Capitalism = greed?

Mazower’s fourth chapter in dark continent certainly brings up some very interesting points. Debatable and controversial points that’s for sure. Capitalism is definitely useful, as it helped many European countries rebuild their economy after World War 1. The mixture of government banks and private enterprise is very effective in achieving economic stimulus. Strategic government planned financing coupled with the ingenuity of private ownership is a recipe for success. But it would seem that capitalism is not all that perfect. In the global economy many countries were “more concerned with sheltering their own producers” (Mazower 110) than promoting fair trade. Self gain was the number one goal. This begs the question does capitalism and private ownership make us greedy? A contentious point without a doubt.

Marxism and the Economy

After the stock market crash of 1929, the worlds hardships grew. A lack of jobs, production, and consumption were issues that needed to be dealt with. The one system that seemed to do the trick was Marxism. Stalin said that his successful communistic plans “cannot be regarded as an accident”( Mazower 121). Was this system truly what could have shortened the depression and made a large impact on economies quickly?

Indifference to Politics

In the section “Election Campaign in Berlin”, Roth presents interesting ideas about the people of Germany and their near indifference to politics. Though he mentions that their ignoring of political campaigns and propaganda may be based in their own “political convictions”, I don’t believe that’s the case (Roth 189). Later in the section, Roth touches on the everyday distractions of work and pleasure that undermine political campaigns by filling the German people’s time and thoughts with less important ventures. Do you think that this lifestyle ultimately led to Hitler’s rise to power? Is this indicative of the German people’s wishes to have an autocrat take over the government?

It is also important to note that Roth mentions the increasing political extremism in the younger generation on page 192. Does this rise in extremist ideals correlate with the previous questions? Also- does the younger post-war generation have more political standing because of the changing social climate?

Women’s Role in Roth’s Collection

The ways in which women are treated and discussed in parts of Roth’s What I Saw really stuck with me, specifically amongst the sections “Nights in Dives” and “Election Campaign in Berlin.” The contrast of the hypersexualized sex workers and the “offensively” sexless political activists is particularly striking. What do you make of this dichotomy? What do you make of the position of the sex worker in general during this time–how do they fit within the sociopolitical world of Berlin? How does “Nights in Dives” treat them? On the supposed opposite end of the spectrum, how do we parse out the following section from “Election Campaign in Berlin:” 

“You see them at railway stations, the blooming, wheat- blond girls, born to be mothers, but turning into political Furies. They wear shapeless windbreakers, full skirts, and short haircuts. They have unnaturally long strides and absurdly mannish gestures, but nature takes its revenge on them, because as soon as they shout out their “Heil!” or their “Yech!” their voices take on the repellent shrieking edge of hysteria” (Roth, 192).

Why does this section end with this quote? What does this say about women’s perceived role vs. their actual role in German society? How does the physical inspection of these women compare to the physical inspection of the sex workers in the Dives section?


Roth, Joseph. What I Saw: Reports from Berlin 1920-1933 (p. 192). W. W. Norton & Company. Kindle Edition.

Refugees of sorts

On page 217 of “What I Saw?”, he says that the people laid down everything for Germany and they gave them nothing in return but punishment. He speaks of the book burnings and the writers that refused to be a part of the Reich’s corps of writers. But he mainly talks about the parts of the lives of the forgotten inhabitants of Berlin and that life goes on for them. I think this gives a more humanistic view of the people of Germany but with the numbers that they have, could a spark of changed that peace? Could one or a few standing their ground, like the writers who were never published because of their morals, have led to a different outcome or would these efforts be squashed by the overwhelming power of the Reich?

Insane Berlin Traffic and Department Stores

Reading the various observations of Joseph Roth, during The Weimar Republic era of Germany was very intriguing to me. I was particularly interested in chapters 14 and 18. Chapter 14 discussed the chaotic nature of Berlin traffic. It would seem that police officers serve little purpose in controlling traffic flow and that roads would need repair everyday. Additionally, motorists and pedestrians seemed to exercise such hostility towards one another. Chapter 18 discusses the ostentatious nature of department stores in Germany. Department stores would be up to fifteen stories high. It is mentioned that “people who dreamed of very large department stores” (Roth 119) only wanted to life themselves above others. I am curious, is the desire for large department stores perhaps people’s longing for a powerful autocracy like the German Empire formally was before 1918? Is the chaotic traffic a representation for how German people feel lost without an autocratic leader? Were the German people looking for a Hitler figure to lead them and show strength post World War 1?

