In the latest issue:

Short Cuts: Wholesome Royal Gossip

Jonathan Parry

Real Men Go to Tehran

Adam Shatz

What Trump doesn’t know about Iran

Patrick Cockburn

Kaiser Karl V

Thomas Penn

The Hostile Environment

Catherine Hall

Social Mobilities

Adam Swift

Short Cuts: So much for England

Tariq Ali

What the jihadis left behind

Nelly Lahoud

Ray Strachey

Francesca Wade

C.J. Sansom

Malcolm Gaskill

At the British Museum: ‘Troy: Myth and Reality’

James Davidson

Poem: ‘The Lion Tree’

Jamie McKendrick


Jenny Turner

Boys in Motion

Nicholas Penny

Jia Tolentino

Lauren Oyler

Diary: What really happened in Yancheng?

Long Ling


Terms and Conditions

These terms and conditions of use refer to the London Review of Books and the London Review Bookshop website ( — hereafter ‘LRB Website’). These terms and conditions apply to all users of the LRB Website ("you"), including individual subscribers to the print edition of the LRB who wish to take advantage of our free 'subscriber only' access to archived material ("individual users") and users who are authorised to access the LRB Website by subscribing institutions ("institutional users").

Each time you use the LRB Website you signify your acceptance of these terms and conditions. If you do not agree, or are not comfortable with any part of this document, your only remedy is not to use the LRB Website.

