|© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013|
|Brandenburger Tor – Berlin – 1920s|
Germany, and Berlin in particular, were exceptionally fertile ground for intellectuals, artists, and innovators from many fields during the Weimar Republic years.
In response to the shortage of pre-war accommodation and housing, tenements were constructed not very far from the Kaiser’s Stadtschloss and all the other majestic structures. People used their backyards and basements to run small shops, restaurants, workshops and haulage carts.
|Berlin – 1920s|
Office workers, managers, and bureaucrats increased their share of the labour market from 10.3% to 17% over the same period. Germany was slowly becoming more urban and middle class.
During the era of the Weimar Republic, Germany became a center of intellectual thought at its universities, and most notably social and political theory (especially Marxism) was combined with Freudian psychoanalysis to form the highly influential discipline of Critical Theory – with its development at the Institute for Social Research (also known as the Frankfurt School) founded at the University of Frankfurt am Main.
The most prominent philosophers with which the so-called ‘Frankfurt School’ is associated were Erich Fromm, Herbert Marcuse, Theodor Adorno, Walter Benjamin, Jürgen Habermas and Max Horkheimer.
|Das Kätzchen von Schrödinger
© Peter Crawford 2012
Werner Karl Heisenberg (5 December 1901 – 1 February 1976) was a German theoretical physicist who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1932 “for the creation of quantum mechanics”. Heisenberg, along with Max Born and Pascual Jordan, set forth the matrix formulation of quantum mechanics in 1925. In 1927 he published his uncertainty principle, upon which he built his philosophy and for which he is best known. He also made important contributions to the theories of the hydrodynamics of turbulent flows, the atomic nucleus, ferromagnetism, cosmic rays, and subatomic particles. Considerable controversy surrounds his work on atomic research during World War II.
Mathematical aerodynamics was founded by Ludwig Prandtl before WW I (by understanding boundary layers and progressing calculation in the down stream direction).
|Messerschmitt Me 262 Schwalbe|
A striking example of this is the Messerschmitt Me 262, which was designed in 1939, but resembles a modern jet transport more that it did other tactical aircraft of its time.
Physician Magnus Hirschfeld established the ‘Institut für Sexualwissenschaft’ (Institute for Sexology) in 1919, and it remained open until 1933.
The early twentieth century was a period of wrenching changes in the arts.
In the visual arts, such innovations as cubism, Dada and surrealism – following hot on the heels of symbolism, post-Impressionism and Fauvism – were not universally appreciated. The majority of people in Germany, as elsewhere, did not care for the new art which many resented as elitist, morally suspect, and too often incomprehensible.
Under the Weimar government of the 1920s, Germany emerged as a leading centre of the avant-garde – the birthplace of Expressionism in painting and sculpture, of the atonal musical compositions of Arnold Schoenberg, and the jazz-influenced work of Paul Hindemith and Kurt Weill.
Robert Wiene’s ‘Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari’ (1920), and F.W. Murnau’s ‘Nosferatu’ (1922), brought Expressionism to cinema.
Neue Sachlichkeit is a term used to characterize the attitude of public life in Weimar Germany as well as the art, literature, music, and architecture created to adapt to it. Rather than some goal of philosophical objectivity, it was meant to imply a turn towards practical engagement with the world—an all-business attitude, understood by Germans as intrinsically American: “The Neue Sachlichkeit is Americanism, cult of the objective, the hard fact, the predilection for functional work, professional conscientiousness, and usefulness.”
The term was originally the title of an art exhibition staged by Gustav Friedrich Hartlaub, the director of the Kunsthalle in Mannheim, to showcase artists who were working in a post-expressionist spirit, but it took a life of its own, going beyond Hartlaub’s intentions. As these artists rejected the self-involvement and romantic longings of the expressionists, Weimar intellectuals in general made a call to arms for public collaboration, engagement, and rejection of romantic idealism.
The movement essentially ended in 1933 with the fall of the Weimar Republic and the rise of the NSDAP to power.
|Entartete Kunst Exhibition|
Artists gravitating towards this aesthetic defined themselves by rejecting the themes of expressionism, romanticism, fantasy, subjectivity, raw emotion and impulse—and focused instead on precision, deliberateness, and depicting the factual and the ‘real’.
The National Socialists viewed the culture of the Weimar period with disgust.
Their response stemmed partly from a conservative aesthetic taste, and partly from their determination to use culture as a propaganda tool.
For the National Socialists, the model for the arts was to be classical Greek and Roman art, seen by Hitler as an art whose exterior form embodied an inner racial ideal.
