Cabaret during the Weimar Republic

Topics: World War I, Weimar culture, Nazi Germany Pages: 6 (1752 words) Published: December 27, 2013
What are the values and limitations of
the film Cabaret to a historian
studying the cabaret culture of the Weimar Republic

Table of Content

A – Plan of Investigation3
B – Summary of Evidence3
C – Evaluation of Sources 4
D – Analysis5
E – Conclusion7
F – List of Sources8
G – Appendix9

A – Plan of Investigation

This investigation focuses on the German cabarets during the Weimar Republic and how they are depicted in the movie “Cabaret”. To understand the importance and value cabarets had at this time, I studied various primary sources such as written extracts from writers and illustrators who experienced the Weimar Republic and secondary sources about comedy, genders and sexuality and theatre in the Weimar modernity. In order to evaluate the trustworthiness of the film and to assess it’s usefulness for an investigating historian, the film is compared with the information collected by research with primary and secondary sources.

B – Summary of Evidence

Post-World War I Berlin was the dynamic and whirling heart of the Weimar Republic. Not only developments in technology and mathematics but also movements in visual arts, literature and theatre were achieved. After World War I, the days seemed forlorn; it was to foretell that sacrifices of everything comforting and familiar had to be made. During this crisis, cabaret demonstrated that even the worst apocalypse could be welcomed with the typical Berlin-attitude of amusement and with somewhat of a smile. Cabaret was popular long before World War I and the word. Kabarett originates from the French word cabaret, which means tavern or pub. It had been in use since 1910 and refers to entertainment, which combined a musical number with the consumption of alcohol and food.1 However, cabaret reached its highest peak during inflation. The Berliners saw the cabaret as an exit path from the cruel reality that hit them every day outside the smoky bars. At a cabaret one could expect floating champagne and a haze of decadence. The heart of the cabaret was the lyrics and topics they covered. Much of the material in the Weimar cabaret, mostly performed through sing-and-dance numbers, approached topics such as inflation, bankruptcy, apartment shortages, fashions, bars and dance trends2, always delivered with a shifty humour and a certain undertone. Cabaret almost never performed acts of overt political nature; instead they specialized in satire that was not directed at one certain party or figure, but the whole social life instead. Another topic that was often brought up by the cabaretists was gender bending and sexuality. It was often seen that men disguised as women or women as men. Cross-dressing was not an unusual event. The best example is the iconic photograph of Marlene Dietrich wearing a men’s suit. Also homosexuality played a strong role at these times.3 This made that Berlin was an attractive city for foreign artists. The primary reason for migration to Berlin was most often the sex scene4 and its freedom. However, the era of cabarets had its end in the early 1930s. With the rise of the Nazi Party and the constitutional rights suspended in 19335, Berlin’s culture suffered severely. There was no room anymore for culture, unless propaganda movies. Nevertheless, not the Nazi were determining for the cabaret’s downfall. Where the inflationary period was important for the cabaret to rise, the Third Reich now provided economic stability. Soon, movies took over and cabaret died in its original form.

C – Evaluation of Sources
Source 1 (Appendix 1)
Source one is the movie Cabaret made in 1972 by Bob Fosse, starring Liza Minelli and Michael York. The same named musical and the autobiographical novel by Christopher Isherwood inspired the movie6. Setting is Berlin in 1931 shortly before the rise of the National Socialists. Beside the love story between the American cabaret actress Sally Bowles and the English writer Brian Roberts, Cabaret gives a...
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