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With a Passion for Reason: Celebrating the Constitution in Weimar Germany

  • Manuela Achilles (a1)

It has long been held that Weimar democracy lacked the symbolic appeal necessary to bind collective sentiment and to win popular support. While recent revisionist histories of Weimar politics and culture take their cue from Peter Fritzsche's argument that “Weimar is less a cumulative failure than a series of bold experiments,” the turn toward new approaches and perspectives is uneven and incomplete even in those studies that avoid conflating the fragility of Weimar democracy with the overall lack or absence of democratic identifications. Detlev Peukert, while admonishing his readers not to minimize the Weimar experiment in democracy, also argues that the first German republic had no founding ritual, and that this absence in national history attests to a general lack of legitimacy. Eric Weitz, in his eloquent survey of the republic's promises and tragedy, has little to say about the proponents and forms of Weimar democratic culture. Thomas Mergel, who shows that the Weimar parliament was marked by a cooperative atmosphere of pragmatic republicanism, attributes to the republican Left a certain tendency “toward a rationalistic understanding of politics, toward the underestimation of the emotional attachment to a flag.” This assessment is entirely in line with the earlier claim that the rationalistic optimism (Gotthard Jasper) of the republican forces led to a “consequential underestimation of the integrative power of state symbols” (Klaus Wippermann).

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Peter Fritzsche , “Did Weimar Fail?,” The Journal of Modern History 68 (September 1996): 629656

Detlef Lehnert and Klaus Megerle , eds., Politische Identität und Nationale Gedenktage. Zur politischen Kultur in der Weimarer Republik (Opladen: Westdeutscher Verlag, 1989), 930

Martin Sabrow , Der Rathenaumord. Rekonstruktion einer Verschwörung gegen die Republik von Weimar (Munich: Oldenbourg, 1994)

Michael-Sören Schuppan , “Politisches und schulisches Handeln im Konflikt. Dargestellt an zwei Ereignissen im Preußen der Weimarer Republik,” Bildung und Erziehung 49 (1996): 89101

Thomas Koinzer , “Die Republik feiern. Weimarer Republik, Verfassungstag und staatsbürgerliche Erziehung an den höheren Schulen Preußens in der zweiten Hälfte der 1920er Jahre,” Bildung und Erziehung 58 (2005): 85103

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Central European History
  • ISSN: 0008-9389
  • EISSN: 1569-1616
  • URL: /core/journals/central-european-history
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