Roaring Twenties

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The "Roaring Twenties": Tea dance with a jazz band, Berlin Hotel Esplanade 1926
“ This Winter's Perfume - Vogue ”;
Poster art by Jupp Wiertz for the cosmetics manufacturer F. Wolff & Sohn , 1926/27

The expression Golden Twenties or Golden Twenties describes the period between 1924 and 1929 for Germany . The term illustrates the economic upswing in the 1920s in many industrialized countries and also stands for a heyday of German art, culture and science. The "Roaring Twenties" ended when the global economic crisis also had an impact in Germany (see, for example, the German banking crisis ).

There are also terms for this time in other languages, e.g. B. Roaring Twenties (English), Anni ruggenti (Italian), années folles (roughly: crazy years; French).


1918 to 1923

War invalid begging in Berlin, 1923

After the end of the First World War , the Treaty of Versailles shook many Germans with reparations and territorial losses that were perceived as too harsh. Famine, unemployment, begging as the only livelihood for crippled returnees from the first industrialized war without today's medical options ( prosthetics , antibiotics , painkillers ), with 14 percent the highest infant mortality in Europe, rickets epidemics due to vitamin deficiency and attacks on leading politicians like Matthias Erzberger and Walther Rathenau , caused by sermons of hatred, shaped the political climate in Germany in the early twenties. A since 1914, rising inflation culminated in a hyperinflation in 1923. coup attempts like the Kapp Putsch in 1920 and the Hitler-Ludendorff Putsch in 1923 and write-offs of mass strikes (1920: Ruhr uprising in the Ruhr area : 1921 March struggles in central Germany ) with the help of volunteer corps left Hundreds of dead.

Improvements from 1924

First issuing office of Rentenmark Notes on Oberwallstrasse in Berlin on November 15, 1923

The introduction of the Rentenmark stopped hyperinflation and the Versailles Treaty could also be partially adapted to the possibilities of the German economy through the Dawes Plan and Young Plan . Soon a phase of economic upturn and political calm began. Political tensions between Germany and France were considerably alleviated by the Locarno Treaties . Germany's accession to the League of Nations in 1926 also contributed to the political calming down.

Roaring Twenties

The Frankfurt Kitchen (1926–30) as a design achievement as part of the New Frankfurt project

The term Golden Twenties stands for the economic upswing in the global economy and describes the heyday of German art, culture and science. The high loans that Germany received from abroad, especially from the USA, were also involved in the upturn in the economy.

For Germany, a remarkable economic boom can only be determined for the years 1926 to 1928.
Nonetheless, many contemporaries from 1924 to 1929 were impressed with the image of a “boom period with sometimes astonishing economic performance”, which stood out clearly from the crisis-ridden years before and after. Despite the comparatively favorable prerequisites, the republican state failed to secure
itself due to the lack of support from broad sections of the population. The hunger and misery of the last years of the war and the financial scandals of 1923 and 1929 fueled distrust in large parts of the population in the Weimar Republic . The state of Prussia , ruled by Otto Braun for almost the entire decade, remained a refuge of political stability, but this was not enough in the end, as was evident from the negative majority of the NSDAP and KPD after the state elections in 1932 and the so-called Prussian strike.

The "Golden Twenties" were terminated by the global economic crisis in 1929, starting with the stock market crash on Black Thursday of Wall Street in New York . Social tensions broke out again and resulted in political radicalization and the rise of National Socialism .

Despite all the tensions and conflicts that the young republic had to master, democracy seemed increasingly successful. The reorganization of the currency and the inflow of US loans in the wake of the Dawes Plan ushered in a period of relative economic and political stabilization. This was due to the fact that Gustav Stresemann remained foreign minister under changing governments and initiated a cautious policy of rapprochement with his French colleague Aristide Briand . At the same time, he tried to achieve a partial revision of the Versailles Treaty and to make Germany an equal partner in the international community again. Admission to the League of Nations and the Locarno Treaties were an initial success. With the Berlin Treaty , a German-Soviet friendship and neutrality alliance, Stresemann tried to counter fears about a one-sided German ties to the West. There had been such in the Soviet Union and in Germany.

Further stations on the path to reconciliation with the former opponents of the war were the signing of the Briand-Kellogg Pact, which contained the outlawing of war as an instrument of politics, and - despite considerable opposition from the right, which resulted in a referendum - the Adoption of the Young Plan, which finally settled the question of reparations and was a prerequisite for the early evacuation of the Rhineland by Allied occupation .

In 1926 Germany recognized the separation from Alsace-Lorraine . In 1927 the conclusion of economic agreements with Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria improved the Weimar Republic's reputation abroad.

