In an essay about the Fridericus Weimar films, a quote in German describes the first two parts of the film series as "Zwei Stunden Potsdamismus" he continues to say "man muss ein gelernter Potsdamer sein, um das gehorsam mitzumachen"

google translate, translates Potsdamismus as potsdamism, as in the city Potsdam.

Can someone explain what is meant by this?


2 Answers 2


I have never heard this word before, but a Google search gives some useful information.

1: This source suggests that the word may be of Russian origin.

Allein die Russen lieben es, aus jedem Ding einen abstrakten Ismus zu bilden; [...] So bezeichnete man mit "Potsdamismus" gewisse Dinge,die sich auf Friedrich den Großen bezogen, weil er mit Vorliebe in Potsdam weilte.

The Russians love it to denote each thing as an abstract ism; [...] "Potsdamism" denotes certain things related to Frederick the Great, because he liked to stay in Potsdam [in the palace of Sanssouci].

2, see also here:

Ich möchte hier sagen, daß ich mir kein dümmeres Wort als das vom Potsdamismus denken kann, mit dem man die Zeit Wilhelms II. mißbilligend oder verächtlich bezeichnet hat. Das Wort trifft in gar nichts den Charakter der Zeit und der Männer, die nach 1890 die Geschichte Preußens lenkten. Da herrschte das gerade Gegenteil vom Potsdamismus, unter dem ich mir die glücklichste Verbindung von Klugheit und festem Willen vorstelle, die aus einem armen kleinen Lande einen mächtigen Staat geschaffen hat.

[...] Potsdamism, the happiest combination of cleverness and a firm will, with the result that a mighty state had been created out of a land that was originally small and poor. .

3, p. 113 in The Prussian Spirit - A Survey of German Literature and Politics 1914-1940: This quotes Ludwig Thoma's words in 2.

Note that googling "potsdamism" also gives some hits which might be useful.


The term Potsdamismus is in fact related to the city name Potsdam. You will not find it anywhere in a dictionary, but it is quite common in German to form new nouns from proper names by adding the suffix "-ismus" to them, like "Stalinismus", "Marxismus", ...

Ismus itself is an expression derived from this habit and derogatively describes pure, non-tangible ideas with no real-life use, or "making a science of something that has neither theoretical nor practical use". (Note English has the noun "ism" with a similar meaning.)

Without knowing the movie or its review, I would assume the author wants to derogatively describe the movie as a document of something not being worth documented.

  • 1
    Man könnte noch erwähnen, dass die Aussage, "man muss ein gelernter Potsdamer sein, um das gehorsam mitzumachen", sich sicherlich auf stereotypisch preusische Gehorsamkeit unter dem alten Fritz bezieht.
    – vectory
    Sep 6, 2021 at 2:38

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