From Recovery to Catastrophe: Municipal Stabilization and Political Crisis in Weimar, Germany

By Ben Lieberman | Go to book overview
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Chapter 6
DEFINING THE CIVIC PUBLIC

F or all of the vehemence of the attacks at the national level by economic interest groups and financial authorities against municipal policies of the Weimar Republic, urban residents at the local level shared a common interest in the benefits of municipal programs of recovery. Municipal appetite for capital might have created unwanted competition in credit markets for the private economy, but city governments sought to provide urban residents with housing, green space, and cultural institutions. Even in 1929 as municipal finances deteriorated, Max Brauer, the Social Democratic mayor of Altona, still pointed to the benefits that ambitious government could provide. "For the development of the great social and cultural tasks," he maintained, "the emphasis lies in the communes."1

Recovery as a vehicle for democratizing access to such benefits as improved housing and leisure offered the promise of reducing social and political cleavages within the urban population. Observing shared civic interest in better urban living conditions, municipal leaders themselves suggested that programs of recovery encouraged social peace. As Berlin's Mayor Böß told a meeting of municipal leaders in November 1927, "our hope in the social peace of the German people is founded on the conversion of the social idea into action by the cities."2

How strong a bulwark did the common civic interest in recovery programs offer against the attacks against municipal activity? Although the urban population held a common interest in the social and cultural benefits offered by municipal pursuit of recovery, the process of organizing municipal programs created multiple disputes with the potential of weakening civic unity. Drafting and imple

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Notes for this section begin on page 159.

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