The best books for understanding the Weimar Republic

Terrence Petty Author Of Enemy of the People: The Munich Post and the Journalists Who Opposed Hitler
By Terrence Petty

Who am I?

While growing up in a Vermont town in the lower Champlain Valley, I became fascinated with the wealth of nearby historic sites dating from the French and Indian War and the American Revolution. Within easy reach of our family station wagon were Fort Ticonderoga and more. I became especially intrigued by German mercenaries hired by the British to fight the American colonists. My interest led me to become a history major at the University of Vermont, and eventually to Germany as a correspondent for The Associated Press. I worked and lived in Germany from 1987-1997, covering the toppling of Communism, the birth of a new Germany, the rise of neo-Nazi violence, and other themes.


I wrote...

Enemy of the People: The Munich Post and the Journalists Who Opposed Hitler

By Terrence Petty,

Book cover of Enemy of the People: The Munich Post and the Journalists Who Opposed Hitler

What is my book about?

The staff of the Münchener Post (Munich Post) were the Woodwards and Bernsteins of their time. During the 1920s and until it was violently shut down in 1933, the Post employed investigative journalism to try to thwart Adolf Hitler. Secrets whispered to the Post by Nazi malcontents, documents leaked by party members—the Munich Post made use of all these sources. The Nazis reacted with lawsuits against the paper and physical assaults on its editors and office. After the paper was suspended for four days in late February 1933, the Post resumed publication with this defiant banner headline: “We Will Not Be Intimidated!” Enemy Of The People is not just a story about the gutsiness of this German newspaper. It is also a story about how easily democracy can be lost.

The books I picked & why

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A People Betrayed: November 1918: A German Revolution

By Alfred Doblin, John E. Woods (translator),

Book cover of A People Betrayed: November 1918: A German Revolution

Why this book?

Alfred Döblin, one of the most consequential German authors of all time, is best known for his gritty, modernist Weimar-era novel Berlin Alexanderplatz. Often overlooked are two works of historical fiction by Döblin, A People Betrayed, and Karl and Rosa. Set in Berlin during the November 1918 proletarian revolution, these two books are epic in scope, employing both real and fictional characters to tell of the violent beginnings of the Weimar era, a foreshadowing of the political and social fissures that would plague Germany’s first postwar democracy and ultimately set the stage for Hitler’s rise to power.

A People Betrayed: November 1918: A German Revolution

By Alfred Doblin, John E. Woods (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked A People Betrayed as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

November 1918. The First World War is over, the battle is lost a and everywhere there is talk of revolution. Leaders of the German military have formed an uneasy alliance with the socialists who control the government and have proclaimed a new German republic, but throughout Berlin rival groups stage rallies and organize strikes. In A People Betrayed, the first volume of the epic November 1918: A German Revolution, Alfred Doblin takes us into the public and private dramas of these turbulent days, introducing us to a remarkable cast of fictional and historical characters, and bringing them to life in…

Where Ghosts Walked: Munich's Road to the Third Reich

By David Clay Large,

Book cover of Where Ghosts Walked: Munich's Road to the Third Reich

Why this book?

For an understanding of how Munich became the birthplace of the Nazi movement, I highly recommend David Clay Large’s narrative nonfiction work Where Ghosts Walked: Munich’s Road To The Third Reich. At center stage in Large’s book is Munich itself, a beautiful city that before World War I was known as “Athens On The Isar” because of all of the writers, musicians, and artists it attracted. Large tells of the 1918 revolution that toppled Bavaria’s monarchy, of the Munich Soviet Republic that briefly took its place, of Bavarians’ embrace of right-wing extremism that followed the communists’ bloody ouster, and the giddy enthusiasm showered upon a mustered-out World War I corporal named Adolf Hitler as he spewed anti-Semitic and anti-democratic venom at rallies. 

Where Ghosts Walked: Munich's Road to the Third Reich

By David Clay Large,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Where Ghosts Walked as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Munich was the birthplace of Nazism and became the chief cultural shrine of the Third Reich. In exploring the question of why Nazism flourished in the 'Athens of the Isar', David Clay Large has written a compelling account of the cultural roots of the Nazi movement, allowing us to see that the conventional explanations for the movement's rise are not enough. Large's account begins in Munich's 'golden age', four decades before World War I, when the city's artists and writers produced some of the outstanding work of the modernist spirit. He sees a dark side to the city, a protofascist…

The Coming of the Third Reich

By Richard J. Evans,

Book cover of The Coming of the Third Reich

Why this book?

There is no better scholarly work about the birth and death of Germany’s first democracy than The Coming of the Third Reich, by British historian Richard J. Evans. Evans uses a wealth of archival material to create a masterful narrative of the intrigue, revolts, economic forces, and political chaos that marked the Weimar era. The Coming Of The Third Reich is the first book in a three-volume series, which covers Germany from the end of World War I to the downfall of the Nazi regime.

The Coming of the Third Reich

By Richard J. Evans,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Coming of the Third Reich as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Richard J. Evans' The Coming of the Third Reich: How the Nazis Destroyed Democracy and Seized Power in Germany explores how the First World War, the Weimar Republic and the Great Depression paved the way for Nazi rule.

They started as little more than a gang of extremists and thugs, yet in a few years the Nazis had turned Germany into a one-party state and led one of Europe's most advanced nations into moral, physical and cultural ruin and despair.

In this consummate and compelling history, the first book in his acclaimed trilogy on the rise and fall of Nazi…


Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origins of His Evil

By Ron Rosenbaum,

Book cover of Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origins of His Evil

Why this book?

Ron Rosenbaum, an American journalist, is the original re-discoverer of the long-forgotten Munich Post. Explaining Hitler is both about the Nazi dictator and about humankind’s seemingly eternal quest to understand his power and appeal. Rosenbaum devotes a chapter to the Munich Post, calling the newspaper one of the first explainers of Hitler as it warned Germans about the perils he posed to democracy.

Explaining Hitler: The Search for the Origins of His Evil

By Ron Rosenbaum,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Explaining Hitler as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Hitler did not escape the bunker in Berlin but, seven decades later, he has managed to escape explanation in ways both frightening and profound. Explaining Hitler is an extraordinary quest, an expedition into the war zone of Hitler theories. This is a passionate, enthralling book that illuminates what Hitler explainers tell us about Hitler, about the explainers, and about ourselves.

Der Fuehrer: Hitler's Rise to Power

By Konrad Heiden, Ralph Manheim (translator),

Book cover of Der Fuehrer: Hitler's Rise to Power

Why this book?

Like the Munich Post, Konrad Heiden was among the first explainers of Hitler. As a Munich-based reporter for the Frankfurter Zeitung newspaper in the early 1920s, Heiden wrote about the Nazis in the early stages of Hitler’s political career. Heiden provides useful insights into Hitler’s mastery of propaganda and lies as means of controlling people’s minds, a topic that is relevant in 21st-century politics.

Der Fuehrer: Hitler's Rise to Power

By Konrad Heiden, Ralph Manheim (translator),

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Der Fuehrer as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This narrative is based partly on the author's own observations and experiences. However, even the most intimate episodes and reports of private conversations are grounded on documentary evidence or on statements of individuals who seemed thoroughly reliable.

5 book lists we think you will like!

Interested in the Weimar Republic, Germany, and Munich?

6,000+ authors have recommended their favorite books and what they love about them. Browse their picks for the best books about the Weimar Republic, Germany, and Munich.

The Weimar Republic Explore 13 books about the Weimar Republic
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And, 3 books we think you will enjoy!

We think you will like I Shall Bear Witness, Hitler, and Black Edelweiss if you like this list.