  1. By registering for access to the LRB Website and/or entering the LRB Website by whatever route of access, you agree to be bound by the terms and conditions currently prevailing.
  2. The London Review of Books ("LRB") reserves the right to change these terms and conditions at any time and you should check for any alterations regularly. Continued usage of the LRB Website subsequent to a change in the terms and conditions constitutes acceptance of the current terms and conditions.
  3. The terms and conditions of any subscription agreements which educational and other institutions have entered into with the LRB apply in addition to these terms and conditions.
  4. You undertake to indemnify the LRB fully for all losses damages and costs incurred as a result of your breaching these terms and conditions.
  5. The information you supply on registration to the LRB Website shall be accurate and complete. You will notify the LRB promptly of any changes of relevant details by emailing the registrar. You will not assist a non-registered person to gain access to the LRB Website by supplying them with your password. In the event that the LRB considers that you have breached the requirements governing registration, that you are in breach of these terms and conditions or that your or your institution's subscription to the LRB lapses, your registration to the LRB Website will be terminated.
  6. Each individual subscriber to the LRB (whether a person or organisation) is entitled to the registration of one person to use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site. This user is an 'individual user'.
  7. The London Review of Books operates a ‘no questions asked’ cancellation policy in accordance with UK legislation. Please contact us to cancel your subscription and receive a full refund for the cost of all unposted issues.
  8. Use of the 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is strictly for the personal use of each individual user who may read the content on the screen, download, store or print single copies for their own personal private non-commercial use only, and is not to be made available to or used by any other person for any purpose.
  9. Each institution which subscribes to the LRB is entitled to grant access to persons to register on and use the 'subscriber only' content on the web site under the terms and conditions of its subscription agreement with the LRB. These users are 'institutional users'.
  10. Each institutional user of the LRB may access and search the LRB database and view its entire contents, and may also reproduce insubstantial extracts from individual articles or other works in the database to which their institution's subscription provides access, including in academic assignments and theses, online and/or in print. All quotations must be credited to the author and the LRB. Institutional users are not permitted to reproduce any entire article or other work, or to make any commercial use of any LRB material (including sale, licensing or publication) without the LRB's prior written permission. Institutions may notify institutional users of any additional or different conditions of use which they have agreed with the LRB.
  11. Users may use any one computer to access the LRB web site 'subscriber only' content at any time, so long as that connection does not allow any other computer, networked or otherwise connected, to access 'subscriber only' content.
  12. The LRB Website and its contents are protected by copyright and other intellectual property rights. You acknowledge that all intellectual property rights including copyright in the LRB Website and its contents belong to or have been licensed to the LRB or are otherwise used by the LRB as permitted by applicable law.
  13. All intellectual property rights in articles, reviews and essays originally published in the print edition of the LRB and subsequently included on the LRB Website belong to or have been licensed to the LRB. This material is made available to you for use as set out in paragraph 8 (if you are an individual user) or paragraph 10 (if you are an institutional user) only. Save for such permitted use, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt such material in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department.
  14. All intellectual property rights in images on the LRB Website are owned by the LRB except where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited. Save for such material taken for permitted use set out above, you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, post, reproduce, translate or adapt LRB’s images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the LRB. To obtain such permission and the terms and conditions applying, contact the Rights and Permissions department. Where another copyright holder is specifically attributed or credited you may not download, store, disseminate, republish, reproduce or translate such images in whole or in part in any form without the prior written permission of the copyright holder. The LRB will not undertake to supply contact details of any attributed or credited copyright holder.
  15. The LRB Website is provided on an 'as is' basis and the LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website will be accessible by any particular browser, operating system or device.
  16. The LRB makes no express or implied representation and gives no warranty of any kind in relation to any content available on the LRB Website including as to the accuracy or reliability of any information either in its articles, essays and reviews or in the letters printed in its letter page or material supplied by third parties. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) arising from the publication of any materials on the LRB Website or incurred as a consequence of using or relying on such materials.
  17. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability of any kind (including liability for any losses, damages or costs) for any legal or other consequences (including infringement of third party rights) of any links made to the LRB Website.
  18. The LRB is not responsible for the content of any material you encounter after leaving the LRB Website site via a link in it or otherwise. The LRB gives no warranty as to the accuracy or reliability of any such material and to the fullest extent permitted by law excludes all liability that may arise in respect of or as a consequence of using or relying on such material.
  19. This site may be used only for lawful purposes and in a manner which does not infringe the rights of, or restrict the use and enjoyment of the site by, any third party. In the event of a chat room, message board, forum and/or news group being set up on the LRB Website, the LRB will not undertake to monitor any material supplied and will give no warranty as to its accuracy, reliability, originality or decency. By posting any material you agree that you are solely responsible for ensuring that it is accurate and not obscene, defamatory, plagiarised or in breach of copyright, confidentiality or any other right of any person, and you undertake to indemnify the LRB against all claims, losses, damages and costs incurred in consequence of your posting of such material. The LRB will reserve the right to remove any such material posted at any time and without notice or explanation. The LRB will reserve the right to disclose the provenance of such material, republish it in any form it deems fit or edit or censor it. The LRB will reserve the right to terminate the registration of any person it considers to abuse access to any chat room, message board, forum or news group provided by the LRB.
  20. Any e-mail services supplied via the LRB Website are subject to these terms and conditions.
  21. You will not knowingly transmit any virus, malware, trojan or other harmful matter to the LRB Website. The LRB gives no warranty that the LRB Website is free from contaminating matter, viruses or other malicious software and to the fullest extent permitted by law disclaims all liability of any kind including liability for any damages, losses or costs resulting from damage to your computer or other property arising from access to the LRB Website, use of it or downloading material from it.
  22. The LRB does not warrant that the use of the LRB Website will be uninterrupted, and disclaims all liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred as a result of access to the LRB Website being interrupted, modified or discontinued.
  23. The LRB Website contains advertisements and promotional links to websites and other resources operated by third parties. While we would never knowingly link to a site which we believed to be trading in bad faith, the LRB makes no express or implied representations or warranties of any kind in respect of any third party websites or resources or their contents, and we take no responsibility for the content, privacy practices, goods or services offered by these websites and resources. The LRB excludes to the fullest extent permitted by law all liability for any damages or losses arising from access to such websites and resources. Any transaction effected with such a third party contacted via the LRB Website are subject to the terms and conditions imposed by the third party involved and the LRB accepts no responsibility or liability resulting from such transactions.
  24. The LRB disclaims liability to the fullest extent permitted by law for any damages, losses or costs incurred for unauthorised access or alterations of transmissions or data by third parties as consequence of visit to the LRB Website.
  25. While 'subscriber only' content on the LRB Website is currently provided free to subscribers to the print edition of the LRB, the LRB reserves the right to impose a charge for access to some or all areas of the LRB Website without notice.
  26. These terms and conditions are governed by and will be interpreted in accordance with English law and any disputes relating to these terms and conditions will be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales.
  27. The various provisions of these terms and conditions are severable and if any provision is held to be invalid or unenforceable by any court of competent jurisdiction then such invalidity or unenforceability shall not affect the remaining provisions.
  28. If these terms and conditions are not accepted in full, use of the LRB Website must be terminated immediately.

