The Weimar Republic, born in 1919 amid the chaos of Germany’s defeat in war and
humiliation at the Versailles Congress, died in 1933 with the Nazis’ ascent to power. Its brief
life included spectacular advances in culture and science as Berlin became the global center
of art, music, film and nuclear physics. It experienced devastating inflation and spectacular
recovery, then the Great Depression. National life—most dramatically Berlin’s streets—was
the stage for the struggle of democracy against revolutionary communism and National
Socialism. The actors included many of the century’s great personalities and movements,
such as Albert Einstein, Bert Brecht, Fritz Lang, Marlene Dietrich, Bauhaus and, ultimately,
Adolph Hitler. The seminar will examine history, politics, culture and social trends, while
asking was the grim end of this fruitful and dramatic period inevitable; and what lessons may
it hold for our own turbulent times.
Required reading: Before the Deluge: A portrait of Berlin in the 1920’s, Otto Friedrich, 1972
(ISBN: 978-0060113728); or Weimar Germany—Promise and Tragedy, Eric D. Weitz, 2013
(ISBN: 978-0691157962). A film will be offered on at least one evening.
After graduation from Princeton and Harvard Law School, Jon Greenwald served 30 years in
the U.S. Foreign Service, the bulk of it in Europe, including East Berlin as the Wall fell and ending with
the Mission to the European Union. He taught diplomacy and foreign policy at Lawrence as the Scarff
Professor, 1998–1999, coordinated foreign policy for Bill Bradley’s presidential campaign (2000),
then served as vice president of the International Crisis Group, the Brussels-based conflict prevention
organization, for 16 years. He has taught frequently at Björklunden. He presently leads a project to bring
youths from conflict zones—beginning with Israelis and Palestinians—to study together at top U.S. and
other prep schools.