Berlin streets : politics, commerce and crowds, 1918-1938 / Molly Jean Loberg
Includes bibliographical references (p. 287-299)
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Electronic version from ProQuest
Within a day of the proclamation of a new German republic on November 9, 1918, hawkers sold revolutionary postcards on the streets of Berlin while emerging political groups boldly pasted posters over former commercial advertising spaces. This dissertation examines changes in the political and commercial uses of the streets in the German capital over a period that witnessed a transition from monarchy to democracy and, in 1933, from democracy to dictatorship. It concludes with the "Night of Broken Glass," an antisemitic program instigated by the Nazi government on November 9, 1938. It reveals the intense competition among political parties and entrepreneurs over a common urban geography as well as their shared tactics for attracting the attention of crowds through posters, light displays, uniforms, speeches and traffic obstructions. To regulate the increased pressure on public space, government authorities devised traffic and public safety laws that constrained the practice of both street commerce and street politics.While many previous studies have focused on the potential of consumption to reconcile social and political differences, this study shows how in an atmosphere of crisis commerce and consumption can magnify fragmentation. Street hawkers enraged shopkeepers by selling goods near their entryways. Young men looted grocery stores with motives that defied clear classification as political, economic or criminal. Poor neighborhoods in which Jewish refugees from Eastern Europe lived and worked became the target of grass roots and governmental harassment to halt alleged illegitimate commerce. After coming to power, the Nazi government institutionalized many antisemitic measures to "redeem" German business. But it stopped short of total exclusion of Jews from commercial and public life for fear of further weakening the economy. In 1938, the government signaled a radicalization in policy by inciting paramilitary SA troops to smash the display windows of Jewish businesses and set fire to synagogues. This dissertation studies a period of economic crisis rather than of abundance to show the sense of precariousness and desperation that characterized the practices of buying and selling. It makes clear that political and commercial interests viewed access to the street as an "Existenzfrage," a matter of survival.
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