I spent the most formative time of my life, the years 1931-33, as a Gymnasiast and would-be Communist militant, in the dying Weimar Republic. Last autumn I was asked to recall that time in an online German interview under the title ‘Ich bin ein Reiseführer in die Geschichte’ (‘I am a travel guide to history’). Some weeks later, at the annual dinner of the survivors of the school I went to when I came to Britain, the no longer extant St Marylebone Grammar School, I tried to explain the reactions of a 15-year-old suddenly translated to this country in 1933. ‘Imagine yourselves,’ I told my fellow Old Philologians, ‘as a newspaper correspondent based in Manhattan and transferred by your editor to Omaha, Nebraska. That’s how I felt when I came to England after almost two years in the unbelievably exciting, sophisticated, intellectually and politically explosive Berlin of the Weimar Republic. The place was a terrible letdown.’

The cover of Eric Weitz’s excellent and splendidly illustrated Weimar Germany: Promise and Tragedy brings back memories.* It shows the old Potsdamer Platz long before its transformation into a ruin at the hands of Hitler and into Disneyland architecture in the reunified Germany. Not that daytime cafés full of men in trilbys like my uncle were the habitat of Berlin teenagers. We were more likely to think of boats on the Wannsee, a place not yet associated with planned genocide.

It is hard to remember, though Hitler made it the staple of his rhetoric in the ironic plethora of voting that took place in its last year, that the republic lasted only 14 years, and of these just six, sandwiched between a murderous birth-period and the terminal catastrophe of the Great Slump, had a semblance of normality. The massive international interest in it is largely posthumous, the consequence of its overthrow by Hitler. It was primarily this that raised the question of Hitler’s rise to power and whether it could have been avoided, questions that are still debated among historians. Weitz concludes, with many others, that ‘there was nothing inevitable about this development. The Third Reich did not have to come into existence,’ but his own argument drains most of the meaning out of this proposition. In any case, it was clear to those of us who lived through 1932 that the Weimar Republic was on its deathbed. The only political party specifically committed to it was reduced to 1.2 per cent of the vote and the papers we read at home debated what room there was in politics for its supporters.

It was also Hitler who produced the community of refugees who came to play a disproportionately prominent part in their countries of refuge and to whom Weimar’s memory owes so much. Certainly they were far more prominent, except in the world of ballet, than the much larger post-1917 Russian emigration. They may have made little impact on the old entrenched professions – medicine, law – but their impact on more open fields, and eventually on science and public life, was quite remarkable. In Britain émigrés transformed art history and visual culture, as well as the media through the innovations of Continental publishers, journalists, photographers and designers.

For the basic achievements of the Weimar Republic and the reasons non-Germans take an interest in it are not political but intellectual and cultural. The word today suggests the Bauhaus, George Grosz, Max Beckmann, Walter Benjamin, the great photographer August Sander and a number of remarkable movies. Weitz picks out six names: Thomas Mann, Brecht, Kurt Weill, Heidegger and the less familiar theorist Siegfried Kracauer and the artist Hannah Höch. One could as easily add, say, Carl Schmitt on the (rare) intellectual right, Ernst Bloch on the far left and the great Max Weber in the middle.