The Jewish and left wing nature of all art that was indecipherable, distorted, or that represented depraved subject matter was explained through the concept of degeneracy, which held that distorted and corrupted art was a symptom of an inferior race.
By propagating the theory of degeneracy, National Socialism combined their anti-Semitism with their drive to control the culture, thus consolidating public support for both campaigns.
Modern art was seen as an act of aesthetic violence by the Jews against the German spirit (Deutsch Geistes).
This group was established in the aftermath of the November beginning of the German Revolution of 1918–1919, when Communists, anarchists and pro-republic supporters had fought in the streets for control of the government.
The group also had chapters throughout Germany during its existence, and brought the German avant-garde art scene to world attention by holding exhibits in Rome, Moscow and Japan.
In Germany, Richard Huelsenbeck established the Berlin group, whose members included Jean Arp, John Heartfield, Wieland Hertzfelde, Johannes Baader, Raoul Hausmann, George Grosz and Hannah Höch.
Kurt Schwitters established his own solitary one-man Dada “group” in Hanover, where he filled two stories of a house (the Merzbau) with sculptures cobbled together with found objects and ephemera, each room dedicated to a notable artist friend of Schwitter’s.
|Wassily Chair – Bauhaus|
Bauhaus-style designs are distinctive, and synonymous with modern design.
Marcel Lajos Breuer (22 May 1902 Pécs, Hungary – 1 July 1981 New York City), was a Hungarian-born modernist, architect and furniture designer of Jewish descent. One of the masters of Modernism, Breuer displayed interest in modular construction and simple forms.
Known to his friends and associates as Lajkó, Breuer studied and taught at the Bauhaus in the 1920s. The Bauhaus curriculum stressed the simultaneous education of its students in elements of visual art, craft and the technology of industrial production. Breuer was eventually appointed to a teaching position as head of the school’s carpentry workshop. He later practiced in Berlin, designing houses and commercial spaces. In the 1920s and 1930s, Breuer pioneered the design of tubular steel furniture. Later in his career he would also turn his attention to the creation of innovative and experimental wooden furniture.
|Wagenfeld Lamp WG25
Wilhelm Wagenfeld (* 15 April 1900, Bremen, Germany — † 28 May 1990, Stuttgart, Germany) was an important German industrial designer of the 20th Century, disciple of Bauhaus. He designed glass and metal works for the Jenaer Glaswerk Schott & Gen., the Vereinigte Lausitzer Glaswerke in Weißwasser, Rosenthal, Braun GmbH and WMF. Some of his designs are still produced until these days. One of his classics is a table lamp, known as Wagenfeld Lampe, 1924, which he designed together with Karl J. Jucker. In cooperation with Charles Crodel his works found their way in exhibitions and museums.
|Adolf Loos – Villa Karma 1906
Precursor to Albert Speer ?
The origins of Weimar design and architecture are to be found in the works and writings of Adolf Franz Karl Viktor Maria Loos (10 December 1870 – 23 August 1933), who was an Austrian architect.
He was influential in European Modern architecture, and in his essay ‘Ornament and Crime’ he repudiated the florid style of the ‘Vienna Secession’, with the Austrian version of Art Nouveau.
In this and many other essays he contributed to the elaboration of a body of theory and criticism of Modernism in architecture.
Ornament and Crime in no way reflects his architectural style.
|Adolf Loos – Table|
Loos authored several polemical works.
‘In Spoken into the Void’, published in 1900, Loos attacked the Vienna Secession, at a time when the movement was at its height.
In his essays, Loos used provocative catchphrases and has become noted for one particular essay/manifesto entitled ‘Ornament and Crime’, spoken first in 1910.
In this essay, he explored the idea that the progress of culture is associated with the deletion of ornament from everyday objects (?), and that it was therefore a crime to force craftsmen or builders to waste their time on ornamentation that served to hasten the time when an object would become obsolete.
Loos’ stripped-down buildings influenced the minimal massing of modern architecture, and stirred controversy.
|Adolf Loos – Villa Karma 1906|
|Pendant Light – Adolf Loos|
Perhaps surprisingly, some of Loos’s own architectural work was elaborately decorated, although more often inside than outside, and the ornamented interiors frequently featured abstract planes and shapes composed of richly figured materials, such as marble and exotic woods.
The visual distinction is not between complicated and simple, but between “organic” and superfluous decoration.
