Vandals, Looters, Protestors, and Police: Consumer Culture and Street Politics Collide in Berlin, 1914-1945

Lecture | April 13 | 4-5:30 p.m. | 201 Moses Hall

 Molly Loberg, Associate Professor of History at California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo, CA

 Institute of European Studies, Center for German and European Studies, Austrian Marshall Foundation

After the First World War and 1918 Revolution, political partisans and commercial entrepreneurs took to the streets of Berlin and fought for the attention of crowds with posters, light displays, parades, traffic obstructions, and violence. New freedoms had transformed city streets into the primary medium of communication, lens of perception, and stage of action for both political and economic life. Berliners, as well as many international observers, looked to the changing streets to reveal both present realities and signs of things to come. At times during the Weimar Republic, they saw dazzling advertising posters and display windows that radiated new beginnings. But they also witnessed mass vandalism, anti-Semitic rioting, and crime waves that pointed toward societal collapse. Because interwar governments recognized the power of urban space either to bolster or shatter their legitimacy, authorities pursued increasingly radical policies to “revitalize” the city. These culminated in Albert Speer’s plan for Germania. This talk explores consumer culture in a period of crisis, the shared geographies and techniques of commerce and politics, and the ways that urban space magnified impressions of fracture. The talk concludes with the questions that Berlin’s interwar streets raise about modern cities and our own times, most fundamentally: Who owns the street?

 heike@berkeley.edu, 510-643-4558