Because of its prominence in the European history of the twentieth century, it’s tempting to consider the Nazionalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeitpartei (German National Socialist Workers Party) more powerful then all the other right-wing movements of its time. In fact, it was a very small, mostly regional, not very influential party for most of Weimar history. What really singled it out from all the other similar movements was its leader: Adolf Hitler.
The republican time saw the birth of a myriad of political entities with right inclinations, both parties and movements. In 1920 alone, at least 74 of these parties could be counted on the political scene and among them the NSDAP (with a different name at the time), which had been founded on January 5, 1919 in Munich.
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The Space Race is a fascinating time; it’s one of superpower competition and cutting-edge technology that ended up transforming the world by way of escaping its gravitational pull. Reading about it, and the big personalities that drove it, feels almost like standing there in that crowd in Cape Canaveral, sensing the quaking ground brought on by blazing rocket fuel.
World War II, as us alternate historians know very well, is also a fascinating time. It’s perhaps the purest good-versus-evil in the history of the twentieth century, with heroes and villains that seem out of an ancient epic poem. It was also a time of great technological change, when the dream of flight gave birth to the nightmares of Dresden and Coventry and Tokyo. It was a war of tanks and bombers, of rubber and steel. It was a war where a lab in New Mexico led to entire cities being destroyed in moments.
Given their proximity to one another, it feels almost obvious that one could combine the two. That’s exactly what Allen Steele has done in his novel V-S Day.
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You have to make an effort to escape Harry Potter. Decades after the publication of the first book, the setting is still going strong. And, like many big franchises, it is riddled with steam- and dieselpunk elements. Which is what we are going to talk about today.
Continue reading “A Wizarding World Full of ‘Punk”
Life in the Weimar Republic, and more prominently in Berlin, seemed to be fast moving toward the future. Avant-garde movements of every kind were almost the norm. Social mores were evolving toward equality (between men and women, between minorities and the German population at large) and new ideas were quick to take root, then change once more.
World War I had been a dramatic caesura with the past. Young people no longer recognized the values and ways of life of their parents. They were reckless and ready to adopt new values and lifestyles.
But this picture, while true, might be misleading. Life in Berlin and a few other big cities was fast and furious, but the rest of the country was far slower to catch up. In large areas of the nation, people were far less receptive of change when they were not outright against it.
Besides, even in the big cities, “memory” was still a strong ideal. The strict Wilhelmine values and ways of life were still appreciated and followed. The modernistic art movements, the new behaviors of the youth, not to mention the shockingly free attitude of the new woman — all of this was destroying everything good and German and was therefore considered unpatriotic. The old values had led Germany to her greatness before the war. Those values would bring her back to prominence. This was certainly one of the great advantages the right had on the left: while the left tried to create a new, unknown future, the right was calling for a return to something people knew all too well.
Continue reading “Memory”
It can sometimes feel we’ve run out of ground to cover in terms of World War II fiction. To the untrained yet experienced eye, the likes of Band of Brothers (2001) and Saving Private Ryan (1998) may appear to have told all there is to tell, at least about the American war in Europe. (Other theaters are sadly underutilized. I’d like to see more about Burma and the Philippines, to name just two.)
Books including Anthony Doerr’s All the Light We Cannot See (2014) and Markus Zusak’s The Book Thief (2015) have somewhat shaken up the genre. But there is still room for innovation.
Enter The Liberator, an animated limited series on Netflix concerning Felix Sparks, a man who led a battalion of men from Oklahoma to Italy, France and Germany. In terms of setting, it’s fairly well-trod ground, but in presentation it is quite new.
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When we think about the Weimar Republic, most likely we think about the time of right-wing power. Certainly, many authoritarian forces were at work in the republic, but this was also the time of a left government, one that shaped the social life of Germany profoundly.
The Weimar Republic was a relatively short experience in the history of Germany. It may even be true that the republic was too weak and unloved to ever be successful. But it was still the first democratic regime of Germany, the first time left ideas got out of the rooms of philosophers to get into the thick of everyday life.
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The Weimar Republic is often considered one of the most remarkably energetic periods in the artistic history of humanity, a roaring surge of modernism in all fields of arts, where experimentation was the norm. For a glorious, if all too short, period over the “Golden 1920s” and the first part of the 1930s, while Germany went through one of the most troubling political and economic times in her history, Berlin was one of the most exciting places in Europe where an artist could be. Possibly in the world.
Continue reading “Kulturbolschewismus”
9‘s marketing can make this animated film by Shane Acker seem deceptively childish. It revolves, after all, around talking rag dolls. But the movie can get disturbingly dark in a conceptual, atmospheric way that is absolutely unnerving.
The world of 9 is a post-apocalyptic hellscape with barely a sign of life. It is a world brought about by overuse of resources and man’s creations turning against him. This is a land of bombed-out houses and abandoned factories, where wreckage litters the cracked remnants of boulevards. It is a nightmare, one so awful there is no human left to dream at all.
Watch closely and it appears 9 is set in a dieselpunk world, where certain technological advances in the interwar era brought wrack and ruin to the world in a way reminiscent of, but in some ways scarier than, the firebombs and atomic weapons of World War II. At least those left survivors.
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Hungarian artist Tari Márk Dávid recreates icon midcentury pictures as well as posters and scenes from the ultimate dieselpunk game, BioShock (our review here and more BioShock art here).
Continue reading “The Art of Tari Márk Dávid”
The Weimar Republic’s relation with Jews was contradictory at best. On the one hand, the republic was a first time of full citizenship for the German Jewish people, who became a driving force in the political and cultural life of Weimar. But on the other, it was during the republic’s time that antisemitism rose to upsetting levels.
Continue reading “Jews”