Weimar, Germany

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Weimar, Germany In examining great social and cultural changes in the modern West, many specific events come to mind: the Renaissance and the Reformation, the “discovery” of the Americas, industrialization, and World War Two. One such event, often overlooked, is the “Great War”, 1914-1918. Like every people affected by the expanse of this war, Germans were deeply affected and forever changed. As a social, cultural, and psychological reaction to World War I, the German people created the Weimar Republic, leading to a drastic change in German society and culture. To best understand these changes, a comprehensive analysis of World War I, before, during, and after, is necessary. What was Germany before World War I? Before World War I, Germany was a Great Power on the cusp of social revolution, like many other European nations. The relatively new empire was struggling with the new working class and the increasing movement for labor rights (Gilbert and Large, 15-19). Wilhelm II, the Emperor of Germany when World War I began, was moving his empire toward expansive imperialism and militarism. The political, social, and cultural structure of Germany before World War I was relatively new, but almost instantly powerful and potent. The political structure of Germany, bred of Germany’s attempt at solid unification, was rapidly becoming outdated in the face of labor and the precarious balance of power in Europe, and would soon be put under by World War I. The Bundesrat, like the contemporary House of Lords in the British parliament, was manipulated by the landowning class. The Reichstag, created to balance the weight of the Bundesrat, was extremely limited: it could in no way interfere with individual states’ armies, being limited to legislation in the areas of foreign and naval affairs, as well as other relative trivialities like customs and mail (Gilbert and Large, 71). In spite of Germany’s authoritarian governmental system, some indicators of social progressiveness were apparent. Members of the Reichstag were voted in, and eligible voters included all men over the age of 25. Germany was also ahead of her time in terms of workers’ rights (albeit no nation was timely enough to satisfy the rapidly-growing working class.) For the most part, however, Germany was the symbol of authoritarianism. The Kaiser himself was an important symbol of this go... ... middle of paper ... ... continued to show, what suffering in the trenches had meant. They had not turned themselves into heroes. They were not even capable of functioning in the society at the end of the war...many of the population did not like to have to face these war cripples. They did not wish to be reminded continuously of what war was really like.” (Gay, 90; italics mine) From such devastation came Weimar. The Germans embraced their new freedom as a republic, feeling freed from those old constraints which, they felt, driven their country to ruin. The culture or Weimar symbolized the German disdain for the “old ways” of authoritarianism and monarchy. Weimar was modern, new, and as far as the Germans knew, not doomed to fall victim in another total war. Weimar was the hope of the people. The Germans, who felt their whole way of live had been made evil by the world, and had been annihilated in the war, reinvented themselves—and like the Germans they are, did the job all the way. World War I bred this new republic. It was, if nothing else, a cultural and psychological reaction, leading to a drastic change that would shape the German future, and forever color its gaze upon the past.
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