In 1933 only Thomas Mann and a few films had made much of a stir beyond the narrowest of niche-publics outside Central Europe, and possibly a small homosexual subculture which discovered the attractions of Berlin in the final Weimar years. Mann was, of course, an established master even before 1914. He won the Nobel Prize in 1929, though not for his Weimar masterwork, The Magic Mountain, so much as the more ancient Buddenbrooks. But who in England had heard of Franz Marc, whose blue horses adorned the corridor of my Gymnasium until the new regime removed them, together with our republican headmaster?

At that time Paris was the unquestioned capital of the visual arts, Vienna still the native home of both heavy and light music. German was not widely spoken in the West outside the transatlantic diaspora or read outside classical scholarship. Even today only German speakers recognise Brecht not just as a dramatist but as one of the great 20th-century lyric poets. About the only branch of Weimar literature that broke out of the Central European enclosure was the anti-war fiction of the late 1920s, headed by Remarque’s All Quiet on the Western Front. Naturally, it was filmed by Universal, the only Hollywood studio headed by a native German.

What, looking back, was so characteristic about the culture of a shortlived German republic that nobody had really wanted and most Germans accepted as faute de mieux at best? Every German had lived through three cataclysmic experiences: the Great War; the genuine, if abortive German revolution which overthrew the defeated Kaiser’s regime; and the Great Inflation of 1923, a brief manmade catastrophe that suddenly made money valueless. The political right, traditionalist, anti-semitic, authoritarian and deeply entrenched in the institutions carried over from the Kaiser’s Reich (I still remember the title of Theodor Plivier’s 1932 book, The Kaiser Went, the Generals Remained), refused the republic totally. It regarded Weimar as illegitimate, the Versailles Treaty as an undeserved national shame, and aimed at getting rid of both of them as soon as possible.

But almost all Germans, including the Communists, were passionately against Versailles and the foreign occupiers. I can still recall as a child seeing from the train the French flag flying on Rhineland fortresses, with a curious sense that this was somehow unnatural. Being both English and Jewish (I was ‘der Engländer’ at school) I was not tempted into the German nationalism of my schoolfriends, let alone into Nazism, but I could well understand the appeal of both to German boys. As Weitz shows, the authoritarian right was always the main danger both politically and, through their persistent and popular hostility to ‘Kulturbolschewismus’, culturally.

The major centrist thinkers – Mann, Max Weber, Walther Rathenau, none of them instinctive democrats, but urged on by fear of the gun-happy right – managed to justify a democratic republic as the necessary successor to an unrestorable Reich. So, of course, did the main parties of the system: the majority Social Democrats, who had not actually wanted the Kaiser to go, and the Catholic Centre, transformed by the revolution from a confessional pressure group into a government party. Beyond these the political left, shaped largely by revulsion against the Great War, shock at the failed revolution of 1918, and hatred of the old ruling class that survived it so well, was no less rejectionist than the right. Joined by half of the anti-war independent breakaway from the Social Democratic Party, the Communist Party acquired a mass base of intransigent working-class opposition. Large enough to block the fashioning of a lasting non-right Weimar regime, this left did not wish to contribute anything to its practical politics except disgust.

For understandable reasons creative artists, radicalised by the horrors of war and the hope and fury left behind by lost revolution, were attracted to it; indeed, there are Weimar figures whose lasting achievement rests primarily on the force of their distaste for the republic. Even genuine high talents like George Grosz and Kurt Weill ceased to be very interesting when, after 1933, they arrived in the US and felt at ease. This was even more the case with lesser talents among the Expressionist writers and artists moved by pain and outrage to find temporarily memorable ways to express humourless emotion at the top of their voices. It was partly against these that Weimar found the nearest thing to its own voice after the Great Inflation, hard-nosed, unsentimental, passionate but cabaret-cool, in the ‘Neue Sachlichkeit’ (‘New Sobriety’). For me, Weimar still speaks now, as it did in 1932, with the voice of Mahagonny and The Threepenny Opera, of Döblin’s Berlin Alexanderplatz, of the underrated Erich Kästner, or of the pawky political chansons of Erich Weinert.

