“Neue Sachlichkeit”: a view of Berlin in the 1920’s decade

Lifestyle, Special

The more obscure was the Weimar Republic’s politics, the more brilliant and full of a peculiar glamour was the art and culture of that time in Germany, especially in Berlin.

Free from every kind of censorship, artists broke the boundaries of the previously forms and structures, developing a bourgeois culture, mixed with the decadent culture of the 1920 decade which suffered a lot after the World War I had ended in 1918, with the fall of the german monarchy.

It was a time of cultural radicalism and vanguards experiments, in which the Expressionism in Theater and Painting had a huge relevance on representing, artistically ,humans as ”puppets“, as “machines“ controled by society, in order to tease what was left of the German Reich’s time, headed by King William Kaise II.

Politics and culture were merged, communist ideas started to spring up and“afect” the culture of the “Golden german years”, in which artists such as Käthe Kollwitz, illustrated in her work a culture derived from the working class people as a way to represent what reality was really about. Such movement became known as “Neue Sachlichkeit”, or “ New objectiviity”.

As in theater, with audacious and interactive plays, social criticism stated to appear in the works of Zuckmayer in “Der fröhliche Weinberg“ (The happy Weinberg, 1925) and in Der Hauptmann von Köpenick“ (The captain of Köpenick, 1930). Moreover, such criticism created a sort of leftist political theater trough the works of Bertold Brechtin in Die Dreigroschenoper“ (The Threepenny Opera), based on a very modern and sophisticated social criticism.

In literature, Thomas Man,, Egon Erwin Kisch, Ludwig Renn, among others, brought to life the literary coffees and even gave women the opportunity to join them. Especially Berlin, the city where “everything happenned”, with its several theaters, shops, coffees, movie theaters and night clubs, had a great importance to the history of the Weimar Republic and places such as the Romanische Café, located inf front of the Kaiser-William-Gedächtniskirche church, in Schöneberg, ( the European Center, nowadays) was one of the favorite places for writers of the golden years to attend. Since Berlin had then in 1928, 4,3 millions of habitants, anonymity was a fact that helped in the development of women and, therefore, of a new life which had nothing of the old “paterns“ of society. Women started to attend not only to universities but pubs, coffees, literary circles and even began to be portrayed as literary characters.

Special attention should be given to Vicki Baum, who created through her literature, the figure of the Neue Frau (the new woman) – an urban female figure, who was part of f the mass, modern and urban culture. The actress Marlene Dietrich who got out of Berlin to head to Hollywood also had a great importance with her leading role in “The blue Angel”, and her success not even Hitler was able to stop. Moreover, the stages in Berlin were all occupied by jazz, the Cahrleston and Cabaret plays and nothing could stop this cultural development which was also related to sexual freedom, so far never experienced in German. Life was good to live, and Berlin just kept growing, making the city, if it wasnt’t for Paris, the biggest touristic center of Europe.

And it’s obvious that behind this material, spiritual and artistic rising was an economic global crisis, resulting in the crack of New York’s stock market. And so, artists such as Alfred Döblin (“Berlin Alexanderplatz” 1929), Erich Kastner (“Fabian, the Story of a Moralist” 1931), Hanns Fallada (“Little Man, What Now?” 1931), illustrated the suffering and daily struggle of people who were trying to survive during the crisis.

Therefore, the working class’s culture, which was everything but simple, was now an inspiration for art and gave more access to the political conflict between communists and nazis, creating a revolutionary war of ideas that were trying to get across on stages, screens and literature, and that suddenly ending up with the rise of nazism to power in 1933.

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Vivi Gnutzmann

Visual Merchandiser and Window Displayer by choice, Vivi is graduated in Fashion Design, Literature and German. Nowadays she works with Online Marketing, Social Media and as a translator. A handywoman is a way to define her, who is still studying, even though she doesn’t know exactly where that will take her in the future. In her personal blog, writes about bathrooms but wishes to do it more frequently because writing is one of her passions. If she had to pick a soundtrack for her life at this moment would be from Drive’s OST, who recently has replaced “Echo & The Bunnymen”. Is passionate about music, art, german literature, cinema and Berlin, the city she calls home these days.

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