The best Weimar Republic books

1 authors have picked their favorite books about the Weimar Republic and why they recommend each book.

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A People Betrayed

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

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

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.


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.

Explaining Hitler

By Ron Rosenbaum,

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

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.


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.

Der Fuehrer

By Konrad Heiden, Ralph Manheim (translator),

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

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.


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.

From Caligari to Hitler

By Siegfried Kracauer,

Book cover of From Caligari to Hitler: A Psychological History of the German Film

This is an oldie but a goodie. Written just a few years after World War II, famed sociologist and cultural critic Siegfried Kracauer looked to pre-Hitler era cinema for clues about the collective German psyche. Maybe a society obsessed with dark expressionist monsters and fairy tales is just waiting for a real-life monster to take the reins of power. It is a controversial (and flawed) thesis, but it remains one of the most influential pieces of cultural criticism ever written.


Who am I?

I am a historian of twentieth century Germany and the Holocaust, but I am also a voracious consumer of popular culture. How do I justify spending so much time watching and analyzing horror and science fiction film and television? Well, write a book about it, of course. The first thing I realized is that many other brilliant scholars have thought about why this imagery permeates contemporary culture, even if I asked different questions about why. I hope you are as inspired and enlightened by this book list as I was.


I wrote...

Planet Auschwitz: Holocaust Representation in Science Fiction and Horror Film and Television

By Brian E. Crim,

Book cover of Planet Auschwitz: Holocaust Representation in Science Fiction and Horror Film and Television

What is my book about?

Planet Auschwitz explores the diverse ways in which the Holocaust influences and shapes science fiction and horror film and television by focusing on notable contributions from the last fifty years. The supernatural and extraterrestrial are rich and complex spaces with which to examine important Holocaust themes – including the dangerous afterlife of Nazism after World War II. Planet Auschwitz explores why the Holocaust continues to set the standard for horror in the modern era and asks if the Holocaust is imaginable here on Earth, at least by those who perpetrated it, why not in a galaxy far, far away? The pervasive use of Holocaust imagery and plotlines in horror and science fiction reflects both our preoccupation with its enduring trauma and our persistent need to “work through” its many legacies.

Berlin Alexanderplatz

By Alfred Doblin,

Book cover of Berlin Alexanderplatz

Berlin is a city that is forever in the process of becoming, never being, and so lives powerfully in the imagination. Döblin's breathlessly innovative 1929 masterpiece — the most important work of literature in the Weimar years, is as hypnotic and unpredictable as the city itself.


Who am I?

Rory MacLean is one of Britain's most innovative travel writers. His books – which have been translated into a dozen languages — include UK top tens Stalin's Nose and Under the Dragon as well as Pravda Ha Ha and Berlin: Imagine a City, "the most extraordinary work of history I've ever read" according to the Washington Post which named it a Book of the Year. He has won awards from the Canada Council and the Arts Council of England and was nominated for the International IMPAC Dublin Literary prize. He divides his time between Berlin, Toronto and the UK.


I wrote...

Berlin: Portrait of a City Through the Centuries

By Rory MacLean,

Book cover of Berlin: Portrait of a City Through the Centuries

What is my book about?

Berlin is a city of fragments and ghosts, a laboratory of ideas, the fount of both the brightest and darkest designs of history's most bloody century. The once arrogant capital of Europe was devastated by Allied bombs, divided by the Wall, then reunited and reborn as one of the creative centers of the world. Today it resonates with the echo of lives lived. No other city has repeatedly been so powerful and fallen so low; few other cities have been so shaped and defined by individual imaginations.

Steppenwolf

By Hermann Hesse, Basil Creighton (translator),

Book cover of Steppenwolf

Like many readers of my generation, I discovered Hermann Hesse when I was in high school. I think my favorite back then was his Narcissus and Goldmund, but Steppenwolf was the book that really stuck with me, with its portrayal of midlife anxieties and grumpiness paired with wild yet strangely wise youth—both somehow seeking enlightenment. When rereading Steppenwolf as an adult, I also began to realize the extent to which it is a novel about the Weimar Republic, set during that brief, culturally vibrant period between postwar economic disaster (Germany suffered hyperinflation of approximately 29,500 percent in 1923) and Hitler’s rise to power. The generational fears and hopes, and morose “Steppenwolf” Harry Haller’s curious redemption or rediscovery of self through sex, jazz, and drugs, eventually inspired my own novel.


Who am I?

I’ve always been fascinated by our creative urges and ambitions, and by what makes us who we are and why we make the choices we do. While I’m interested in many aspects of human experience and psychology, from the mundane to the murderous, I’m especially drawn to narratives that probe our deeper psyches and look, particularly with a grain of humor, at our efforts to expand our understanding and create great works—or simply to become wiser and more enlightened beings. What is our place in the universe? Why are we here? Who are we? The books I’ve listed explore some of these matters in ways both heartfelt and humorous.


I wrote...

In Search of the Magic Theater

By Karla Huebner,

Book cover of In Search of the Magic Theater

What is my book about?

In Search of the Magic Theater, narrated alternately by the twentyish Sarah and the fortyish Kari, begins as something of a female version of Hermann Hesse’s renowned Steppenwolf. Why, the rather staid young cellist Sarah wonders, should her aunt rent their spare room to the perhaps unstable Kari Zilke? Like the nephew in Steppenwolf, Sarah finds herself taking an unexpected interest in the lodger, but Sarah is unable to stop at providing a mere introduction to Kari’s narrative of mid-life crisis and self-discovery, and develops her own more troubled tale of personal angst and growth, entwined with the account Kari herself purportedly left behind.