But Weimar was more than a German phenomenon. Weitz, whose book is a superb introduction to its world, probably the best available, gets so many things about it right: not least the Berlin-centredness of Weimar culture, as distinct from pre-1914 Germany with its flourishing artistic centres in Munich and Leipzig. Yet he underestimates its role as a crucible for what after 1917 was the major generator of intellectual and artistic innovation: post-revolutionary Central and Eastern Europe. The prestige of Paris, ‘capital of the 19th century’, obscured the fact that it no longer had major innovations to offer between the wars except for Surrealism, itself largely derived from the multinational Dada of the Zurich Central European refugees.

With its seven thousand-plus periodicals, 38,000 books (in 1927) and the most formidable movie industry outside Hollywood, Germany was a vast market. With the fall of the Habsburg Empire it naturally absorbed the large surplus talent of what remained of Austria. Where would Weimar films be without Vienna, without Fritz Lang, G.W. Pabst, Wilder, Preminger or, for that matter, Peter Lorre? Its stable of stars – Conradt Veidt, Emil Jannings, Marlene Dietrich, Elisabeth Bergner – were trained under the Viennese Max Reinhardt, the chief influence on the German-language theatre business. In Berlin my family, themselves migrants from Vienna, went on living a social life largely centred on other Austrian expatriate relatives and friends.

For different but equally obvious reasons Germany was Russia’s major window to the west. Berlin was both the main centre of the anti-Soviet emigration and the first stop on the western excursions of the new Soviet intellectuals and artistic revolutionaries, some of whom published a multilingual review there. Nor indeed should we forget that, in vain expectation of the German revolution, the official language of the Comintern was not Russian but German.

Inevitably, this cultural mix fertilised Weimar and eventually Western culture. The Bauhaus was throughout its existence a collective of Germans, Austro-Hungarians, Russians, Swiss and Dutch. It is characteristic that what amounted to a ‘Constructivist international’, as John Willett described it, was set up by a collection of Hungarians, Dutch, Belgians, Romanians, Soviet Russians and Germans at a meeting in Weimar with prospective headquarters in Berlin. This was the culture that German émigrés imported into their countries of refuge.

The central international role of Weimar Germany in 20th-century science is equally easy to overlook. Einstein and Max Planck gave glory to Berlin, while Göttingen under Max Born was, with Cambridge, the catalyst of the revolution of quantum mechanics, the ‘boy physics’, whose communal idiom, like the language of international Communism, was German. Heisenberg, Pauli, Fermi, Oppenheimer, Teller all worked or studied there. The most dramatic evidence for the centrality of Weimar Germany are the 15 science Nobel Prizes won by Germans in its 14 years, a number it took the subsequent fifty years to equal.

This was the last time Germany was at the centre of modernity and Western thought. It might have held out better if the Weimar Republic had been followed not by Hitler’s wrecking crew but by a more traditional reactionary government. Yet in retrospect this option was as unreal as was the prospect of stopping Hitler’s rise by a comprehensive anti-Fascist union. The fact is that no one, right, left or centre, got the true measure of Hitler’s National Socialism, a movement of a kind that had not been seen before and whose aims were rationally unimaginable. Not even his intended victims fully recognised the danger. After the summer election of 1932 which left the Nazis as much the largest party, but short of a majority, the (Jewish) editor of the Tagebuch, a left-liberal weekly we took at home, published an article whose headline struck me even then as suicidal. I still see it before me: ‘Lasst ihn heran!’ (‘Why not let him in!’) A few months later, with very different intentions, the reactionaries around the aged President Hindenburg manoeuvred Hitler into office thinking that he could be controlled.

