Weimar Germany


That’s why Germans panic on hearing the word “inflation”

Hyperinflation during the early period of the Weimar Republic:

  • January 31, 1920: 1 US-Dollar = 42 Reichsmark (RM)
  • October 21, 1922: 1 US-Dollar = 4,439 RM
  • January 31, 1922: 1 US-Dollar = 49,000 RM
  • August 8, 1923: 1 US-Dollar = 4,860,000 RM
  • September 7, 1923: 1 US-Dollar = 53.000.000 RM
  • October 3, 1923: 1 US-Dollar = 440.000.000 RM
  • October 11, 1923: 1 US-Dollar = RM
  • October 22, 1923: 1 US-Dollar = RM
  • November 3, 1923: 1 US-Dollar = 418.950.000.000 RM
  • November 9, 1923: 1 US-Dollar = 628.500.000.000 RM
  • November 15, 1923: 1 US-Dollar = RM

People were burning the banknotes in the oven because the paper heated more than the coal they were able to buy with the money.

“The corpses of 40 inmates of Buchenwald abandoned by German guards in a truck outside the camp crematorium on April 18th, 1945.”

-America At War In Color

My great grandpa, Ralph Fox, was in the U.S. 76th division which was among the first troops to arrive at the liberation of Buchenwald. He’s in this photo as well as others from that day.


Cool Schienenzeppelin (Rail Zeppelin) railcar from 1929

Designed by railroad engineer Franz Friedrich Kruckenberg, the propeller-driven experimental railcar only made a few test drives, reaching 230.2 km/h on June 21, 1931, which remained the speed record for a rail vehicle until 1954. It is still the land speed record for a petrol-driven rail vehicle.

Safety concerns about the rotating propeller in direct vicinity of passengers standing on the platform and the fact that the vehicle could neither pull additional coaches nor drive backwards nor be coupled to any other powered vehicle to be maneuvered backwards led to the redesign of the railcar in 1932, in which the aircraft engine was coupled to a then revolutionary hydraulic transmission system powering the front wheels. The propeller was removed and replaced by an aerodynamic cone. In 1934, the original petrol engine was replaced by a diesel engine.

As the hydraulic transmission was still in the prototype stage and quite unreliable, the railcar was never put into regular service and finally scrapped in 1939.

The concept of a hydraulically powered railcar / train with the engine in a front compartment and the driver’s cab on top lived on in the pre-war prototype 137 155, and the post-war classes VT11.5 (West Germany) and VT18.16 (East Germany).

(pictures from Wikimedia Commons)

Max Beckmann, The Night, 1919 (Kunstsammlung Nordrhein-Westfalen, Düsseldorf).

J. M. Bernstein writes:

The cruelty of abstraction, its cutting into the flesh of sensuousness in order to enact such sensuousness, engages us on the ground of our bodily mortality, which the reigning universals eclipse as a condition for meaning. The disturbance, distress, suffering of the material surface - just that - that these canvases perform (on and to us) are a way of calling back and voicing sensuous reality in its mortal coils, of recalling or inventing an experience of depth of transcendence that hangs on nothing more than our bodily habitation of a material world in which all things pass away.


A Gritty Weimar Portrait of Youth Gangs, Restored to Renewed Acclaim


When Nazi students burned proscribed books all over Germany in 1933, a compact work of fiction by a writer named Ernst Haffner went up in smoke along with the writings of Thomas Mann, Robert Musil and Sigmund Freud.

“Jugend auf der Landstrasse Berlin” (“Youth on the Road to Berlin”) had been published the previous year to considerable acclaim for its unsparing look at a gang of down-and-out teenagers in Berlin. “I have rarely read a description of this milieu that is so grippingly written,” the journalist and cultural critic Siegfried Kracauer wrote in The Frankfurter Zeitung. “If a film should ever be made of it, the public will get an object lesson that goes far beyond the usual gangland movie.”

No film was ever made. After 1933, the book and the author sank into oblivion and remained there until a small German press, MetroLit, reissued the novel in 2013 under the title “Blood Brothers.” It created a sensation at the Frankfurt Book Fair, and went on to harvest rapturous reviews in the German press. For many German readers, it seemed as though a time capsule had been unearthed, transmitting a live report from the final days of the Weimar Republic.

All the more intriguing, then, that the novel, which is to be published on March 3 in the United States by Other Press in a translation by Michael Hofmann, had lain hidden for so many years. “Not even scholars interested in the Weimar Republic had this book on their radar screen,” said Erhard Schütz, a professor at Humboldt University in Berlin and the author of “Novels of the Weimar Republic.” “Even though, in the 1980s, I researched and wrote about the problem of destitute youth in Weimar novels, I never came across Haffner’s name or the novel.”

No photograph of Ernst Haffner exists. Only a few scraps of biographical information survive. Kracauer, in his review, referred to Haffner as “a journalist who has long plied the area between Alexanderplatz and the Silesian Railway Station” (now the Ostbahnhof) — in other words, the poor and working-class neighborhoods in the eastern part of Berlin.

There is speculation that Haffner might have been a social worker. An official city registry puts him in Berlin between 1925 and 1933, and in 1938 he was summoned to the office of the culture ministry of the Third Reich.

That is it. In an article on the novel, the German newspaper Bild am Sonntag asked readers to send in any information they might have about the author’s fate. There has been no response.

The novel resurfaced in the late 1970s when it caught the eye of Rolf Lindner, a cultural sociologist doing research on youth gangs in Berlin. “Haffner’s book was by far the best written of the contemporary literature on the question of unemployed, delinquent youth at the end of Weimar,” he said.