Germans Into Nazis

By Peter Fritzsche,

Book cover of Germans Into Nazis

Fritzsche shows here how, from 1914 to 1933, middle class Germans were welded into the political block that supported Hitler. Another spellbindingly original book – among other things, Fritzsche shows very persuasively that the Great Depression had little to do with the rise of Hitler – the Nazis’ recipe of egalitarian but nationalist politics was already doing its work before 1929.


Who am I?

I was a law school graduate heading for my first job when, unable to think of anything better to do with my last afternoon in London, I wandered through the First World War galleries of the Imperial War Museum. I was hypnotized by a slide show of Great War propaganda posters, stunned by their clever viciousness in getting men to volunteer and wives and girlfriends to pressure them. Increasingly fascinated, I started reading about the war and its aftermath. After several years of this, I quit my job at a law firm and went back to school to become a professor. And here I am.


I wrote...

The Death of Democracy: Hitler's Rise to Power and the Downfall of the Weimar Republic

By Benjamin Carter Hett,

Book cover of The Death of Democracy: Hitler's Rise to Power and the Downfall of the Weimar Republic

What is my book about?

Why did democracy fall apart so quickly and completely in Germany in the 1930s? How did a democratic government allow Adolf Hitler to seize power? In The Death of Democracy, Benjamin Carter Hett answers these questions, and the story he tells has disturbing resonances for our own time.

To say that Hitler was elected is too simple. He would never have come to power if Germany’s leading politicians had not responded to a spate of populist insurgencies by trying to co-opt him, a strategy that backed them into a corner from which the only way out was to bring the Nazis in. Hett lays bare the misguided confidence of conservative politicians who believed that Hitler and his followers would willingly support them, not recognizing that their efforts to use the Nazis actually played into Hitler’s hands. They had willingly given him the tools to turn Germany into a vicious dictatorship.

Art, Ideology, and Economics in Nazi Germany

By Alan E. Steinweis,

Book cover of Art, Ideology, and Economics in Nazi Germany: The Reich Chambers of Music, Theater, and the Visual Arts

This is one of the most influential studies of cultural politics in Nazi Germany which takes as its focus the bureaucracy Joseph Goebbels charged with integrating pre-National Socialist artists and their organizations into the new cultural and political order. Noteworthy, of course, throughout Steinweis’s masterpiece of institutional reconstruction, is the revelation that National Socialist aesthetic preferences were not novel but represented the appropriation of the prevailing conservative taste dominant in the late Weimar Republic.


Who am I?

I am a professor of English and Visual Culture at St. John’s University in New York. My research in recent years has focused on reexamining the fate of modernist art in Hitler’s Germany. I have chosen five books that have shaped our understanding of Nazi art and have new resonance with the present resurgence of fascism and authoritarian governments around the world.


I wrote...

Nostalgia for the Future: Modernism and Heterogeneity in the Visual Arts of Nazi Germany

By Gregory Maertz,

Book cover of Nostalgia for the Future: Modernism and Heterogeneity in the Visual Arts of Nazi Germany

What is my book about?

Based on previously unpublished sources and including more than 75 reproductions of paintings and sculptures not seen since the collapse of Nazi Germany, this book unearths the survival and repurposing of recognizable modernist styles in German art produced under the patronage of the Nazi Party and German government institutions—both before and after the infamous 1937 purge of “degenerate art” from state museums.  According to previous studies of Nazi art, this was not supposed to have happened!

The Coming of the Third Reich

By Richard J. Evans,

Book cover of The Coming of the Third Reich

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.


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.

Berlin

By Jason Lutes,

Book cover of Berlin

Jason Lutes spent decades creating this masterpiece—a graphic novel that brilliantly reconstructs life in Berlin in the years before Hitler became Chancellor. The characters are fully dimensional, a diverse and compelling collection of individuals, reeling from World War I, struggling to face the fall of Weimar and the cold hands of fascism tightening around their necks. This is a perfect melding of art, narrative, and political urgency that speaks eloquently to our perilous age.


Who am I?

I’m President of the Writers Guild Initiative, with a mission of giving a voice to populations not being heard (LGBT asylum seekers, exonerated death row prisoners, Dreamers, etc.). In our writing workshops I see how marginalized communities are deprived of their rights and how insidiously minority rule is seizing power. Fascism depends on demonizing the Other, which was weaponized during the Trump years and is exploding on the right. This issue animates my life and work as a writer, mentor, speaker, and teacher. In the USA, democracy is hanging by a thread. My book takes a deep dive into what this means for an American family over the next fifteen years.


I wrote...

It Happened Here

By Richard Dresser,

Book cover of It Happened Here

What is my book about?

In 2035, fourteen-year-old Louise is interviewing her family members to find out what went wrong—for the family and the nation. It seems both started falling apart around 2019. Then the 2020 elections were canceled, and the president remained in power for sixteen years. This is the story of one family divided by ideology, and of undying hope in the direst of circumstances.

In 1935, Sinclair Lewis challenged readers to imagine an America hijacked by a totalitarian president whose message was fueled by fear, division, and “patriotism.” Richard Dresser’s It Happened Here delivers a modern vision of just such an America. Told through the interwoven voices of eight different characters, it reveals how the Weeks family navigates the slow death of democracy in the country they all love.

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