The fourteen years of the Weimar era were also marked by explosive intellectual productivity. German artists made significant cultural contributions in the fields of literature, art, architecture, music, dance, drama, and the new medium of the motion picture. Political theorist Ernst Bloch described Weimar culture as a Periclean Age.
Weimar culture encompassed the political caricature of Otto Dix and John Heartfield and George Grosz, the futuristic skyscraper dystopia of Fritz Lang's 1927 film Metropolis and other products of the UFA studio, the beginnings of a new architectural style at the Bauhaus and the mass housing projects of Ernst May and Bruno Taut, and the decadent cabaret culture of Berlin documented by Christopher Isherwood.
Writers such as Alfred Döblin, Erich Maria Remarque and the brothers Heinrich and Thomas Mann presented a bleak look at the world and the failure of politics and society through literature. The theatres of Berlin and Frankfurt am Main were graced with drama by Bertolt Brecht, cabaret, and stage direction by Max Reinhardt and Erwin Piscator. Concert halls and conservatories exhibited the atonal and modern music of Alban Berg, Arnold Schoenberg, and Kurt Weill.
During the era of the Weimar Republic, Germany became a center of intellectual thought at its medieval universities, and most notably social and political theory (especially Marxism) was combined with Freudian psychoanalysis to form the highly influential discipline of Critical Theory—with its development at the Institute for Social Research (also known as the Frankfurt School) founded at the University of Frankfurt am Main.
With the rise of Nazism and the ascension of Adolf Hitler to power in 1933, many German intellectuals and cultural figures fled Germany for Turkey, the United States, the United Kingdom, and other parts of the world. Those who remained behind were often arrested, or detained in concentration camps. The intellectuals associated with the Institute for Social Research (also known as the Frankfurt School) fled to the United States and reestablished the Institute at the New School for Social Research in New York City.
In the words of Marcus Bullock,professor of English at UW-Milwaukee, "Remarkable for the way it emerged from a catastrophe, more remarkable for the way it vanished into a still greater catastrophe, the world of Weimar represents modernism in its most vivid manifestation."