Loos was also interested in the decorative arts, collecting sterling silver and high quality leather goods, which he noted for their plain yet luxurious appeal.
He also enjoyed fashion and men’s clothing, designing the famed Kníže of Vienna, a haberdashery.
His admiration for the fashion and culture of England and America can be seen his short-lived publication ‘Das Andere’, which ran for just two issues in 1903 and included advertisements for ‘English’ clothing.
|Bauhaus Building – Model|
Walter Adolph Georg Gropius (May 18, 1883 – July 5, 1969) was a German architect and founder of the Bauhaus School, who, along with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe, is widely regarded as one of the pioneering masters of modern architecture.
Gropius is remembered not only by his various buildings but also by the district of Gropiusstadt in Berlin. In the early 1990s, a series of books entitled The Walter Gropius Archive was published covering his entire architectural career.
|Glass Pavilion – Cologne Werkbund|
Bruno Julius Florian Taut (4 May 1880, Königsberg, Germany – 24 December 1938, Istanbul), was a prolific German architect, urban planner and author active during the Weimar period.
Taut is known best for his theoretical work, speculative writings and the buildings he designed. Taut’s best-known single building is the prismatic dome of the Glass Pavilion for the Cologne Werkbund Exhibition (1914). His sketches for the publication “Alpine Architecture” (1917) are the work of an unabashed Utopian visionary, and he is classified as a Modernist. Much of Taut’s literary work in German remains untranslated into English.
|Kaufhaus Schocken – Department Store – Chemnitz|
Erich Mendelsohn (21 March 1887 – 15 September 1953) was a Jewish German architect, known for his expressionist architecture in the 1920s, as well as for developing a dynamic functionalism in his projects for department stores and cinemas. Erich Mendelsohn was born in Allenstein (Olsztyn), East Prussia. He was the fifth of six children; his mother was a hatmaker and his father a shopkeeper. He attended a humanist Gymnasium in Allenstein and continued with commercial training in Berlin. At the end of 1918, upon his return from World War I, he settled his practice in Berlin. The Einsteinturm (Einstein Tower), Potsdam, Berlin established his reputation. In 1924, along with Ludwig Mies van der Rohe and Walter Gropius, he was one of the founders of the progressive architectural group known as Der Ring. His practice employed as many as forty people, among them, as a trainee, Julius Posener, later an architectural historian. Mendelsohn’s work encapsulated the consumerism of the Weimar Republic, most particularly in his shops: most famously the Schocken Department Store
|Mies van der Rohe
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe (born as Maria Ludwig Michael Mies; March 27, 1886, Aachen – August 17, 1969, Chicago) was a German-American architect.
He is commonly referred to, and was addressed, as Mies, his surname.
|Mies van der Rohe|
Mies van der Rohe – Barcelona Pavilion
Mies, like many of his post-World War I contemporaries, sought to establish a new architectural style that could represent modern times just as Classical and Gothic did for their own eras. He created an influential twentieth century architectural style, stated with extreme clarity and simplicity. His mature buildings made use of modern materials such as industrial steel and plate glass to define interior spaces. He strived towards an architecture with a minimal framework of structural order balanced against the implied freedom of free-flowing open space.
He called his buildings “skin and bones” architecture. He sought a rational approach that would guide the creative process of architectural design. He is often associated with the aphorisms “less is more” and “God is in the details”.
The architecture of Mies is in fact a continuation, using modern materials, of the neo-classical revival of the late nineteenth century.
|Fritz Mayer – The Hall of Honour – 1929 – Nuremberg|
During the Weimar Republic (1919–1933), the City of Nuremberg had a monument erected, to commemorate the 9,855 Nuremberg soldiers killed in World War I.
The design was by architect Fritz Mayer. A rectangular yard is adjacent to the arcaded hall, with a row of pillars carrying fire bowls on either side. Lord Mayor Hermann Luppe officially opened the hall in 1930.
Hans Poelzig (30 April 1869 Berlin – 14 June 1936 Berlin) was a German Jewish Left-Wing architect, painter and set designer.
In 1903 he became a teacher and director at the Breslau Academy of Art and Design (Kunst- und Gewerbeschule Breslau; today Wrocław, Poland).
From 1920-1935 he taught at the Technical University of Berlin (Technische Hochschule Berlin).
After finishing his architectural education around the turn of the century, Poelzig designed many industrial buildings. He designed the 51.2 m tall Upper Silesia Tower in Posen (today Poznań) for an industrial fair in 1911. It later became a water tower. He was appointed city architect of Dresden in 1916.