Domestically, it was possible to integrate the anti-republic German National People's Party (DNVP) into government responsibility. In the Reichstag election in December 1924, the Volkish parties received 900,000 votes, one million fewer than in May. The election of the aged General Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg as Reich President (→  Reich President election 1925 ), which had become necessary after the sudden death of Friedrich Ebert , did not directly endanger the republic. Hindenburg had obtained the consent of the abdicated Kaiser Wilhelm II before the election , led the election campaign with nationalist and anti-social-democratic arguments and thus prevailed against Wilhelm Marx (Zentrum), the candidate of the Weimar coalition . However, his administration was constitutional and offered a chance to reconcile the Conservatives with the republic. However, Hindenburg's election was an expression of a political shift in weight to the right. This was shown, among other things, by the flag ordinance issued by him in 1926, which allowed German diplomatic missions abroad to hoist the black, white and red trade flag of the German Empire in addition to the black, red and gold imperial flag. In the same year he opposed the draft of an executive law announced by the Constitution to Article 48 of the Constitution, which would have limited his presidential powers.

Propaganda car for the expropriation of the princes in 1926

A heated argument broke out in 1925 and 1926 over the treatment of the property of the royal houses that had ruled until 1918 (→  expropriation of the princes ). These assets had been confiscated in the course of the revolution but not expropriated. There were legal proceedings in which the still monarchist judiciary ruled in favor of the royal houses. The DDP then introduced a bill in the Reichstag that would have allowed the individual states to regulate the disputes without recourse to legal action. The KPD then made use of the opportunity for the first time in the Weimar Republic to pass a law by means of a referendum and referendum , the SPD joined them. The KPD's draft law provided for the expropriation of the royal houses without compensation for the benefit of the needy. In the referendum, the draft received the approval of almost a third of those entitled to vote with over 12 million signatures. Since the Reichstag rejected the draft law, a referendum was held in which the majority of the voters was required as a quorum . The decision failed because of this quorum, as it was only supported by 36.4 percent of the electorate (14.46 million votes, Hindenburg received 14.66 million votes in his election). Only 1.56 percent of voters voted “no”. One problem with the vote was the right-wing parties' call to boycott the election , so the election was no longer secret , as a vote was an indication of support for the proposal. For this reason, especially in rural areas, voters did not take part in the referendum out of fear. The referendum led to the participation of large sections of the population in an important decision, but was also a declaration of no confidence in the parliamentary system and further destabilized it. The right-wing parties aimed at this effect in their referendum.


All in all, these years were only a phase of relative, not absolute, stabilization. Only two governments at that time had a majority in parliament, and the majority coalitions were always in danger of breaking up. No government survived a full legislative period. Another sign of the still existing instability is that the government continued to govern in part with the help of an enabling law. The parties felt less committed to the common good than to their clientele or their own success. The course for the economic crisis was laid in these years, as there was an imbalance in foreign trade, which was offset by short-term foreign loans. The reparation payments could not be financed from taxpayers' money alone, so that the loans increasingly had to be used not only for the upswing, but also for the payments to be made. When these loans were withdrawn, the economy collapsed .

In addition, the number of unemployed in the republic could never be reduced below one million, which right-wing groups in particular tried to use for themselves through propaganda against unemployment and debts.


Wertheim department store on Leipziger Platz around 1930

In Berlin, the boys' attitude towards life manifested itself at the Gedächtniskirche and Kurfürstendamm in the west of the city. At the end of the silent film era, the new large cinemas, Marmorhaus , Capitol and Ufa-Palast - still with a seventy-strong symphony orchestra in brown velvet jackets - were built there and competed with the flea cinemas. The settled age walked Unter den Linden , where folding chairs for five pfennigs turned the avenue into a spa promenade, for example Gerhart Hauptmann , who often stayed at the Hotel Adlon , or Gustav Stresemann , who pensively dug in the sand with his stick while walking. The street between Nollendorfplatz and Olivaer Platz, on the other hand, was a Berlin catwalk for a new chic: a dance on the volcano with Erika and Klaus Mann . Max Reinhardt built his two elegant theaters on Kurfürstendamm, framed by a grandstand and a Renaissance theater .

Expressionists such as Ernst Toller , Georg Kaiser , Carl Sternheim , Walter Hasenclever caused both screams on the stage and screams of indignation and enthusiasm in the audience. The stage sets come from avant-garde artists such as Panos Aravantinos and Emil Pirchan . The leading Berlin costume designer and couturier was William Budzinski . Berlin's Broadway also offered a lot of cabaret: bars, nightclubs, wine bars, Russian tea rooms, new ballrooms, such as the Ambassadeur or the Barberina, as well as the smaller Queen or the demi- mundane Riorita , where you could not only dance but also have dinner. New dances like the Charleston and the new jazz have long been controversial. Former officers, now unemployed, hired themselves as dancers ( beautiful gigolo, poor gigolo ... ).

