Windy Businessmen

In his cartoons, Duwdiwani repeatedly addressed profiteers who knew how to make a profit by taking advantage of the crises of the Weimar Republic. Particularly during times of extreme hyperinflation, it became difficult to discern whether a business deal was still legal or had been criminalized.

While some profiteers enjoyed life to the full, the majority of the population struggled to survive. This discrepancy in social status and experiences was particularly evident in Berlin.

Windy Businessmen

In his cartoons, Duwdiwani repeatedly addressed profiteers who knew how to make a profit by taking advantage of the crises of the Weimar Republic. Particularly during times of extreme hyperinflation, it became difficult to discern whether a business deal was still legal or had been criminalized.

While some profiteers enjoyed life to the full, the majority of the population struggled to survive. This discrepancy in social status and experiences was particularly evident in Berlin.

Everybody in Jail Once

“And do you think Meyer is an honest businessman?” “Nah, he’s so cunning he hasn’t even done time yet.”

With a certain amount of respect, the gentlemen speak of a ‘businessman’ who, in spite of his fraudulent activities, has not yet been caught.

Jugend, vol. 34 / 1929, n. 37, p. 597
Jugend, vol. 34 / 1929, n. 27, p. 437
Business

“And if now, despite your word of honor, the business is not profitable at 15%?” – “Then I will buy back my word of honor at 1⁄2 %.”

Adventurous speculative transactions led to the collapse of the New York Stock Exchange in October 1929 and triggered a world economic crisis, which also led to the end of the democratic system of the Weimar Republic.

Graphologists

“No, Mister Graphologist, I just want to know: How should I write so that I make an honest impression!”

To gain some semblance of probity in his dealings, a fraudulent businessman consults a graphologist about appropriate handwriting. On November 27, 1927, the Berliner Tagblatt published an article entitled “Institute for Human Research. Graphologists as protection against graphologists” reports that banks, for example, already have cashiers’ application letters checked for “particular reliability and honesty”.

Jugend, vol. 34 / 1929, n. 43, p.693
Rudolf Forster (1884–1968) as “Mackie Messer” in the film “The Threepenny Opera”
Lobby card, private property

Berthold Brecht (1898–1956) brought the practices of shady businessmen to the stage with “Die Dreigroschenoper”. His character “Mackie Messer” became the prototype of the unscrupulous businessman. On August 31, 1928, an opera of “Die Dreigroschenoper” with music by Kurt Weill (1900–1950) premiered at Berlin’s Theater am Schiffbauerdamm. Two years later, G. W. Papst (1885–1967) brought the story to film.

Kurt Weil, whose songs became worldwide successes, was forced to emigrate via France to the USA in 1933 because of his Jewish ancestry.

Martin H. Geyer: Kapitalismus und politische Moral in der Zwischenkriegszeit. Oder: Wer war Julius Barmat? Hamburg 2018.

Annika Klein: Korruption und Korruptionsskandale in der Weimarer Republik. Göttingen 2014.

Arnd Koch / Michael Kubiciel / Martin Löhnig (Hg.): Strafrecht zwischen Novemberrevolution und Weimarer Republik. Tübingen 2020.

Siegfried Unseld (Hg.): Bertolt Brecht. Das Dreigroschenbuch. Texte, Materialien, Dokumente. Frankfurt a. M 1960.