He was an influential member of the Deutscher Werkbund.
Poelzig was also known for his distinctive 1919 interior redesign of the Berlin Grosses Schauspielhaus for Weimar impresario Max Reinhardt
He was also renowned for his vast architectural set designs for the 1920 UFA film production of ‘The Golem: How He Came Into the World’.
|‘The Golem: How He Came Into the World’|
(Poelzig mentored Edgar Ulmer on that film; when Ulmer directed the 1934 film noir Universal Studios production of ‘The Black Cat’, he returned the favor by naming the architect-Satanic-high-priest villain character “Hjalmar Poelzig”, played by Boris Karloff.)
With his Weimar architect contemporaries like Bruno Taut and Ernst May, Poelzig’s work developed through Expressionism and the New Objectivity in the mid-1920s before arriving at a more conventional, economical style.
|I.G. Farben Building|
In 1927 he was one of the exhibitors in the first International Style project, the Weissenhof Estate in Stuttgart.
Poelzig’s single best-known building is the enormous and legendary I.G. Farben Building, completed in 1931 as the administration building for IG Farben in Frankfurt am Main.
In 1933 Poelzig served as the interim director of the Vereinigte Staatsschulen für freie und angewandete Kunst (United State School for Fine and Applied Art), after the expulsion of founding director Bruno Paul by the National Socialists. Poelzig died in Berlin in June 1936.
Writers such as Alfred Döblin, Erich Maria Remarque and the brothers Heinrich and Thomas Mann presented a bleak look at the world, and the failure of politics and society through literature.
Mann’s diaries, unsealed in 1975, tell of his struggles with his homosexuality, which found reflection in his works, most prominently through the obsession of the elderly Aschenbach for the 14-year-old Polish boy Tadzio in the novella ‘Der Tod in Venedig’ (Death in Venice – 1912).
His works also present other sexual themes, such as incest in ‘Wälsungenblut’ (The Blood of the Walsungs) and ‘Der Erwählte’ (The Holy Sinner).
Balancing his humanism and appreciation of Western culture, was his belief in the power of sickness and decay to destroy the ossifying effects of tradition and civilisation. Hence the “heightening” of which Mann speaks in his introduction to ‘Der Zauberberg’ (The Magic Mountain).
‘Der Zauberberg’ was first published in November 1924. It is widely considered to be one of the most influential works of 20th century German literature.
|Cabaret – Tomorrow Belongs to Me|
The two novellas are set in Berlin in 1931, just as Adolf Hitler was moving into power. Berlin is portrayed by Isherwood during this transition period of cafes and quaint avenues, grotesque night-life and dreamers, and powerful mobs and millionaires.
‘The Berlin Stories’ was the starting point for the John Van Druten play ‘I Am a Camera’, which in turn went on to inspire the film ‘I Am a Camera’, as well as the stage musical and film versions of ‘Cabaret’.
The character Sally Bowles is probably the best-known character from ‘The Berlin Storie’s because of her later starring role in the ‘Cabaret’ musical and film, although in ‘The Berlin Stories’, she is only the main character of one short story in ‘Goodbye to Berlin’.
Probably the most significant poet of the Weimar period was Stefan George.
Maximilian Kronberger, known familiarly as Maximin (April 15, 1888 — April 16, 1904), was a German poet and a significant figure in the literary circle of Stefan George (the so‑called George‑Kreis).
Although George was never a member of the NSDAP, his later works paved the way for the acceptance of National Socialist philosophy in upper class, intellectual circles.
“Das Moritat von Mackie Messer”, (The Ballad of Mack the Knife) is a song composed by Kurt Weill with lyrics by Bertolt Brecht for their music drama ‘Die Dreigroschenoper’. It premiered in Berlin in 1928 at the Theater am Schiffbauerdamm. The song has become a popular standard.
A moritat (from mori meaning “deadly” and tat meaning “deed”) is a medieval version of the murder ballad performed by strolling minstrels.
In ‘Die Dreigroschenoper’, the moritat singer, with his street organ, introduces and closes the drama with the tale of the deadly Mackie Messer, a character based on the dashing highwayman Macheath in John Gay’s ‘The Beggar’s Opera’ (who was in turn based on the historical thief Jack Sheppard). The Brecht-Weill version of the character was far more cruel and sinister, and has been transformed into a modern anti-hero.
Ernst Toller (1 December 1893 – 22 May 1939) was a German-Jewish, left-wing playwright, best known for his Expressionist plays, and serving as President of the short-lived Bavarian Soviet Republic, for six days.
