Kurt Weill and Bertholt Brecht's Berlin

Wrath/An Apolitical Observer Goes To The Reichstag

Joseph Roth’s writings in What I Saw: Reports from Berlin 1920-1933 serve as a commentary on the apparent wrath in Weimar Berlin. Roth speaks on politicians’ indignation in the Reichstag, observing “[he] called out to the emcee, ‘Speak up!!!’ in such a way that the three exclamation marks, or better - indignation marks - were clearly visible”, and proceeds to compare the politician to an obnoxious attendee of a German cabaret (Roth 2003, 193). He also observes the division between politicians, noting “they’re singing ‘The Internationale’ on my left and ‘Deutschland ├╝ber Alles’ on my right. Simultaneously, as if it didn’t make more sense to sing them consecutively. Why not have music, my friends? Why shouldn’t politicians sing? Why will the one not hear the other out?” (Roth, 2003, 198). These political extremes show wrath in abundance. In general, Roth despairingly presents the political struggles of the time as intractable due to the boorish wrath of the politicians in office, who fruitlessly express their anger without so much as giving their opposition the time of day. He places himself as the apolitical observer, above it all, bringing judgement upon the tone with which the politicians conduct themselves. To Roth, it would seem that the wrath on display needs tone policing, in the modern sense. The anger on display between the left and the right should, in his eyes, be replaced with a sense of humanity and camaraderie. After all, “They’ve shelled out twenty-six and a half million marks for their Reichstag. It looks imposing, no doubt about it. It would be nice if the delegates made it impressive as well” (Roth 2003, 198).

Roth clearly shows a way in the wrath of political extremes is detrimental to the future and wellbeing of the Weimar republic. And yet, in criticizing these misbehaving German politicians, Roth himself ironically enacts the very wrath he is condemning - the underlying tone of the piece is that of restrained frustration. As much as he seeks to present himself as apolitical, even this stance is not free from the rancor of partisanship.

Roth, Joseph. “An Apolitical Observer Goes to the Reichstag.” Trans. Michael Hofmann. In What I Saw: Reports from Berlin 1920-1933. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company, Inc., 2003. P. 193-198

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