Princes, Counts and Racists

David Blackbourn

  • Weimar: From Enlightenment to the Present by Michael Kater
    Yale, 463 pp, £25.00, August 2014, ISBN 978 0 300 17056 6

In March 1932, Thomas Mann visited Weimar in central Germany. For the last thirty years of the 18th century, this modestly sized town was home to Goethe, Schiller, Herder and Wieland, but by the 1930s it had become a hotbed of the radical right. ‘The admixture of Hitlerism and Goethe affects one strangely,’ Mann wrote in ‘Meine Goethereise’. ‘Of course, Weimar is a centre of Hitlerdom. Everywhere you could see Hitler’s picture etc in the National Socialist newspapers on exhibit. The town was dominated by the type of young person who walks through the streets vaguely determined, offering the Roman salute.’ Cultural greatness in decline and the juxtaposition of Goethe with Hitler – these are the two narrative axes along which Michael Kater tells the story of Weimar.

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