Furthermore, Alexanderplatz and Potsdamer Platz epitomized the lively, pulsating metropolis of Berlin. Many of the buildings and railway bridges that border Alexanderplatz had large neon billboards that turned night into day. His face changed from day to day.

The Berlin Secession held an impulsive discourse on art, with protagonists such as Lovis Corinth , Max Liebermann and Ernst Oppler .

Social upheaval

The women's movement , which has been active since the end of the 19th century , experienced an unexpected boom due to the increasing employment of women and a changing image of women. Images of women like the new woman and the flapper opened up new perspectives for young women. In 1926, Section 218 of the Criminal Code was changed: the prison sentences for termination of pregnancy were shortened, and instead of penitentiary prison , there was now a threat of prison .

With the establishment of the Weimar Republic, new scope had opened up for the homosexual movement that had existed since the 1890s . With the Federation for Human Rights and the German Friendship Association , mass organizations for same-sex lovers were founded for the first time, which were particularly dedicated to the fight against Section 175 . The associated publishers published numerous magazines for "Freunde und Freundinnen", including the friendship with a circulation of up to 40,000 copies as well as the own or the friendship sheet for homosexual men; The girlfriend , Frauenliebe (with print runs of 10,000 or more) and The BIF for lesbians and special titles such as the third gender for "transvestites". In addition to this organizational infrastructure, there were hundreds of bars for a homosexual audience in the course of the 1920s, including some internationally known addresses such as the Eldorado , the Kleist Casino , the Toppkeller and the Dorian Gray . Important activists of the era were Adolf Brand , Magnus Hirschfeld , Johanna Elberskirchen , Friedrich Radszuweit , Lotte Hahm , Carl Bergmann , Selma Engler and Käthe Reinhardt .


One of the most formative art movements of the Roaring Twenties was the New Objectivity . It emerged from the experience of the First World War and the subsequent social change. Many artists were committed and interested in politics. Another piece of art freed itself from academic constraints. There was less shame. New topics were life in the big city, the gap between rich and poor, the new self-confident woman. The portrait became an important genre. An example: Otto Dix'sBig City Triptych” depicts prostitutes, some of them in a revealing pose. Such a motive would have been unthinkable in the German Empire. Famous artists are:


Joan Crawford in the typical flapper look
  • Women's fashion: When it came to accessories, it wasn't the value that counted, but the shocking effect. That is why the "endless" cigarette holder was very popular. She gave the ladies a slightly sophisticated look. The make-up for the evening also included pearl necklaces , boas , headbands and handbags . The women's hairstyles seemed aggressive to many. The bob haired head replaced the snails with hairpins against the stubborn resistance of the parents' generation.
  • Men's fashion: in 1919 we saw the men still in frock coat with cylinder . Men's fashion in the 1920s was classic, dark, and correct. At the beginning of the century, the shape of the jacket was quite wide (with padded shoulders). The chest was reinforced to give the male silhouette a more muscular impression. Over the course of the century, this type of jacket became more casual, slightly tailored and less padded. The day suit goes back to the name of the German Chancellor Gustav Stresemann and is still worn today for festivities. The men's hairstyles were combed straight back, often with side parting . The shoes became light, leaving the boots of world war behind. The style of this men's fashion item, published in a specialist magazine for chauffeur-less self-drivers ("Herrenfahrer") in 1924, also breathes the dawn of the Roaring Twenties:

“Every multi-colored shoe is gross, if not as a beach or morning shoe. The low shoe masters everything. Boots are rarely worn. The black box calf or Chevreaux shoe can have perforated patterns. The cap can even bear the monogram. Long, flat rounded tip. The best way to describe the shape is: when the shoes are in front of you, you cannot see which is the right shoe and which is the left shoe. The brown shoe is made of heavy leather in winter, if brown shoes have to be worn at all. The brown shoe with a rubber sole without a heel is already out of fashion. At most, it is still a leader as a golf shoe. A capless patent-leather shoe as a tuxedo and evening shoe, completely flat and without decoration. "

- The gentleman driver - the sheet of the car and other comforts in life, No. 1, 1924
  • Fashion in general: Newly invented fabrics (e.g. synthetic fibers) made silk stockings supple and soft. The hairdressers were open on Sundays. The men wore knickers and flat caps . The so-called pot hats for women were similarly elegant .


