HHIK07722U HIS 72. Weimar Germany (1918-1933) and beyond: Politics, Propaganda, and Popular Opinion

Volume 2017/2018

Module 1: Historical research discussion and academic writing (30 ECTS):
- Historical core area 1: Academic writing with focus on research discussion (HHIK03721E) [15 ECTS]
- Methodological and analytical tools (HHIK03731E) [15 ECTS]
[Curriculum for Master´s Programme in History, 2015-Curriculum]

For studerende,hvis centrale fag hører under et andet hovedområde end humaniora, forlænges kandidatsidefaget med 30 ECTS-point, der skal udgøres af fagelementerne Historisk kerneområde 1: Akademisk skriftlighed med fokus på forskningsdiskussion (HHIK03721E) og Metodiske og analytiske redskaber (HHIK03731E) (se 2015-studieordningen for det centrale fag på kandidat-niveau i Historie).
[Curriculum for the Master’s Minor in History, 2015-Curriculum] 


HIS 72. Weimar Germany (1918-1933) and beyond: Politics, Propaganda, and Popular Opinion
Large tracts of German history can be seen as a struggle to come to grips with the role of “the people” in modernity. Bismarck’s German Empire created some congruence between the “German people” (or nation) and the (federal) state. Yet the emperor, not the people, was the source of legitimate political power and he alone appointed the government. This changed with the Weimar Republic: In the course of a short and sudden revolution 1918/19 the emperor as sovereign was replaced by the German people; women were given the right to vote; civil rights like the freedom of speech were enshrined in the constitution, in turn opening the doors for cultural experiments. In this sense Weimar could be perceived as a giant leap forward on a trajectory of progress into a better, freer, more modern future.

Yet Weimar could also be perceived as a topsy-turvy world where certainties about order, status, economic conditions were things of the past and no truth could be relied upon. This provoked fearful and hostile reactions. Even if political mobilization of the “people” was a modern phenomenon, there was nothing preventing this mobilization from turning against the new democracy and against the individual freedoms instituted by the new republic. Thus the Weimar Republic is an unparalleled case for studying modernity including the reactions against it.

As the “will of the people” became the source of political power, the central questions changed: Where could the “the true will of the people” be found? What constituted the people in the first place? And how should the authority of the people be channeled into politics? We will look at the answers given by the founding fathers of the constitution as well as by populist movements. Two means were seen as able to control or sway “the people”: mass media and propaganda. We will look into developments of media and propaganda as well as the imaginations of contemporaries regarding the effect of these forms of communication.

We will apply new cultural history to study central notions like Volksgemeinschaft (people’s community), Heimat (approx.: home/homeland) as historically constructed and reflecting power distribution in a society, in turn influencing which thoughts, ideas and actions are understandable, plausible and supportable. We will study the creation and role of myths (the “Stab in the back”-legend(s), the Bismarck myth, the Hindenburg myth and the Führer myth) through the collective memory approach going back to Maurice Halbwachs. Theories of populism (Laclau, Müller) as well as Max Weber’s concept of charismatic authority will serve as analytical tools. Other approaches include the political culture approach of Karl Rohe and the cleavages-theory of Stein Rokkan, well suited to analyze the sharply divided political culture of Weimar Germany, as well as contemporary and present theories about the effects of mass media and propaganda.

A general point of contention will be the extent to which the departure from Weimar – and the successive turn of a large minority of Germans towards National Socialism – was a product of irrationality. Were political developments the result of myths and propaganda? Or was the notion of irrational “masses” the product of elites unwilling to share their privileges and therefore unwilling to welcome groups that were understandably disappointed about a republic, which failed to deliver? To what extent was the “revolt of the provinces” (Peukert) around 1930, which was eventually harnessed by Hitler and the NSDAP, the result of an understandable reaction to the unwillingness of modernity to integrate the “losers of progress” into its politics and narratives?

While focus is on the Weimar Republic, we will move back into the imperial age and the World War to follow the genesis of central phenomena and concepts. To a lesser extent, we will consider how the needs of later epochs have shaped the history of the first German experiment with democracy and which parallels (beyond the comfortable but fruitless activity of labeling one’s political opponents “Nazis”) might provide us with insights about contemporary political developments.

