Daring Democracies

In October 2009, some ninety years after the adoption of the Weimar Imperial Constitution, sixty years after the founding of the German Federal Republic (GFD) and the German Democratic Republic (GRD), twenty years after the peaceful revolution across the GDR, Weimar was to experience its first »Rendez-vous with History.« Blois, its French twin city, had served as a source of inspiration, for it had already been successfully organizing such a festival for over a decade. Over the weekend of German Unity, 2 – 4 October 2009, the citizens of Weimar had the opportunity for the first time ever to hear and discuss with German and international historians at a variety of events.
The ground was prepared by a team of German and French scholars in close cooperation with the Cultural Office of the City of Weimar as the event’s organizer, as well as with the City of Blois. The theme chosen for this first Weimar edition of the »Rendez-vous« was »Daring Democracies.« The historical anniversaries being celebrated in 2009 revolved around the theme of democracy. Hence, within the framework of and as a closing event for the exhibition on the Weimar Constitution (Weimar 1919 – Chances of a Republic, 7.2.-4.10.2009 at the Stadtmuseum), it was appropriate to offer the public a thoughtful, sober, but at the same time enthusiastic look at the diversity of the idea of »democracy,« at all its manifestations, but also at the dangers threatening it.
The various strands of the Weimar Rendez-vous aimed to do just that. The problem of the »diversity of understanding of democracy« was contrasted with the problem of »democracy and globalization.« »Democracy in times of change« was discussed, as was »democracy and mediatic society.« Events focusing on »aspects of democracy« dealt with role of the individual in democracy, while those touching upon »democracy of the people« dealt with its external manifestations. Weimar students were directly involved in the projects at the »Pedagogical Rendez-vous.«
All these strands were presented in events that were as varied as they were high-calibre. They dealt with questions of history and politics at the highest scientific level, but without overblown scientific jargon. History was to be communicated in the public sphere, as a discourse between international experts and interested citizens – a concept that had been successfully practiced in Blois for some time and which was henceforth to find a permanent home in Weimar. Lectures alternated with panel discussions, conversations with contemporary witnesses brought the past to life as the present, while music and films ventured to touch upon questions of democracy and art.
In its opening year, the Weimar Rendez-vous with History aimed to be more modest than the festival in its twin city of Blois, one which attracts 25,000 visitors for hundreds of events each year. But even so, Weimar Rendez-vous succeeded in making it clear that Weimar, in addition to its importance as a city of culture, has also played and continues to play its role as a city of democracy and history, and that in Weimar culture and history go hand in hand and mutually enrich each other.