Fragile Demokratien – Fragile Democracies: 1923/1933/2023

International Conference from March 22 to 24, 2023

About the conference

Ninety years ago Adolf Hitler came to power in Germany. In January 1933, Paul von Hindenburg appointed him Reich chancellor. A few weeks later, on March 24,1933, he had the so-called Enabling Act passed by the Reichstag. This Act finally sealed the end of Germany’s first democracy. The Nazis had already tried to seize power in the German Reich ten years earlier with a violent attempted putsch in Munich on November 9, 1923. The putsch failed, however.

The “Beer Hall Putsch” of 1923 and the takeover of power by the National Socialists in 1933 are examples of how democracies can come to an end either suddenly or gradually. They also illustrate the potential spectrum of antidemocratic developments, from an open attempt to overthrow the prevailing order from outside to the gradual subversion of the system from within.

Over the past 100 years political groups and figures have emerged time and again all over the world who have cast doubt on democratic systems or sought to erode or attack them—often successfully.

Together with international representatives from the fields of history, politics, economics, and the social sciences we will analyse and discuss the fragility of democracies in various regions of the world in the past and present. We will look at specific historical constellations as well as at recurring patterns and factors and consider how democratic societies can safeguard themselves against authoritarian and fascist tendencies.

The Munich Documentation Center’s Spring School, which is designed for multipliers and teachers, will take place parallel to the conference. Its participants will attend both the conference program and the accompanying workshops. The Spring School will focus on the question of what role remembrance culture initiatives play within democratic societies.



Munich Documentation Center for the History of National Socialism

Admission free


German and English with simultaneous translation

Social Media

#FragileDemocracies | @nsdoku

In cooperation with

Goethe-Institut e.V.

Funded by the

Bundeszentrale für politische Bildung

As part of

International Weeks against Racism and our event series 1923/1933/2023


Wednesday, March 22, 2023

1 pm | Opening
Welcome | Mirjam Zadoff and Thomas Krüger
Introduction | Denis Heuring and Paul-Moritz Rabe

1:45 to 3:15 pm | The Erosion of Weimar Democracy | Part I
Michael Wildt: 1923/1933: Wie kann eine Gesellschaft kippen?
Daniel Hedinger: Berlin-Rom-Tokio: Faschismus als globales Phänomen
Discussion | Moderation: Dirk Rupnow 

3:15 pm | Break

3:45 to 5:15 pm | The Erosion of Weimar Democracy | Part II
Stefanie Middendorf: Ausnahmezeiten: Demokratisches Regieren und Staatsgewalt 1923 – 1933
Mark Jones: Weimar's Violence
Discussion | Moderation: Moshe Zimmermann

5:15 pm | Break

7 pm | When History rhymes … On the Usefulness and Disadvantages of Historical Comparison
Shulamit Volkov, Ulrich Herbert and Astrid Séville | Moderation: Alexandra Föderl-Schmidt

Thursday, March 23, 2023

11 am to 12:30 pm | Agents and Institutions
Thomas Etzemüller: Stabile Demokratien? Politische Kultur in Skandinavien
Claudia Zilla: Ausgang ungewiss: Chiles Suche nach mehr Demokratie
Discussion | Moderation: Felix Heidenreich

12:30 pm | Break

2 to 3:30 pm | Diversity and Participation
Mark Terkessidis: Diversität und Demokratie – Das politische Potential der Vielheit
Naita Hishoono: Who Decides what is Remembered? Namibia's Struggle for Recognition
Discussion | Moderation: Ali Fathollah-Nejad

3:30 pm | Break

4 to 5:30 pm | Economy and Growth
Adam Tooze: The Impact of Economic Crisis on Democracies
Dipo Faloyin: Self-determined? Nigeria's Political and Economic Development
Discussion | Moderation: Benjamin Zeeb

5:30 pm | Break

6 pm | Lecture
Megan Ming Francis: Race, Violence, and American Democracy
Moderation: Heike Paul

Friday, March 24, 2023

11 am to 12:30 pm | Remembrance and History
Martin Schulze Wessel: Geschichtspolitik in Russland: Putins Macht über die Vergangenheit
Élise Julien: Frankreichs Umgang mit der Vergangenheit: Vom nationalen Geschichtsbewusstsein zur Konkurrenz der Erinnerungskulturen
Discussion | Moderation: Stefanie Schüler-Springorum

12:30 pm | Break

2 to 3:30 pm | Media and Public Space
Alice Bota: Staatsfeind Medien – wie Diktaturen unabhängigen Journalismus bekämpfen
Philipp Lorenz-Spreen: Der Einfluss digitaler Medien auf politisches Verhalten und Demokratie
Discussion | Moderation: Carsten Reinemann

3:30 pm | Break

4 to 5:30 pm | Culture and Religion
Noam Zadoff: Ethnonationalism, Minority Identities, and the Dangers to Democracy in Israel
Çiğdem Akyol: Politische Instrumentalisierung – wie Recep Tayyip Erdoğan das Diyanet umformt
Discussion | Moderation: Shoshana Liessmann

5:30 to 6:30 pm | The Future of Democracy
A conversation between Jan-Werner Müller and Georg Diez