A history professor at University College Dublin offers a new perspective of Germany's Weimar Republic, reframing it as a revolutionary success as opposed to the doomed-to-fail precursor to Nazism that has been the dominant view.
Splendidly researched, and with a striking new thesis, Robert Gerwarth’s book warns against assuming that the way things turned out was inevitable ... This book is full of surprises ... That's the definition of real research. But there is one glaring blind spot. Gerwarth repeatedly refers to Bismarck’s second German empire as ‘the German nation-state’, which is extremely dubious ... While encouraging us to look at the Weimar Republic in the light of the eastern European politics which half surrounded it, he misses that Germany was only enmeshed in those politics because of Prussia ... So should you buy this book? It’s fascinating, and the research ground-breaking, though be warned that there’s not much crowd-friendly shot-making. It’s more of a donnish slice of history, with extensive quotation and elucidation. But don’t be put off. This is a fascinating study, whose insights will stop you dead even if you thought, as I did, that you already knew this stuff.
It is...a breath of fresh air to read Robert Gerwarth’s authoritative new account, which is the latest product of a vibrant Dublin research hub on modern European history ... This is a compact, lean book, about a third of which is the copious annotation backing up the author’s claims. He still finds space, though, for some remarkable pen portraits of the principal characters, and well as telling anecdotes ... One wonders then what the fair wind for Weimar tells us about the federal republic today? ... This is, of course, a question the author is not obliged to answer. For now, Gerwarth has already done us enough service by rescuing the Weimar Republic from what EP Thompson, in another context, called 'the enormous condescension of posterity.'
... it’s salutary to have a fresh account of the birthing pains of that vaunted republic rather than another autopsy of its demise ... Gerwarth finely evokes the scene in a Belgian train car in which the chief German negotiator of the armistice, Matthias Erzberger (a tragic figure who was against the war at the onset and would later be murdered by a right-wing terror cell) realized to his horror that no compromise whatsoever would be forthcoming from the Allies ... while Gerwarth makes a few nods toward the wider geopolitical canvas of 1918, one would like to know more about how the revolution registered across the German Empire, from German Southwest Africa to Neukamerun. Where Gerwarth most excels is deftly weaving together the impressions of contemporary commentators, of whom he has assembled a rich banquet[.]