All attempts to make the Weimar Republic look more firmly established and stable, even before the world economic cataclysm broke its back, are historical whistling in the dark. It moved briefly through the debris of a dead but unburied past towards a sudden but expected end and an unknown future. For our parents it promised only an unrecoverable past, while we dreamed of great tomorrows; my ‘Aryan’ schoolmates in the form of a national rebirth, Communists like myself, as the universal revolution initiated in October 1917.

Even its few years of ‘normality’ rested on the temporary quiescence of a volcano that could have erupted at any time. The great man of the theatre, Max Reinhardt, knew this. ‘What I love,’ he said, ‘is the taste of transience on the tongue – every year might be the last.’ It gave Weimar culture a unique tang. It sharpened a bitter creativity, a contempt for the present, an intelligence unrestricted by convention, until the sudden and irrevocable death. Moments when one knows history has changed are rare, but this was one of them. That is why I can still see myself walking home from school with my sister on the cold afternoon of 30 January 1933, reflecting on what the news of Hitler’s appointment as chancellor meant. A few days later someone brought the duplicating machine of the SSB, my Communist schools organisation, to store under my bed. They thought it would be safer in the flat of a foreigner. But from now on nowhere was safe. Still, it was a strange and wonderful time in which to discover oneself and the world in a Berlin that looked like the potential capital of the 20th century, until the barbarians took over. When I go there today, I still feel it has never recovered from 1933.

Send Letters To:

The Editor
London Review of Books,
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

Please include name, address, and a telephone number.


Vol. 30 No. 3 · 7 February 2008

The (Jewish) editor of the Tagebuch who published the article ‘Lasst ihn heran!’ (‘Why not let him in!’) which struck the young Eric Hobsbawm as ‘suicidal’ was Leopold Schwarzschild, the most brilliant, but now largely forgotten German journalist of the interwar period (LRB, 24 January). Under his leadership the Tagebuch, which was founded by my great-grandfather Stefan Grossmann in 1920, provided the most substantive analyses of the last years of the Weimar Republic. When it returned as the Neue Tagebuch in Paris in July 1933, it quickly established itself as the leading exile publication and reported authoritatively and consistently on the preparations for war that had begun almost immediately after Hitler’s assumption of power. Indeed, Schwarzschild warned in the first issue of the Neue Tagebuch that ‘“war" was the only area in which the National Socialist movement was completely clear and unambiguous’ and therefore a ‘gradual, but unstoppable descent into some form of violent conflagration’ was inevitable.

He had recommended letting Hitler in in the wake of the regional elections in Prussia in April 1932, in which the NSDAP gained a 36.3 per cent share of the vote, not after the general election three months later as Hobsbawm claims. His argument, based on the premise that the basic democratic institutions of the republic were still intact (an important qualification), was that Hitler would be neutralised if he had to share responsibility for German economic and foreign policy. By the time the general election in the summer produced a 37.3 per cent share for the NSDAP, Franz von Papen was in the middle of dismantling the last vestiges of the Weimar Republic, having already, in breach of the constitution, dismissed the Prussian government. In those conditions any coalition with Hitler was unthinkable for Schwarzschild. In a sense, Hitler’s fortunes had already peaked, as demonstrated by his humiliation by Hindenburg in August and the electoral defeat suffered by the NSDAP in November 1932. As Schwarzschild argued in February 1933, Hitler was already beaten when victory was presented to him.

Andreas Wesemann
London E8

Vol. 30 No. 4 · 21 February 2008

I am puzzled by Eric Hobsbawm’s claim that ‘the prospect of stopping Hitler’s rise by a comprehensive anti-Fascist union’ was ‘unreal’ (LRB, 24 January). Hobsbawm undoubtedly understands the scope and limits of ‘counterfactual’ history far better than I do, but it seems to me that the combined strengths of the Social Democrats and the Communists – electorally, industrially and in street mobilisation – would have been adequate to block Hitler’s rise. Certainly the Social Democrat leaders were treacherous and murderous, but the Communist line of describing Social Democrats as ‘social fascists’ undermined any possibility of unity. Hobsbawm must surely recognise that his former comrades bear a large part of the responsibility for the tragic defeat of 1933.

