by Detlev J.K. Peukert ‧ RELEASE DATE: May 1, 1992
Peukert, who died in 1990 at age 39, also wrote Inside Nazi Germany: Conformity, Opposition and Racism in Everyday Life. This new book is not quite everyday life under the Weimar Republic, but it does shift the emphasis from the doings of a few old men--the military elite who handed the country over to Hitler--to the prevailing anguish among all classes of Germans during the 12 years the Republic survived. Peukert sums up this anguish as ""the crisis of classical modernity."" He notes that, since 1870, Germany had already been subjected to an accelerated process of modernization: industrialization, urbanization, bureaucratization, rationalization of daily life. Dislocations that were mild and bearable under the prosperous empire became killers in the Weimar years, after military defeat and with two horrendous economic crises in ten years. Weimar, in short, was not something completely new in German history. It was more of the same under impossible conditions. Peukert offers new angles on the period, all designed to show that it wasn't some fatal flaw in the German character that produced Hitler, but a series of complex problems all striking at once. Demographics, for example: A baby boom in 1900-10 flooded the job market just at the start of the Depression, and the Nazis recruited heavily among these young unemployed. Peukert also points out surprising continuities between Weimar and what followed. Laws against abortion and homosexuality never came off the books in those supposedly freewheeling years. Women who were married weren't supposed to work, were even fired from civil-service jobs. Nazi race madness was anticipated by a concern for eugenics by both the right and the left, going back decades. Writing to amplify and correct other historians, Peukert is dense, allusive, and sometimes crabbed. This is definitely not Weimar for beginners, and perhaps is best read as part of Germany's process of VergangenheitsbewÃ„ltigung--coming to terms with the past. Or as a warning of how long stretches of hard times can bring out the worst in people.
Pub Date: May 1, 1992
Page Count: 352
Publisher: Hill & Wang/Farrar Straus & Giroux
Review Posted Online: N/A
Kirkus Reviews Issue: April 15, 1992
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