European Capitals of CultureΠοιειν Και Πραττειν - create and do

The small city with a great history - Weimar 1999

Poster for ECCM Exhibition "Twenty Years Later", Patras 2006

Curator: Spyros Mercouris

Online Exhibition: Heritage Radio


(Text for the ECCM exhibition: "Twenty years later" in Patras 2006)

In the year 1999, Weimar has become the “Cultural Capital of Europe”. It is the smallest of the all the cities that up have been entrusted with the organization of this event up until now, and it is the first that lies within the territory of the former East block.

There are good reasons for choosing Weimar. German and European cultural history are concentrated here to an extent paralleled only by the great metropolis. It has been called the “cradle of German Classicism” and even before Goethe, Schiller, Herder and Wieland laid the foundations for one of the great eras of European culture here, Lucas Cranach and Johann Sebastian Bach lived and worked in the city by the River Ilm. Following the “Golden Age”, the activities of Franz Liszt and Richard Strauss, Henry van de Velde and Walter Groprius’ Weimar Bauhaus provided decisive impulses for the Modern Age.

The construction of the Buchenwald concentration camp directly adjacent to the sites of German Classicism broke so decisively with this tradition that the shadow cast from Ettersberg over Weimar will forever remain in memory.

A number of significant anniversaries are being celebrated in Weimar in 1999. Among the outstanding ones are the 250th birthday of Johann Wolfgang Goethe and the 240th birthday of Friedrich Schiller. Eighty years ago, the constitution of the Weimar Republic was promulgated here – the same year that the Bauhaus was founded. 1999 will also be a time to look back on the first ten years of German reunificiation.

The Cultural Capital’s year-long program focuses on five general themes. Among other things, Weimar will present itself as a forum for international art, a modern meeting place for cultural enjoyment and experimentation. With its by no means comprehensive listings, this publication attempts to provide a glimpse into the many diverse facets of the program’s rich content.

Weimar was host to numerous artistic and cultural productions. Artists and scholars, journalists, politicians, as well as “the man on the street” are invited to come and exchange ideas about the past and the future, about the burning questions to today and the blueprints for a Europe of tomorrow. The city will know how to make the most of its opportunity to be a focal point in the eye of the European public.


(Greek version)

Βαϊμάρη – Πολιτιστική Πρωτεύουσα της Ευρώπης 1999


Μια μικρή πόλη με μεγάλη ιστορία

Η Βαϊμάρη επελέγη Πολιτιστική Πρωτεύουσα της Ευρώπης για το έτος 1999. Είναι η μικρότερη από όλες τις πόλεις που είχαν μέχρι στιγμής την τιμή να αναλάβουν τη διοργάνωση αυτού του θεσμού, και η πρώτη που βρίσκεται εντός των ορίων του πρώην «Ανατολικού Μπλοκ».

Πολλοί είναι οι λόγοι για μια τέτοια επιλογή. Η Βαϊμάρη συμπυκνώνει την πολιτιστική ιστορία της Γερμανίας και της Ευρώπης σε βαθμό που μόνον μεγάλες πόλεις μπορούν να συγκριθούν μαζί της. Κατέχει επίσης τον τίτλο του «λίκνου του Γερμανικού Κλασικισμού», ενώ πριν ακόμη θέσουν οι Goethe, Schiller, Herder και Wieland τα θεμέλια μίας από τις ενδοξότερες εποχές του Ευρωπαϊκού πολιτισμού, η πόλη, και ειδικότερα ο ποταμός Ίλμ, αποτέλεσαν κατοικία και τόπο έμπνευσης των Lucas Cranach και Johann Sebastian Bach. Μετά τον λεγόμενο «Χρυσό Αιώνα», τα έργα των Franz Liszt και Richard Strauss αλλά και των εκπροσώπων του Μπάουχαουζ, Henry van de Velde και Walter Gropius, έδωσαν καθοριστική ώθηση στον Μοντερνισμό.

Η ανέργεση του στρατοπέδου συγκέντρωσης του Buchenwald ακριβώς δίπλα στα κέντρα του Γερμανικού Κλασικισμού δημιούργησε τόσο μεγάλο ρήγμα στην παράδοση αυτή ώστε η σκιά του Έτερσμπεργκ πάνω στη Βαϊμάρη θα μείνει για πάντα χαραγμένη στην μνήμη των ανθρώπων.