Ian Birchall
London N9

Eric Hobsbawm refers to many well-known figures in literature, the arts and science whose work placed Weimar Germany ‘at the centre of modernity and Western thought’. A striking omission, as in many discussions of Weimar culture, is any mention of the pre-eminence of German research of that period in psychological as well as physical science, a pre-eminence that was shattered by Nazism and the Second World War. Whether or not Weimar’s political destruction by the Nazis was inevitable, there was nothing inevitable about the way in which the dominance of Gestalt theory and related anti-positivist approaches in the early interwar period was superseded by behaviourism. This was a consequence, not of a clash of paradigms within the academy, but of the destruction of Frankfurt’s world-renowned research programme and the persecution and flight of its leading representatives. Max Wertheimer found refuge, along with Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno, at the New School for Social Research in New York. They were Jewish, as were Kurt Koffka and Kurt Lewin, who also emigrated to the United States. Wolfgang Köhler, not Jewish, was forced to emigrate after defending his senior Jewish colleagues and junior colleagues accused of Communist sympathies. None of these scientists, in contrast to some émigré German physicists, ever had access to research resources in the US equivalent to those they had lost in Germany. German psychology of the 1930s prefigured many ideas current in modern cognitive science. The Nazis, having destroyed it, went on to refashion the discipline around eugenics and ‘race science’.

Chris Sinha
Havant, Hampshire

Eric Hobsbawm writes: To show that everybody underestimated Hitler before his appointment as chancellor of Germany 75 years ago, even his announced victims, I chose to quote the title of an editorial by Leopold Schwarzschild to the effect that, in the words of your correspondent Andreas Wesemann, ‘Hitler would be neutralised if he had to share responsibility for German economic and foreign policy’ (Letters, 7 February). I did so deliberately, since Schwarzschild was a Jew, deeply opposed to the Nazis and an intelligent and well-informed observer of the political scene. The argument that this was a less suicidal proposition because written after the Prussian elections of April 1932, when the Nazis scored 36.3 per cent of the votes and not (as I mistakenly wrote) the national elections three months later, when they scored 37.4, will not hold water. Hitler could certainly have been stopped in 1932 though not by ‘the basic democratic institutions of the republic’. Indeed, he was blocked by the right in the summer of 1932. But in January 1933 the nationalists and reactionaries may well have been encouraged by the Nazis’ electoral setback in November 1932 in their own suicidal belief that Hitler could be controlled as part of a coalition government of the right. They were mistaken.

Ian Birchall will agree that the Comintern’s lunatic thesis about the ‘social fascism’ of social democracy demonstrates that gross underestimate of the Nazis I noted in my piece. But, even if both sides had been ready for it, which they were not, it may be doubted whether in 1930-32 a common front of Communists and Social Democrats could actually have mobilised sufficient support, let alone force, to stop Hitler coming to power.

Vol. 30 No. 5 · 6 March 2008

Chris Sinha notes incorrectly that Max Horkheimer and Theodor Adorno found refuge at the New School for Social Research in New York during the 1930s (Letters, 21 February). In fact, Horkheimer, as the director of the Institute of Social Research, had arranged to lease a building from Columbia University and the Frankfurt Institute relocated to Morningside Heights for approximately ten years. Ideologically, the Institute diverged significantly from the New School – and it was better financed, which, as Martin Jay has written, ‘exacerbated’ the differences between the two institutions.

Joshua Rahtz
New York

send letters to

The Editor
London Review of Books
28 Little Russell Street
London, WC1A 2HN

Please include name, address and a telephone number

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.