Weimar Republic


Weimar Republic
   German Jews made important contributions in the short-lived Weimar Republic (1918–1933). Following Germany’s defeat in World War I, the victorious Allies abolished the monarchy and “imposed” a democratic form of government on the German people. The draft of the liberal constitution was written by Hugo Preuss, who was a Jew, one of many who were active in the wide spectrum of Weimar political parties and ideologies. Under the constitution, the Jews of Germany received full equality in the democratic republic.
   It was not in politics alone, however, that Jews made their mark in the Weimar Republic. Although only about 1 percent of the population, Jews were visible in the arts, professions, commerce, and overall culture that made Weimar synonymous with modernism. It was also the visibility of the Jews in public life that made them easy targets for the anti-Semitic nationalist political parties that flourished in Germany during the period of the Weimar Republic.
   Politics: A survey of some of the more prominent Jews involved in the politics of the Weimar Republic would include, in addition to Hugo Preuss, Walter Rathenau, a German-Jewish nationalist, who served as foreign minister in 1922 and was subsequently murdered by right-wing terrorists. Despite Rathenau’s impeccable conservative credentials and his total alienation from the German Jewish community, he was despised by the right who manifested their hatred of him in a popular couplet: “Shoot down that Walter Rathenau / That cursed, goddamned Jewish sow.”
   The fear of a communist revolution in Germany was linked to Jews because some of the leaders associated with Bolshevism in both the Soviet Union and Germany were Jews. In particular, Rosa Luxemburg, a nominal Jew, was a leader of the Sparticist League, which called for a Soviet-style revolution in Germany. In Bavaria, Kurt Eisner, the minister-president, was a Jew with perceived “leftish” tendencies. He was assassinated by Count Arco-Valley, a member of the Thule Society, because one of the requirements of this neo-Nazi organization was to perform an act that would prove one worthy of membership. The assassin believed that Eisner and his Independent Socialists were responsible for all of Germany’s troubles. Adolf Hitler was successful in attracting followers to the Nazi Party because of the willingness of large numbers of people to believe that the Jews sought to turn Germany into a Bolshevik state.
   Commerce: Jews were prominent as bankers in Weimar Germany. Almost half of all private banks were owned by Jewish banking families such as the Mendelssohns, Bleichroders, and Schlesingers. Jews, however, were not owners of the important banks, although some of the largest of these types of banks employed Jewish managers. Arthur Salomonsohn, for example, directed the Disconto-Gesellschaft and was instrumental in forging the merger with the Deutsche Bank before his death in 1930, thus creating the main DD bank. Jews were also identified with the leading department stores such as Wertheim, Tietz, and Kaufhaus Israel. In 1932, Jews accounted for 79 percent of all such business enterprises. Professional life: Jews were represented in all aspects of publishing. Ullstein and Mosse, for example, was one of the leading pub lishing houses in Weimar Germany. In medicine, Jews constituted approximately 11 percent of all physicians in Germany in 1933. Jews accounted for more than 16 percent of all lawyers and notaries public. In Berlin, where Jews numbered about 5 percent of the city’s population, more Jews than non-Jews practiced law.
   Cultural and intellectual life: A quarter of all Nobel Prizes that had been awarded to Germans by 1933 were won by Jews. In the arts, music, science, literature, theater, and film, Jews made important contributions to Weimar culture. A list of Jews whose names were familiar to the public would include such artists and intellectuals as Martin Buber, Albert Einstein, Fritz Haber, Max Lieberman, Max Reinhardt, Bruno Walter, Kurt Weil, and Richard Willstatter. If we add Austrian Jews, such as Sigmund Freud, the list becomes even more impressive.

Historical dictionary of the Holocaust. . 2014.

Look at other dictionaries:

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  • Weimar Republic — noun /ˈvaɪmɑː(r) rɪˈpʌblɪk/ The democratic government of Germany between the abdication of in 1919 and the assumption of power by in 1933 …   Wiktionary