A little dance by six-day travelers in the early hours of the
morning at the Berlin Six-Day Race, 1927

Sport became a pleasure for the masses. With propaganda support from newspaper kings like August Scherl and the Ullstein brothers , Flugtage became a hit. Rowing regattas, AVUS car races on Germany's first two-lane automobile route with the steepest north curve, gymnastics festivals and six-day races in the Sports Palace attracted more people than any other event before. The Berlin six-day race took place twice a year during its first wedding in the Roaring Twenties because of the large crowd. It was not only a sporting, but also a social event. Well-known artists and later the sports celebrities - traditionally among them were successful boxers such as Max Schmeling - did not miss this opportunity to appear in public and gave the starting shot.

Carl Diem organized large sports festivals. The gym wheel was invented and a new nude culture emerged. Even the boxes became a popular sport.

new media

Film and cinema

The Marble Hall in the Berlin Zoological Garden,
where Nosferatu premiered

Even before the First World War, Germany had many movie theaters where silent films were shown. In the twenties, film was able to establish itself as a mass medium, which is why movie theaters rose rapidly. Germany was the European country with the largest number of cinemas, the number of which grew from 2300 to 5000 between 1918 and 1930. Two million people went to the cinemas every day. For their entrance fee, in addition to the main film, they got short supporting films, occasionally nature or travel films and always the newsreel .

In the 1920s and 1930s, Germany produced more films than all other European countries combined. German film produced some great directors with important productions, such as “ Das Kabinett des Dr. Caligari “(1919/1920) by Robert Wiene . The rhythm of choreographed crowd scenes determined Lang's silent film " Metropolis ", which premiered in 1927 . The million-dollar spectacle turned out to be a failure at the box office. The Hollywood film factory had long since conquered German cinemas and set new standards with the first sound film in 1927 .

Film and cinema music is just as old as the moving images in film and cinema. Even in the early days of the film, public screenings with musical accompaniment were common. Even the silent film era was accompanied by piano music. In the beginning, the piano music was more used to drown out the projector noises.


Radio sets, which were still called detectors , were owned by only a few families and were often self-assembled for reasons of cost. Telefunken built inexpensive headphones that were unscrewed when visitors came so that everyone could listen. Richard Tauber was the star interpreter of a radio-broadcast operetta . Music programs , readings by authors and radio plays enjoyed great popularity, while political programs were largely taboo.


  • The roaring twenties. Documentary, by Stefanie Appel (Arte, 2015).
    • Part 1: Berlin and Tucholsky
    • Part 2: Paris. A feast for life
    • Part 3: Vienna. A dance on the edge
  • Babylon Berlin


  • Berlin - The Twenties - Art and Culture 1918–1933 , text: Rainer Metzger, selection of images: Christian Brandstätter, dtv, Munich 2006, ISBN 978-3-423-34407-4 .
  • Michael Bienert , Elke Linda Buchholz: The Twenties in Berlin. A guide through the city. Berlin-Story-Verlag, Berlin 2005, ISBN 3-929829-28-2 .
  • Steffen Raßloff : Civil War and the Roaring Twenties. Erfurt in the Weimar Republic. Sutton Verlag, Erfurt 2008, ISBN 978-3-86680-338-1 .
  • Eberhard Kolb , Dirk Schumann : The Weimar Republic . 8th, updated and expanded edition 2012, Oldenbourg, ISBN 978-3-486-71267-4 . Therein chap. 3 (pp. 95–111): “Artistic avant-garde and mass culture. On the physiognomy of the 'golden twenties' ”(also in: Eberhard Kolb, Germany 1918–1933: Eine Geschichte der Weimarer Republik , Oldenbourg 2010, pp. 137–160 ).

Web links

Commons : Germany in the 1920s  - collection of images, videos and audio files


  1. ^ Gerd Hardach: 1929. Economy in transition. In: The world plays roulette. On the culture of modernity in the crisis 1927 to 1932. (Ed.) Werner Möller, Frankfurt 2002, p. 22; Eberhard Kolb: Germany 1918–1933. A history of the Weimar Republic. Munich 2010, p. 134; Günter Könke: Organized Capitalism, Social Democracy and the State. Stuttgart 1987, p. 65.
  2. Hans-Ulrich Wehler : Deutsche Gesellschaftgeschichte , Vol. 4: From the beginning of the First World War to the establishment of the two German states 1914–1949 CH Beck Verlag, Munich 2003, p. 252.
  3. ^ From Der Herrenfahrer , Issue 1, 1924, page 51, German National Library
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