2018 at 09:48

      I think the problem was that Berlin was far more ahead her time. We often think to 1920s Germany as a very advanced place, but as it often happened at that time, big cities had evolved fast, but the rest of the country was still slogging behind.
      Berlin was projected in the XX century, but the rest of the country was still firmly in the XIX century… and this was common throughout the Western World.
      In times of great change, whene everythign is moving and evolving and nothing is stable, it isn’t uncommon to fear what’s ahead and long for what is behind. In some respect, this is what happening to us now, I believe.

  • Tarkabarka
    Posted April 2, 2018 at 11:17

    There is so much irony in this one little slice of history. When you live in a big city, you tend to think that the country it belongs to is just like that, colorful and open-minded… but big cities are very often not descriptive of the rest of the country. We tend to learn that the hard way…
    The Multicolored Diary: Weird Things in Hungarian Folktales

    • Post Author
      Posted April 2, 2018 at 15:52

      That is so true. Though I think the best circumstance is when the spriti of the big cities and the spirit of the countryside find a balance.

  • A.J. Sefton
    Posted April 2, 2018 at 11:56

    This is a great topic and theme, so glad I found you! As a history teacher, this was one of my favourite periods to teach. Berlin was a fascinating place.

    • Post Author
      Posted April 2, 2018 at 15:54

      Definitely, Berlin in the 1920s was one of the most fascinated places on earth. Though my sister, who’s been in Berlin many times, tells me the city still have a unique heart.

  • Debs
    Posted April 2, 2018 at 14:05

    What a wonderfully atmospheric theme. Isherwood is also on my (dangerously wobbling) TBR. We can exchange views when we both finally made it that far!

    A-Zing this year at:
    Normally found at:

    • Post Author
      Posted April 2, 2018 at 15:55

      OOOh! I’d love to! I’m trying to move him higher on my mount TBR, though I’ll probably have to wait for the summer to read it…

  • Tasha Duncan-Drake
    Posted April 2, 2018 at 16:20

    I knew that Berlin had been a centre for art etc, but I never realised how radical it was. Most information and enlightening, thank you.
    Tasha’s Thinkings – Movie Monsters

    • Post Author
      Posted April 2, 2018 at 16:32

      To some extent, it is still like this, though the gap betwene the city and the rest of Europe isn’t as stack as it was in the 1920s.

  • Shilpa Garg
    Posted April 2, 2018 at 17:36

    How amazing is that the city that was so modern and progressive in its approach was shunned!! Thanks for an informative post, Sarah!

    • Post Author
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 10:15

      I was quite surprised too. I knew that the big cities were completely different places from the countryside, especially at that changing times, but I never thought the general population would dislike a place to the point of doubting it belonged to their same lang.

  • Sophie Duncan
    Posted April 2, 2018 at 17:46

    What a huge swing, from such freedom to such totalitarianism. Extremes, both types, can be frightening.

    • Post Author
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 10:17

      Berlin was an extreme city. And I think at that time, it incarnated what was happening in most of Europe at its fullest – and as it turned out, more destructive – potetialities.

  • Jayden R. Vincente
    Posted April 2, 2018 at 18:01

    Really interesting! Thanks for sharing.

    Jayden R. Vincente
    Erotic Fiction Writer

  • Julie Weathers
    Posted April 2, 2018 at 19:03

    It’s fascinating that Berlin did such an about face. This will be an interesting blog to follow as I love history. I knew there was a large artistic and creative population there. My father was on a ship that was bringing Jewish refugees to America after the war. One of them was a well-known architect from Berlin before the war who lost his entire family. He committed suicide by jumping overboard one day.

    • Post Author
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 10:20

      What a sad story. Thanks for sharing. Nobody living today may remember what happended during WWI, but there are still people who remember what happend after the war.
      We’re lucky for this. I hope we’ll be wise enough to keep those memories alive.

  • Silvia Villalobos
    Posted April 2, 2018 at 19:13

    They were far ahead of their time acceptance wise, art and so on. Amazing to read. I was in Berlin last year in June for three days visiting a friend whose family lives an hour outside the city in what was once East Berlin. I love the city. Having grown up with E Europe with constant news images or mention of Checkpoint Charley, the wall, etc. seeing all those places in person was mesmerizing. Been to Germany before, but never Berlin. I think the one place with the biggest impact was Babelplatz given the book burning and not imposing monument today. Berlin can teach us a lot with the past of the republic you so well cover. Very eye opening post. Thank you.

    • Post Author
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 10:44

      I’ve been to Germany many times, but never to Berlin either. Mostly to Munich, where I have friends.
      But my sister has travelled to Berlin many times and she loves the city. From what she tells me, I have the impression Berlin is still the unique city.
      I hope I’ll be able to go, one day 🙂

  • Tui Snider
    Posted April 2, 2018 at 21:09

    I didn’t know much about the Weimar Republic until I did research in order to write a review of the musical Cabaret. What a fascinating period in history! It’s like a cultural microclimate.