The republic was short-lived and was defeated by right-wing forces. Toller was imprisoned for five years for his part in the revolution.
Toller committed suicide by hanging on May 22, 1939.
Agitprop theatre is a named through a combination of the words “agitation” and “propaganda”.
Richard Georg Strauss (11 June 1864 – 8 September 1949) was undoubtedly the leading German composer of the late Romantic and early modern eras.
His significant works of the Weimar period were:
‘Film music for Der Rosenkavalier’ (1925), and the operas ‘Die Frau ohne Schatten’ (1919), ‘Intermezzo’ (1923), ‘Die ägyptische Helena’ (1927), ‘Arabella’ (1932).
Strauss continued to compose into the era of the Third Reich and beyond (he died in 1949).
Hans Erich Pfitzner (5 May 1869 – 22 May 1949) is undeservedly less well known. He was a German composer and self-described anti-modernist.
His own music — including pieces in all the major genres except the symphonic poem — was respected by contemporaries such as Gustav Mahler and Richard Strauss.
Pfitzner’s works combine Romantic and Late Romantic elements with extended thematic development, atmospheric music drama, and the intimacy of chamber music.
His greatest work of the period was the romantische Kantate ‘Von deutscher Seele’ (Of the German Soul) (1921).
During this period he also composed a ‘Sonata in e-minor for Violin and Piano’ Op. 27 (1918), and his ‘String Quartet [Nr. 3] in C-Sharp minor’ (1925).
Other Orchestral works composed during the Weimar period include the ‘Piano concerto in E-flat Major’ (1922), the ‘Violin Concerto in b-minor’ (1923) and the Symphony in C-sharp Minor (1932).
|Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari|
‘Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari’ (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari) (1919), directed by Robert Wiene, is usually credited as the first, and one of the greatest German expressionist film.
|Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari|
‘Das Cabinet des Dr. Caligari’ (The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari) is a 1920 German silent horror film directed by Robert Wiene from a screenplay by Hans Janowitz and Carl Mayer. It is one of the most influential of German Expressionist films and is often considered one of the greatest horror movies of the silent era. The film used stylized sets, with abstract, jagged buildings painted on canvas backdrops and flats. These unique sets gave off somewhat of a theatrical sense. To add to this strange style, the actors used an unrealistic technique that exhibited jerky and dancelike movements. This movie is cited as having introduced the twist ending in cinema.
|Dr. Mabuse der Spieler|
Director Fritz Lang created perhaps the most globally well-known cinema examples of German Expressionism.
‘Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler’ is the first film in the Dr. Mabuse series, about the character Doctor Mabuse who featured in the novels of Norbert Jacques. It was directed by Fritz Lang and released in 1922. The film is silent and filmed mostly 16 frames per second.
It is about four hours long and divided into two parts: Der große Spieler: Ein Bild der Zeit and Inferno: Ein Spiel um Menschen unserer Zeit. The title, Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler, is plurivalent. Der Spieler means the player in German, and can be translated as the gambler, the actor, or the puppeteer. Dr. Mabuse, who disguises, plays with emotions and tricks other people, is probably all of them in some sense.
The film is included in the book 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, being the first of five Lang films to be entered.
|Metropolis – the Workers|
|Metropolis – Rotwang|
Metropolis is a 1927 German expressionist science-fiction film directed by Fritz Lang. The film was written by Lang and his wife Thea Von Harbou, and starred Brigitte Helm, Gustav Fröhlich, Alfred Abel and Rudolf Klein-Rogge. A silent film, it was produced in the Babelsberg Studios by UFA.
Metropolis is set in a futuristic urban dystopia, and follows the attempts of Freder, the wealthy son of the city’s ruler, and Maria, whose background is not fully explained in the film, to overcome the vast gulf separating the class structured nature of their city.
|Metropolis – ‘Head and Hand’|
The significant theme of Metropolis is the conflict between intellectual and practical form of working – reflected in the modes of operation of the capitalist owners of production and the workers who bring the ideas of the owners into fruition and actuality.
In the climax to the film, Freder acts as the intermediary between his father, Joh Fredersen, and the leader of the workers – encouraging the two former adversaries to symbolically shake hands – and therefore uniting capital and labour.