Course objectives (clarification of some of the academic targets stipulated in the curriculum):
After the course students will be able to:

Historical core area 1: Academic writing with focus on research discussion
● demonstrate Insights into the political and social developments and central aspects of the political culture of Weimar Germany (beliefs, basic assumptions, goals)
● write a research discussion and to use this as a basis for posing fruitful questions

Methodological and analytical tools
● motivate the choice of a theoretical approach and use this approach to make an investigation into a relevant topic

- Bernhard Fulda: Press and the Weimar Republic. Oxford & N.Y.: OUP, 2009.
- Frank Bösch: Mass Media and Historical Change. New York: Berghahn Books, 2015.
- Frank Bösch: Das konservative Milieu. Göttingen: Wallstein Verlag, 2002.
- Weimar Publics/Weimar Subjects. Rethinking the Political Culture of Germany in the 1920s. Ed.: Kathleen Canning et. al. N.Y. & Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2010.
- Corey Ross: Media and the Making of Modern Germany. Oxford & N.Y.: OUP, 2008.
- Richard J. Evans: The Coming of the Third Reich. N.Y.: Penguin, 2003.
- Jürgen W. Falter: The two Hindenburg Elections 1925 and 1932. A Total Reversal of Voter Coalitions. IN Central European History Vol. 23. No. 2., 1990. pp. 225-241.
- Ute Frevert: Men of Honour. A Social and Cultural History of the Duel. Polity Press, 1995.
- Peter Fritzsche: Did Weimar Fail? IN: The Journal of Modern History. Vol. 68, No 3, 1996. pp. 629-652.
- Anna von der Goltz: Hindenburg. Power, Myth, and the Rise of the Nazis. Oxford & N.Y., 2009.
- Maurice Halbwachs: On Collective Memory. (Ed. & transl.: Lewis A. Closer). Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press, 1992.
- Jeffrey Herf: Reactionary Modernism. Technology, Culture, and Politics in Weimar and the Third Reich. Cambridge, 1984.
- Jan-Werner Müller: What is Populism? Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press, 2015.
- The Weimar Republic Sourcebook. Ed.: Anton Kaes et. al. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press, 1994.
- Ian Kershaw: Hitler 1889-1936. Hubris. N.Y.: Norton, 2000.
- Eberhard Kolb: The Weimar Republic. (Transl.: P.S. Falla). London, 2005 (2. ed.).
- Helmut Lethen: Cool Conduct. The Culture of Distance in Weimar Germany. (Transl.: Don Reneau) University of California Press, 2002.
- Mark Lilla: The Shipwrecked Mind. On Political Reaction. N.Y.: New York Review of Books, 2016.
- Weimar Germany. Ed.: McElligott, Anthony. (Short Oxford History of Germany). Oxford: OUP, 2009.
- Anthony McElligott: Rethinking the Weimar Republic. Authority and Authoritarianism, 1916-1936. London e.a.: Bloomsbury, 2014.
- Thomas Mergel: Dictatorship and Democracy. IN The Oxford Handbook of Modern German History. Ed.: Helmut Walser Smith. Oxford, 2011. pp. 423-452.
- Modris Eksteins: The Limits of Reason. The German Democratic Press and the Collapse of Weimar Democracy. Oxford: OUP, 1975.
- Cas Mudde & Cristóbal Rovira Kaltwasser: Populism. IN: The Oxford Handbook of Political Ideologies. Ed.: Michael Freeden et al. OUP, 2013. p. 493-512.
- Jeremy Noakes & Geoffrey Pridham: Nazism 1919-1945. A Documentary Reader. Exeter 1996. Vol. I.
- Alexander Otto-Morris: Rebellion in the Province: The Landvolkbewegung and the Rise of National Socialism in Schleswig-Holstein. Frankfurt a. M.: Peter Lang, 2013.
- Detlev Peukert: The Weimar Republic. The crisis of classical modernity. (Transl.: Richard Deveson) N.Y.: Hill & Wang, 1993.
- Karl Rohe: Politische Kultur und ihre analyse. IN Historische Zeitschrift. Vol. 250, 1990, 2. pp. 321-346.
- Dirk Schumann: Political Violence in the Weimar Republic 1918-1933. N.Y. & Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2009.
- Julia Sneeringer: Winning Women’s Votes. Propaganda and Politics in Weimar Germany. Univ. of North Carolina Press, 2002.
- Stefan Jonsson: Crowds and Democracy. N.Y.: Columbia University Press, 2013.
- Jeffrey Verhey: Spirit of 1914. Militarism, Myth, and Mobilization in Germany. Cambridge Univ. Press, 2000.
- Eric D. Weitz: Weimar Germany. Promise and Tragedy. Princeton & Oxford: Princeton Univ. Press, 2007.
- Michael Wildt: Hitler's Volksgemeinschaft and the dynamics of racial exclusion: violence against Jews in provincial Germany 1919-1939. New York. Berghahn,  2012.
- Benjamin Ziemann: War Experiences in Rural Germany 1924-1923. (Transl.: Alex Skinner) Oxford & N.Y.: Berg 2007.
- Benjamin Ziemann: Weimar was Weimar: Politics, Culture and the Emplotment of the German Republic. IN German History. Vol. 28., 2010, no. 4. pp. 542-571.

Group instruction / Seminar
  • Category
  • Hours
  • Class Instruction
  • 112
  • Exam Preparation
  • 259
  • Preparation
  • 406
  • Total
  • 777