Το 1999 εορτάστηκε στην Βαϊμάρη μια σειρά σημαντικών επετείων. Μεταξύ αυτών αξίζει να αναφέρουμε τα 250 χρόνια από τη γέννηση του Γκαίτε και τα 240 χρόνια από τη γέννηση του Σίλερ. Εδώ άλλωστε ανακοινώθηκε, πριν από 80 χρόνια, η ίδρυση της λεγόμενης «Δημοκρατίας της Βαϊμάρης», ενώ την ίδια χρονιά ιδρύθηκε και η σχολή του Μπαουχάουζ. Τέλος, το 1999 αποτέλεσε έτος απολογισμού της πρώτης δεκαετίας μετά την επανένωση των δύο Γερμανιών.

Το πρόγραμμα της Ευρωπαϊκής Πολιτιστικής Πρωτεύουσας επικεντρώθηκε σε πέντε γενικές θεματικές ενότητες. Παράλληλα, η Βαϊμάρη λειτούργησε ως φόρουμ διεθνούς τέχνης, αλλά και ως σύγχρονο τόπο συνάντησης για όσους επιθυμούσαν να συνδυάσουν τον πολιτισμό, την αναψυχή και τον πειραματισμό. Αυτή η μη εξαντλητική αναφορά των εκδηλώσεων της Βαϊμάρης 1999 φιλοδοξεί να δώσει μια γεύση των πολλαπλών πτυχών του πλούσιου προγράμματος της Πολιτιστικής Πρωτεύουσας «Βαϊμάρη 1999».

Η Βαϊμάρη φιλοξένησε μεγάλο αριθμό καλλιτεχνικών και πολιτιστικών παραγωγών. Καλλιτέχνες και διανοούμενοι, δημοσιογράφοι και πολιτικοί αλλά και απλοί άνθρωποι προσκλήθηκαν να συμμετάσχουν σε ανταλλαγές απόψεων για το παρελθόν και το μέλλον, για τα φλέγοντα ζητήματα της επικαιρότητας και τα σχέδια για την Ευρώπη του αύριο. Η πόλη μας αξιοποίησε στο έπακρο την ευκαιρία που της δόθηκε για να προσελκύσει την προσοχή της Ευρωπαϊκής κοινής γνώμης.


Aside from official texts, Weimar experienced certainly problems and which were only hinted at when walking through the city during that special year of 1999:

One indication was a public protest against too much money being spend on art people thought was but a squandering of resources. For citizens protested against artistic installations. The protest was not based solely on financial doubts. Many thought these modern installations do not really fit into the norms of such a classical city, but which had belonged in the past to the educated classes. These citizens had either immigrated or else died out during the years after 1945 when Germany was split into East and West Germany.

Coming ten years after German reunification, Weimar was one of the first European Capitals of Culture located in Eastern Europe. Thus the city undertook an important task, namely to bridge the divide between the former two German halves while bringing German culture to the fore within Europe. The question was whether or not Weimar would succeed in this ambitious aim and overcome the overall tendency within classical German culture to be much more introspective and always ready to presume German culture and language was by far more superior than others?

Bust of Nietzsche in main building of Classic Foundation Weimar


Avoided was as well a direct confrontation with the fact that Hitler used the Nietzsche Museum as a departure point for his claim over the spiritual power which dominated Germany during the Weimar Republic time. By ousting Bauhaus while founding the Hitler Youth in Weimar, Hitler showed how important it is to take over the intellectual heritage before making any real claim on power. Interestingly enough it was Mussolini who had introduced him to the Nietzsche Museum.

The Nietzsche Museum was kept by the sister of Nietzsche and who had used Nietzsche as long as he was still alive for ten years to sit like a puppet in the show window of the museum. The artists Herbert Distel always had wanted to create a film about him, for he was fascinated by the thought that Nietzsche took ten years to look back at his life but who was himself already beyond life.

In terms of German history the name 'Weimar' is linked exactly to that Republic which came into existence after First World War and which then collapsed under the pressures of political infights but also National Socialism first creeping into power, and then seizing it in 1933. The Weimar Republic derives its name from the constitution which was not really drawn up not in Weimar. Rather the group designated to draft the constitution had fled from Berlin after things had become too violent for them there. They went to Weimar but the city was deemed to be unsafe as well. Consequently they went to an even smaller enclave near Weimar.

All this might be an indication of things to come if people out of fear violence give up too readily their freedom and political rights. The Weimar Republic did break down due to many resorting to violence and thus produced a kind of terror which drove people into the wrong hands but there was also a huge lack of civil courage and few who valued freedom of expression and dialogue.

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