This intermediary figure can be seen as a precursor of Adolf Hitler who, in 1933, united capital and labour in the ‘Volksgemeinschaft’.
|Dr. Joseph Goebbels|
Reichsminister Volksaufklärung und Propaganda, Dr. Joseph Goebbels, was impressed, and took the film’s message to heart. In a 1928 speech he declared that “the political bourgeoisie is about to leave the stage of history. In its place advance the oppressed producers of the ‘head and hand’, the forces of Labour to begin their historical mission“
Metropolis was filmed in 1925, at a cost of approximately five million Reichsmarks.
The appearance of the city in Metropolis is strongly informed by the Art Deco movement; however it also incorporates elements from other traditions. The architecture featured in Metropolis is eclectic and represents both functionalist modernism and art deco, whilst also featuring the scientist’s archaic little house, with its high-powered laboratory, and the catacombs and the Gothic cathedral. The film’s use of art deco architecture was highly influential, and has been reported to have contributed to the style’s subsequent popularity in Europe and America.
|Universum Film AG – UFA
© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013
Universum Film AG, better known as UFA or Ufa, is a film company that was the principal film studio in Germany, home of the German film industry during the Weimar Republic and through World War II, and a major force in world cinema from 1917 to 1945. After World War II, UFA continued producing movies and television programmes to the present day, making it the longest standing film company in Germany.
UFA was created during November 1917 in Berlin as a government-owned producer of World War I propaganda and public service films.
It was created through the consolidation of most of Germany’s commercial film companies, including Nordisk and Decla.
Decla’s former owner, Erich Pommer, served as producer for the 1920 film ‘The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari’, which was not only the best example of German Expressionism and an enormously influential film, but also a commercial success.
|UFA-Palast am Zoo|
During the same year, UFA opened the UFA-Palast am Zoo theatre in Berlin.
During the Weimar years the studio produced and exported an enormous, accomplished, and inventive body of work. Only an estimated 10% of the studio’s output still exists. Famous directors based at UFA included Fritz Lang and F.W. Murnau; under chief producer Erich Pommer the company created landmark films such as ‘Dr. Mabuse’ (1922), ‘Metropolis’ (1927), and Marlene Dietrich’s first talkie, ”Der blaue Engel’ (1930).
These films were produced at Filmstudio Babelsberg, located in Potsdam-Babelsberg, Berlin.
|‘The Threepenny Opera’ – 1931|
When the popular musical ‘The Threepenny Opera’ was filmed by director Georg Pabst, he filmed the first version with a French-speaking cast (1930), then a second version with a German-speaking cast (1931).
‘Der blaue Engel’ (The Blue Angel) (1930), directed by Josef von Sternberg with the leads played by Marlene Dietrich and Emil Jannings, was filmed simultaneously in English and German (a different supporting cast was used for each version).
|Der Blaue Engel|
‘Der blaue Engel’ is a 1930 film directed by Josef von Sternberg and starring Emil Jannings, Marlene Dietrich and Kurt Gerron. Written by Carl Zuckmayer, Karl Vollmöller and Robert Liebmann – with uncredited contributions by von Sternberg – based on Heinrich Mann’s 1905 novel Professor Unrat (“Professor Garbage”), and set in Weimar Germany, ‘Der blaue Engel’ presents the tragic transformation of a man from a respectable professor to a cabaret clown, and his descent into madness. The film is considered to be the first major German sound film, and brought Dietrich international fame. In addition, it introduced her signature song, Friedrich Hollaender and Robert Liebmann’s ‘Ich bin von Kopf bis Fuß auf Liebe eingestellt’ (Falling in Love Again – Can’t Help It).
Karl Gustav Vollmöller, (May 7, 1878 – October 18, 1948) was a German playwright and screenwriter.
He is most famous for two works, the screenplay for the celebrated 1930 German film ‘Der Blaue Engel’ (The Blue Angel), which made a star of Marlene Dietrich, and ‘Das Mirakel’ (The Miracle), which he wrote in collaboration with Max Reinhardt.
Science Fiction in the Wiemar Republic
One fitting example of this is found in a German film that was thought lost forever.
Only recently a copy of this film, entitled ‘Wunder Der Schöpfung’ (The Miracle Of Creation), has been found.
|‘Wunder Der Schöpfung’ – 1927|
‘Wunder Der Schöpfung’ was to be, in the words of one critic, UFA’s greatest achievment.
UFA put itself more and more in the mind-frame necessary for its most ambitious project yet: Fritz Lang’s ‘Metropolis’, that was relased in 1927, two years after ‘Wunder Der Schöpfung’. Contrary to ‘Metropolis’ that obtained only a lukewarm reception, ‘Wunder Der Schöpfung’ was a tremendous hit.
