Book analysis - Essay Example

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Craig states emphatically that the Weimar period is second to none in German history, in terms of its contribution to science and the humanities. The primary reason why…
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Germany 1866-1945 by Gordon A. Craig What qualities does Gordon Craig identify in his of Weimar Culture? Were they undermined or undone under the Nazi regime?
The authorial perspective towards the general culture of the Weimar years has overall been a favorable one. Craig states emphatically that the Weimar period is second to none in German history, in terms of its contribution to science and the humanities. The primary reason why this was possible was the spirit of Republicanism that was steadfastly upheld by the regime. Artists and intellectuals were given the freedom and encouragement to express themselves, without any obligation to come to the State’s rescue in the future course. Unfortunately, this situation unraveled in the wake of the Great Depression in the USA (with domino effects on economies of Europe) and all the erstwhile enemies of republicanism and democracy joined ranks. This then, is how the glorious Weimar years came to an end. The ensuing political vacuum and the attendant opportunism saw the assumption of Adolf Hitler as the Fuhrer. But sadly, Nazi Germany saw the greatest degree of intolerance toward intellectual or political dissent.
2. Is Gordon Craig correct in describing Weimar Germany as the cradle of modernity?
Weimar Germany represented the cradle of modernity for Western Civilization in more than one way. There are many high points during the early decades of twentieth century Germany. This is especially true with respect to art and literature, which are identified with the birth of Expressionism, Bauhaus architecture, discoveries in the Physics of Relativity, the naissance of Quantum Physics, Atonality in music (as pioneered by Arnold Schoenberg), Sigmund Freud and the Psychoanalysis movement, Sociology of Knowledge, etc. Before the rise of Hitler Germany boasted some of the leading luminaries in the fields of science and art, including de Broglie, Albert Einstein, Max Planck, Carl Gustav Jung and Alfred Adler. Where these intellectuals differed from earlier generations of scientists and philosophers is in making their esoteric intellectual pursuits accessible to the lay readership.
3. Amid widespread censorship and crushing of dissent during the Hitler years, were there yet notable countercurrents? How exactly did artists and intellectuals cope with mounting political suppression?
Although German culture under the Nazis suffered radical decline, one cannot yet doubt the unique merits of poets such as Rilke, George and Benn. Likewise, amid the looming political darkness were the bright spots offered by the novels of Mann, Hermann Hesse and Doblin. In theatre too, Expressionism made its mark as a new genre. Likewise, Arnold Schoenberg took modernity in music to new heights. In the realm of philosophy we have had the great insights of Frederick Nietzsche and Martin Heidegger brought back to the limelight. It was a pity though that most artists and intellectuals who found themselves not conforming to the political orthodoxy of the day were imprisoned, with the possibility of execution. It is in this stifling atmosphere of censorship and control that important intellectuals such as Schoenberg, Hannah Arendt, Bertolt Brecht and Theodor Adorno exiled out of the country. Other prominent figures include Erika Mann, Thomas Mann, Max Brod and Arnold Zweig. Unfortunately, some others such as Stefan Zweig and Ernst Weiss resorted to suicide fearing persecution.

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Craig, Gordon A. Germany 1866 – 1945. New York, Oxford: Oxford University, 1976 Read More
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