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Modern history supplement

NSW HSC Modern History syllabus

Relevant key features and issues

  • successes and failures of democracy
  • nature and role of nationalism
  • changes in society

Relevant points in the content outline

Students learn about:

  • emergence of the Democratic Republic and the impact of the Treaty of Versailles
  • political, economic and social issues in the Weimar Republic to 1929
  • rise of the Nazi Party (NSDAP) from 1923

Relevant HSC question types

  • To what extent was democracy successful in the period 1918-1929?
  • To what extent did social tensions contribute to the failure of democracy in Weimar Germany?
  • How did changes in society contribute to the rise in Nazism?

Weimar art as historical source material

1. Choose a number of examples of artistic expression from the period and, for each, respond to the following questions:

  • Describe what is shown. What sort of response does it arouse?
  • What do you think the artist was trying to convey? What issues come through?
  • Are the images reassuring or disturbing?
  • What events at the time may have influenced the artist?

2. From studying a number of artworks, answer these questions:

  • Are there any common themes?
  • Were the artists documenting aspects of German society, attempting to influence society or simply experimenting?
  • How do you feel different sections of German society would have reacted to these artworks?
  • How useful are these artworks to historians attempting to understand tensions in Weimar society and how these tensions may have influenced events?


Evaluate the view that Nazism’s success was built, in part, on a reaction to the perceived evils of modernity and an internationalist outlook evident in the art of Weimar Germany.


1. Using the examples from the exhibition, complete a table using the headings below.

  • Weimar artists (group into artists, filmmakers, architects, designers, writers etc)
  • Examples of work or major exhibitions
  • Characteristics or content of work
  • Responses to work

Art in Weimar Germany

Glossary of terms
  • Avant-garde – simple definitions with very brief historical context
  • Bauhaus
  • Constuctivism
  • Dada
  • Expressionism
  • Metropolis
  • Modernity
  • Objectivity
  • Zeitgeist
Weimar artists Examples of work or major exhibitions Characteristics or content of work Responses to work
eg George Grosz, Otto Dix
example of major work, maybe with web reference Left blank for students to fill in Left blank for students to fill in

2. Use internet research to find examples of art from the Nazi period and compare it with art from the Weimar period. For example:

  • Compare the designs of Albert Speer with those of the Bauhaus school.
  • Compare the films of Leni Reifenstahl with those of the Weimar period (or a director).

Modern history supplement by Paul Kiem, History Teachers Association Australia


Printable version (PDF 206.3 KB)

Key artworks and themes

You can find examples of some key artworks under the exhibition themes:


  • alienation
  • avant-garde
  • classical
  • conformity
  • consensus
  • cosmopolitan
  • conservative
  • disturbing
  • decadent
  • dysfunctional
  • German
  • internationalist
  • modernist
  • modernity
  • nationalist
  • polarisation
  • radical
  • reassuring
  • rural
  • traditional
  • urban