It still is a remarkable film with for that time highly ingenious and elaborate special effects.
In the context of Germany’s Kulturfilm phenomenon, ‘Wunder der Schöpfung’ was among the greatest achievements of the 1920s.
The production was constructed, rehearsed, and shot over a period of two and a half years, under the supervision of Hanns Walter Kornblum.
The idea to describe the universe and man’s place in it well suited UFA’s Grossfilm mentality, one year before ‘Metropolis’.
Hundreds of skilled craftsmen participated in the project, building props and constructing scale models drawn by 15 special effects draughtsmen, while 9 cameramen in separate units worked on the historical, documentary, fiction, animation, and science-fiction sequences.
Without star roles or even protagonists, the film’s plot is crowded with meticulously structured and skillfully acted single scenes an artful mosaic of small vignettes.
No less than four credited university professors ensured the factual background behind the scientific and historical events portrayed.
The film’s symbol of progress and the new scientific era is a spacecraft, travelling through the Milky Way, making all the planets and their inspiring worlds familiar to us, with the extravaganza of their distinctive features.
There is also a general feeling amongst connoisseurs that certain scenes might have served as a template for Stanley Kubrick’s 2001.
In the film a German scientific team travels through the universe in a spacecraft that serves as the symbol of progress and an age of new technologies, explaining all that is to be seen. ‘Wunder Der Schöpfung’ was not meant as lighthearted science fiction
Instead, the film that was meant as an educational device begun in 1923.
‘Jetzt gehort und Deutschland, morgen das ganse Sonnensystem’ (Now Germany belongs to us, tomorrow the whole solar system), as thetrilogy coyly states, is the apt slogan.
One could, perhaps, remark that, since Germany had lost most of its colonies, space formed the final formidable frontier.
One author who envisioned the path to solar conquest in the dream-tanks of the Third Reich was Walter Heichen (1876 – 1970).
His ‘Jenseits der Stratosphäre. Erlebnisse zwischen Mond und Erde. Eine Erzählung für die Jugend’ (On the Other Side of the Stratosphere. Experiences between the Moon and the Earth. A Story for the Youths) was published in 1931 and was reprinted in 1939 as ‘Luftschiff im Weltenraum’ (Airship in Space).
Heichen, who lived in Berlin, already had published propaganda lecture to kindle pattriotic interest during the outbreak of the First World War.
During the Third Reich his pattriotism adhered to the National Socialist cause.
In Heichen’s book, the protagonists travel to the planet of Sigma, where they encounter highly developed humanoids.
Heichen died in Berlin in 1970.
In 1925, a chronically ill and impoverished engineer in Vienna devoted himself entirely to space travel.
|‘Das Problem der Befahrung des Weltraums –
Herman Potočnik (1892 – 1929), published in 1928 his only book, ‘Das Problem der Befahrung des Weltraums – der Raketen-motor’ (The Problem of Space Travel, the Rocket Motor) was published.
The Verein für Raumschiffahrt also published a magazine titled ‘Die Rakete’ (The Rocket), from 1927 till 1929,
Gernsback, born in 1884 as Gernsbacher, at ten years of age was an insatiable reader.
At that time he found a translation of Percival Lowell’s ‘Mars as the Abode of Life’.
He devoured the book and went into a delirious phase that lasted two days, during which he rambled almost non-stop about the Martians and their technology, a theme to which he would return in later years.
This experience would prove a pivotal point in the life of young Gernsbacher.
In 1904, then still named Gernsbacher, he went to the United States and changed his name into Gernsback. There he would come to know inventors like Tesla, de Forrest, Fessenden and Grindell-Matthews.
Gernsback would also publish an impressive list of science fiction magazines and coin the very phrase ‘science fiction’.
As such, a case is to be made for Germany as the birthplace of 20th century weird and science fiction magazine publishing.
Recent years have seen the emergence of information about a crashed UFO in the Black Forrest in 1936, which was spirited away by the SS.
There it was to be dismantled and dilligently studied by members of the Vril Society.
|‘Algol’ – 1920 – UFA|
The possibility of alien technology that has fallen into the hands of a select group, was already the subject of a film in Germany in 1920.
Just two years after the defeat of Germany in the First World War, a little known silent film was released.
Entitled ‘Algol’, it tells the story of a superior extraterrestrial from the Dogstar, who donates incredible technology that enables a wealthy industrialist to enslave the world by this free energy device.
Lost for decades, copies of the film have surfaced in recent years.