    Wonderful article! I subscribed to your newsletter and I’ll be back to read more. 🙂

    Tui Snider, dropping by from the A to Z Challenge
    Understanding Cemetery Symbols from A to Z

    • Post Author
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 10:54

      Thanks so much, Tui!
      I knew very little until I too started researching for a writing project. It is such a fascianting and relevant time.

  • Iain Kelly
    Posted April 2, 2018 at 21:42

    Such a wonderful city, and one I would go back to again and again. So much history and thankfully now rebuilt and a great place to visit.

    • Post Author
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 10:55

      I have never been there, regrettibly. But my sister has visited it many times and she’s in love with the city. I hope I’ll be able to go sone day 🙂

  • diedre
    Posted April 2, 2018 at 23:01

    Historians may have been spot-on in assessing the recklessness of youth as in what they seek won’t last. I hope some of them savored the opportunity to live in such an evolutionary time. Very Interesting!

    • Post Author
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 10:59

      I think they actually did. Berlin was a wild place in the 1920s. In good and bad.

  • Carrie-Anne
    Posted April 2, 2018 at 23:36

    It’s so true how big, modern cities don’t always speak to the rest of a country, state, or province. Most people are living the slower, less modern kinds of lives many generations of ancestors did, instead of heartily embracing change and modernity. My own native state is described as Pittsburgh and Philadelphia with Alabama in between.

    • Post Author
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 11:03

      It is true, eh? Today the gap is closing, but I think it still exists.
      Still, there are good things to be saved of a traditional life, too. A balance between the two stances is brobably the ealthiest. Unfortunatly, it’s not easy to attain.

  • Jamie Lyn Weigt
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 01:59

    This is such an expansion of my knowledge of Europe — I’m about to visit the U.K. with a stop in Paris, but it had never even occurred to me that I might have a reason to put Berlin on my “visit someday” list. Thank you!
    Jamie Lyn Weigt | Theme: Odds and Ends Dragons | Writing Dragons

    • Post Author
      Posted April 4, 2018 at 09:10

      I have never been to Berlin, but I think there are plenty of reasons to visit 😉

  • Birgit
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 02:50

    This is so well written and I had no clue that Germans didn’t consider Berlin part of Germany. My mom’s best friend was born in Berlin and she still has a little family left who live in Berlin.

    • Post Author
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 11:04

      I see this is a patterns with all big, international cities, like London and New York. Eather you love them or you hate it, there seems to be no middle way. I suppose it’s because of their great personality.

  • Sue Bursztynski (@SueBursztynski)
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 03:15

    This is an era and a place that really interests me. When I was reading your post, I kept hearing Kurt Weill songs in my head…

    • Post Author
      Posted April 3, 2018 at 11:05

      Ahhhh!! I’ll take that as an appreciation 🙂

  • Kristin
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 19:30

    I have an old friend, now in his 80s and teaching in Ecuador. He visits Berlin at least once a year for several weeks and says he would live there if he could afford it.

    • Post Author
      Posted April 4, 2018 at 09:15

      Mhm… I’m not sure I’d live in Berlin. Like other metropolitan cities (such as London, for example) I find it an awesome city to vist and explore, even to work, since it offers lots of opportunities. But living there? I don’t know.
      Though this is just me. My sister would go live there straight away 😉

  • Roland R Clarke
    Posted April 3, 2018 at 20:25

    Although I’ve been to West Berlin and known a lot of Germans, you are filling in my sketchy history of the place. We are always expanding our knowledge – or should be.

    • Post Author
      Posted April 4, 2018 at 09:16

      True, eh? My sister visited what remains of the Berlin Wall. She says it is still very haunting.

  • Hilary
    Posted April 5, 2018 at 03:11

    Hi Sarah – I’ve never been to Berlin … but lots of people visit now, or work there – and as you say it offers opportunity. This series is so interesting … I sort of guessed this part – but you’ve added so much and opened my eyes considerably more … loving these – cheers Hilary

    • Post Author
      Posted April 6, 2018 at 15:01

      I’ve never been to Berlin either, but I gather it is still today a city that one either loves or hates. My sister loves it. A German friend of mine instead doeasn’t like it at all (she’s from Munich).
      So, still a controversial city, I suppose 😉

  • Raesquiggles
    Posted April 5, 2018 at 10:18

    I visited Berlin a couple of years ago and it remains a vibrant and complicated city.

    • Post Author
      Posted April 6, 2018 at 15:02

      That’s exactly the impression I have. I hope I’ll be able to go visit one day 🙂

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