“You’re a good German.”

In Changes at School, Ellen Switzer recalls her encounters with her classmate, Ruth. She mentions that Ruth is a generous person and further describes her personality. Ruth passed out Nazi propaganda to those who would ask her for advice. Then, when confronted by her classmates, Ruth says that they are “good Germans”, but then later, she says:

“Ruth actually came around and apologized to those of us to whom she was no longer able to talk. ‘The whole thing may be a misunderstanding,’ she explained, “Maybe it will all be straightened out later. But meanwhile, Hitler must know what he is doing, and I’ll follow orders.”

Ellen Switzer

I thought it was interesting how quickly Ruth had switched her ideals because one person told her it was acceptable. It also disturbed me that she even turned against her own classmates.

No Time to Think- Naomi Hanna

After reading both the Nuremberg Laws and Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior, I had so many different questions. Some of them were more factual based, but I had a hard time coming up with discussion questions. One question I had from the start of reading was how the citizens were reacting to this as Anti-Semitic Legislation was being passed. My questions were quickly addressed in Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior. American College Professor Milton Mayer interviewed “ordinary people” and asked them their reactions to what was going on during this time. Throughout the response, the “ordinary person” mentioned how there was no way to know the end goal of Hitler and the Third Reich, and also brought up all of the guilt he felt for not doing anything. “Suddenly it all comes down, all at once. You see what you are, what you have done, or more accurately what you haven’t done”(191). Though this was just an account from one person during the time, I questioned how many other people agreed with his views. I suppose my question leans toward a counterfactual but, if the large majority of Germans had come together or defended the Jewish People could the outcome have been different? Even if they simply just expressed their feelings to each other, I feel like they would have found or realized they are not the only ones thinking this way. It just seemed as if they were too afraid to speak up.

The Effect of Propaganda on Youth

After reading the troubling first-hand accounts of Nazism in “Facing History and Ourselves: Holocaust and Human Behavior”, it is clear that fascist propaganda played a large role in widespread antisemitic ideology. One story that stuck out to me was “Changes in School” where Ellen Switzer documented the habits of her classmate Ruth, who was a dedicated Nazi. In my understanding of the text, Ruth seems to be a relatively young girl who is deeply involved in Nazi behaviors and issues, but she seems to lack a general understanding of what she is truly supporting. She even tells her friends that the antisemitic propaganda that she distributes is not targeted towards them, but other Jewish people instead. When the time came that “Aryan” Germans could no longer associate with Jewish people by law, Ruth states, “The whole thing may be a misunderstanding. . . But meanwhile, Hitler must know what he is doing, and I’ll follow orders,” (175).

Similarly, in the section titled “No Time to Think” under the subheading “Too Late”, a father discusses how the debilitating effects of Nazism overwhelmed him all at once when he noticed his young son mirror antisemitic behavior.

These two examples led me to the question: what effect does propaganda have on children and how does it benefit the party in power? In both cases I have mentioned, impressionable children are pushed to accept immoral, horrible ideology which leads them to perpetuate the issue and deepen the preexisting problem through future generations.

Exclusion and the Subject of the Narrator’s Paper

The narrator of Woolf’s A Room of One’s Own is deeply introspective and reflective as she attempts to write “Women and Fiction” and navigate British society. There are several intersecting factors at play that contribute to her inner conflict, ranging from finances to general ostracism to the unstable nature of domesticity. One quote in particular from the first chapter really resonated with what I thought was a rather crucial theme of exclusion: “and I thought how unpleasant it is to be locked out; and I thought how it is worse perhaps to be locked in” (Woolf 17). How does this quotation transcend the narrative? How does it speak to the systemic economic hardship faced by women that the narrator ponders in great depth? 

Moreover, what is the relationship between women and fiction on a more “meta” level–why does Woolf articulate these thoughts through fiction rather than nonfiction or a personal essay? What do you make of her struggle at the end of chapter two to rectify this tension between freedom and protection, and what “bearing” it has on her paper? (Woolf 29).