The first image is of the alien being, poised far away in the eternal blackness of the universe. The second the industrialist poised over the weird extraterrestrial technology.
One wonders how a film like ‘Algol’ helped transform the ancient intelligences, the angelic beings and the demons of old, into alien entities from far away planets. All in the strange and feverish undercurrents of the German occult.
As a group, they were collectively known as part of the ‘Lebensreform’, (Life Reform), movement.
Nacktkultur, called naturalism or modern nudism in English, became popular in northern Germany in particular as part of the Lebensreform utopian projects.
German Nacktkultur, or Freikörperkultur (free body movement), refers to a network of clubs that promoted nudism as a way of linking the modern body more closely to nature, giving it a freer presence in the great outdoors. Heinrich Pudor (Heinrich Scham, 1865–1943) supposedly coined the term Nacktkultur around 1903. His book Nacktende Mensch (1893) and the three-volume Nacktkultur (1906) established an enduring, if not accurate, link between Nacktkultur, vegetarianism, social reform, and racial hygiene (including anti-Semitism).
However, Rothschuh claims that Nacktkultur first appeared in Germany in the 1870s, along with the animal protection, vegetarian, and natural healing movements. Nudity was an important feature of Freikörperkultur well before World War I, and the idea of nudity as a healthful activity apparently owed something to the medical profession’s efforts to combat such diseases as tuberculosis with what before the war was called ‘Luft und Licht Therapie’ (air and light therapy) or ‘Heliotherapie’. As late as 1922 a Munich film-maker Robert Reinert, released a film (‘Nerven’) that concluded with scenes of nude bodies in the mountains finally cured of neurasthenic ailments contracted in a decadent urban environment.
Associated with Nacktkultur and Lebensreform was the Wandervogel.
|Wandervogel auf dem Gipfel|
Wandervogel is the name adopted by a popular movement of German youth groups from 1896 onward.
The name can be translated as ‘rambling, hiking or wandering bird’ (differing in meaning from “Zugvogel” or migratory bird), and the ethos is to shake off the restrictions of society and get back to nature and freedom.
Soon the groups split and there originated ever more organisations, which still all called themselves Wandervogel, but were organisationally independent.
Nonetheless the feeling was still of being a common movement, but split into several branches.
|Nacktkultur – Junge|
The Wandervogel movement was officially established on 4 November 1901 by Herman Hoffmann Fölkersamb, who in 1895 had formed a study circle at the boys’ Berlin-Steglitz grammar school where he was teaching.
The Wandervogel soon became the pre-eminent German youth movement.
It was a ‘back-to-nature’ youth organization emphasizing freedom, self-responsibility, and the spirit of adventure, and took a nationalistic approach, stressing Germany’s Teutonic roots.
After World War I, the leaders returned disillusioned from the war.
The same was true for leaders of ‘German Scouting’.
So both movements started to influence each other heavily in Germany.
From the Wandervogel came a stronger culture of hiking, adventure, bigger tours to farther places, romanticism and a younger leadership structure.
Scouting brought uniforms, flags, more organization, more camps and a clearer ideology. There was also an educationalist influence from Gustav Wyneken.
|Hitlerjugend auf Parade|
Together this led to the emergence of the Bündische Jugend.
The ‘Wandervogel’, ‘German Scouting’ and the ‘Bündische Jugend’ together are referred to as the ‘German Youth Movement’.
They had been around for more than a quarter of a century before National Socialists began to see an opportunity to take over some methods and symbols of the German Youth Movement to use it in the ‘Hitler Youth’ to influence the young.
This movement was very influential at that time.
Its members were romantic and prepared to sacrifice a lot for their ideals.
|© Copyright Peter Crawford 2013|
Many groups within the movement were ‘anti-semitic’ or close to the government of the Third Reich.
From 1933 the German Government subsumed the ‘Wandervogel’, ‘German Scouting’, the ‘Jungenschaft’, and the ‘Bündische Jugend’, along with most youth groups independent into the Hitler Youth.
Hitler-Jugend (Hitler Youth – abbreviated HJ) was a paramilitary organization of the Third reich. It existed from 1922 to 1945.
The HJ was the second oldest paramilitary National Socialist group, founded one year after its adult counterpart, the Sturmabteilung (SA). It was made up of the Hitlerjugend proper, for male youth ages 14–18; the younger boys’ section Deutsches Jungvolk for ages 10–14; and the girls’ section Bund Deutscher Mädel (BDM, the League of German Girls).