1920s Berlin

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History of Berlin
Coat of arms of Berlin
Weimar Republic (1919–33)
Nazi Germany (1933–45)
Divided city (1945–90)
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Leipziger Platz
Lesser Ury: "Berliner Straße mit Droschken im Regen" (1925)

The Golden Twenties in Berlin was a vibrant period in the history of Berlin, German history, and European history in general.

Weimar culture[edit]

Main article: Weimar culture

This fertile culture of Berlin extended onwards until Adolf Hitler rose to power in early 1933 and stamped out any and all resistance to the Nazi Party. Likewise, the Nazis decried Berlin as a haven of vice.[clarification needed] A sophisticated, innovative culture developed in and around Berlin, including highly developed architecture and design (Bauhaus, 1919–33), a variety of literature (Döblin, Berlin Alexanderplatz, 1929), film (Lang, Metropolis, 1927, Dietrich, Der blaue Engel, 1930), painting (Grosz), and music (Brecht and Weill, The Threepenny Opera, 1928), criticism (Benjamin), philosophy/psychology (Jung), and fashion.[citation needed] This culture was often considered to be decadent and socially disruptive by rightists.[1]

Film was making huge technical and artistic strides during this period of time in Berlin, and gave rise to the influential movement called German Expressionism. "Talkies", the Sound films, were also becoming more popular with the general public across Europe, and Berlin was producing very many of them.

The University of Berlin (today Humboldt University of Berlin) became a major intellectual centre in Germany, Europe, and the World. The sciences were especially favored — from 1914 to 1933, Albert Einstein served as director of the Kaiser Wilhelm Institute for Physics in Berlin, only leaving after the anti-Semitic Nazi Party rose to power.

The so-called mystical arts also experienced a revival during this time-period in Berlin, with astrology, the occult, and esoteric religions and off-beat religious practices becoming more mainstream and acceptable to the masses as they entered popular culture.

Berlin in the 1920s also proved to be a haven for English writers such as W. H. Auden, Stephen Spender and Christopher Isherwood, who wrote a series of 'Berlin novels', inspiring the play I Am a Camera, which was later adapted into a musical, Cabaret, and an Academy Award winning film of the same name. Spender's semi-autobiographical novel The Temple evokes the attitude and atmosphere of the time.

Street battles between Nazis and Communists[edit]

Politically, Berlin was seen as a left wing stronghold, with the Nazis calling it "the reddest city [in Europe] after Moscow."[2] Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels became his party's "Gauleiter" for Berlin in the autumn of 1926 and had only been in charge a week before organizing a march through a communist-sympathizing area that devolved into a street riot. The communists, who adopted the motto "Beat the fascists wherever you encounter them!" had their own paramilitary organization called the Roter Frontkämpferbund to battle the Nazis' Sturmabteilung (SA). In February 1927 the Nazis held a meeting in the "Red" stronghold of Wedding that turned into a violent brawl. "Beer glasses, chairs and tables flew through the hall, and severely injured people were left lying covered with blood on the floor. Despite the injuries, it was a triumph for Goebbels, whose thugs beat up about 200 communists and drove them from the hall."[3]

Infrastructure and industrialization[edit]

The government began printing tremendous amounts of currency to pay reparations; this caused staggering inflation that destroyed middle-class savings. However, economic expansion resumed after mid-decade, aided by U.S. loans. It was then that culture blossomed especially.

The heyday of Berlin began in the mid-1920s. It became the most industrialized city of the continent. Tempelhof Airport was opened in 1923 and a start was made on S-Bahn electrification from 1924 onwards. Berlin was also the second biggest inland harbor of Germany; all of this infrastructure was needed to transport and feed the over 4 million Berliners throughout the 1920s.[citation needed]

Architecture and urban planning[edit]

Color variations of doors and entrances in the Hufeisensiedlung (1925-1933)

During the interwar period high-quality architecture was built on a large scale in Berlin for broad sections of the population, including poorer people. In particular the Berlin Modernism housing estates built before the beginning of National Socialism set standards worldwide and therefore have been added to the UNESCO World-heritage list in 2008. [4]

As a result of the economically difficult situation during the Weimar Republic, housing construction, which up to that time had been mainly privately financed and profit-oriented, had found itself at a dead end. Inflation was on the up and for citizens on low incomes decent housing was becoming increasingly unaffordable.

Consequently, the search was on to find new models for state-initiated housing construction, which could then be implemented with a passion from 1920 on following the creation of Greater Berlin and the accompanying reform of local and regional government. The requirements for the type of flats to be built and the facilities they were to have were clearly defined, and the city was divided into different building zones. Following some basic ideas of the Garden city movement two- to three-storey housing estates that were well integrated into the landscape of the suburbs of the city were planned. The first large estate of this type with more than 2,000 residential units was the so-called Hufeisensiedlung (Horseshoe Estate) designed by Bruno Taut in Berlin, which introduced a new type of high quality housing and became a prominent example for the use of colors in architecture.

Films about 1920s Berlin[edit]

The following significant films about 1920s Berlin show the metropolis between 1920 and 1933 (until the Nazi takeover of power):

See also: List of films set in Berlin

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Kirkus UK review of Laqueur, Walter Weimar: A cultural history, 1918-1933
  2. ^ Mitchell, Otis C. (2008). Hitler's Stormtroopers And The Attack On The German Republic, 1919-1933. McFarland & Company. p. 109. ISBN 978-0-7864-3912-6. 
  3. ^ Uwe Klussmann (29 November 2012), The Ruthless Rise of the Nazis in Berlin Der Spiegel
  4. ^ Berlin Modernism Housing Estates. Inscription on the UNESCO World Heritage List; German/English; Editor: Berlin Monument Authority - ISBN 978-3-03768-000-1