In the 1930s, many prominent cultural figures fled Nazi Germany and settled in Los Angeles, California. Relatively undeveloped before World War II, LA was both a cultural tabula rasa—open and eager to receiving a weighty European influence—and a bastion of middlebrow American cultural conservatism. This unique mix of newness, freedom, and democratic cultural norms transformed American culture and had a tremendous impact beyond California and the United States.

The workshop’s faculty included Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton, legendary and Oscar-winning film producer Walter Mirisch, UCLA Professor Erhard Bahr, LA Times critic David Ulin, President Emeritus of George Washington University Stephen Trachtenberg, USC Professors Kevin Starr and William Deverell, amongst many others. 

Workshop Summaries
Hollywood’s Responsiveness to Marketplace Key to Sustained Success - with Sony Pictures CEO Michael Lynton

Further workshop summaries will be added shortly.

Programme
Download full 'Weimar Exiles in Los Angeles' programme here [PDF]

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Weimar Exiles in Los Angeles - Concept
In an era of increased hyper-specialisation, the value of a multi-disciplinary approach to understanding the complexities of our world is increasingly undervalued and overlooked. There is a great benefit in stepping back, thinking widely, gaining new perspectives and weaving together strands of inquiry into knowledge anchored in process and narrative. The Legatum Institute and the USC Sidney Harman Academy for Polymathic Study at the USC Libraries promote a multi-disciplinary approach as a means of advancing new ideas and fostering innovation.

The Weimar Exiles in Los Angeles workshop is a joint project that applied this approach to a complex moment in cultural history to discover the origins of innovation, how a free society promotes creativity and entrepreneurship, and how a deep understanding of the human experience can inform our thinking on contemporary challenges.

Weimar Exiles in Los Angeles - About the Programme
The Weimar Republic, though an all too brief and politically unstable interwar period, was an intense culturally creative moment in German and European history. While it proved a political and economic failure, it fostered German modernism and unleashed creative energies in music, film, art, and literature. The violent unrest and reactionary politics that emerged during the Great Depression in Germany—culminating in the catastrophic election of the Nazi Party 80 years ago in 1933—forced many artists to flee to the United States, in search of freedom to pursue their work.

Interestingly, many of these cultural figures eschewed New York, Boston, and other more familiar American cultural centres for the sunnier and less-established city of Los Angeles, California. Relatively undeveloped before World War II, LA was both a cultural tabula rasa—open and eager to receiving a weighty European influence—and a bastion of middlebrow American cultural conservatism. This unique mix of newness, freedom, and democratic cultural norms transformed German modernism and American arts.

The program explored how the liberty of American democracy, the unique setting of Los Angeles, and the complex cultural and political heritage of Weimar Germany intersected to create an environment of dynamism, growth and creativity, as well as its impact on today’s world. Can this snapshot in history shine a light on the present in any way?