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Liberal Ideas And Weimar Culture As Both Remarkable And Horrendous

1924 words - 8 pages

During the fourteen years of relative peace following the crisis of the Great War and preceding Adolf Hitler’s brutal dictatorship, Germany experienced an unprecedented outburst of artistic creativity and scientific innovation. Both as a multi-coalitional and the first democratic government, the Weimar Republic was off to an unstable start in the early 1920’s and had its legitimacy and authority challenged by left and right extremists alike. After the worst effects of the 1923 hyperinflation subsided, however, the Weimar Republic facilitated an atmosphere that was conducive to liberal and intellectual experimentation. Many German people explored new ideas and adopted liberal values, and the ...view middle of the document...

Besides criticizing societal conventions, many artistic productions of the era dealt with subjects previously found to be too bleak or controversial; Robert Wiene’s 1920 film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, which is often regarded as the first horror movie in the world, was about a mad scientist who hypnotized a somnambulist into committing murders. As movie-goers developed greater tolerance for disturbing contents, films like Fritz Lang’s child serial killer movie M also began to gain interest and recognition in German cinema.
            The open discourse on and exploration of sexuality was another major outcome of liberalizing thought during the Weimar period. The cigarette-smoking and leg-revealing “new woman” was not an uncommon sight, and the general perception towards homosexuals became more benign. The field of sexology expanded to new bounds, and sex reformers not only advocated gender equality and acceptance of sexual orientations, but also placed heavy emphasis on active sexual lives and appealing physical appearances. The Dutch physician Theodoor Hendrik van de Velde’s Ideal Marriage gained international fame in 1926, especially in Germany where more than 4 million copies were sold and citizens eagerly followed its recommendations for pleasurable and frequent sex. With the rejuvenated popularity of “Bildung”, the tradition of prioritizing self-cultivation both mentally and physically for the health of the nation, the image of physical beauty was idealized and publicized through mass media. Advertisement posters glamorized thin girls and muscular athletes, and Hans Suren’s 1924 well-being book Man and Sunlight quickly gained popularity for its abundance of photographs depicting nude male figures engaged in various exercises.  
            The cityscape too reformed as architects abandoned the elaborate expressionist style and instead favoured a simpler, more practical form of construction as proposed by New Objectivity. Erich Mendelsohn, a prominent Jewish German architect, strived to incorporate practicality into his works, and rose to fame with his state-of-the-art Einstein Tower observatory in 1921 and the series of massive Schocken Department Stores in the mid-1920’s. Walter Gropius was regarded as a leading pioneer of modern architecture, as he founded the Bauhaus school of design with its emphasis on industry and beauty, and his brainchild the Bauhaus Building was often distinguished as a model example of Weimar construction. It soon became evident that New Objectivity in architecture was not just pleasing to the eye, but beneficial for the working class who took advantage of the practical nature of new housing projects. Though Bruno Taut was known best for his fantastical creations like the Glass Pavilion, he was also a proponent of the idea of form over function, and brought much-needed relief to overcrowding in Berlin via his 1926 apartment complex Uncle Tom’s Cabin, which offered ample living space coupled with modern design....

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