Ernst Moritz Arndt

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Ernst Moritz Arndt
Monument in front of the University of Greifswald depicting of Ernst Moritz Arndt

Ernst Moritz Arndt (26 December 1769 – 29 January 1860) was a German patriotic author and poet. Early in his life, he fought for the abolition of serfdom, later against Napoleonic dominance over Germany. Arndt had to flee to Sweden for some time due to his anti-French positions. He is one of the main founders of German nationalism and the movement for German unification. After the Carlsbad Decrees, the forces of the restoration counted him as a demagogue and he was rehabilitated in 1840.

Arndt played an important role for the early national and liberal Burschenschaft movement and for the unification movement, and his song "Was ist des Deutschen Vaterland?" acted as an unofficial German national anthem.

Long after his death, his anti-French war propaganda was used again in both World Wars. This together with some strongly antisemitic statements has led to a rather ambivalent view of Arndt today.

Early life and studies[edit]

Arndt was born at Groß Schoritz (now a part of Garz/Rügen) on the island of Rügen in Swedish Pomerania as the son of a prosperous farmer, and emancipated serf of the lord of the district, Count Putbus; his mother came of well-to-do German yeoman stock. In 1787 the family moved to the neighbourhood of Stralsund, where Arndt was able to attend the academy. After an interval of private study he went in 1791 to the University of Greifswald as a student of theology and history, and in 1793 moved to Jena, where he came under the influence of Fichte.

After the completion of his university studies he returned home,for two years was a private tutor in the family of Ludwig Koscgarten (1758–1818), pastor of Wittow, and having qualified for the ministry as a candidate of theology, assisted in church services. At the age of twenty-eight he renounced the ministry, and for eighteen months led a life of traveling, visiting Austria, Hungary, Italy, France and Belgium. Turning homewards up the river Rhine, he was moved by the sight of the ruined castles along its banks to intense bitterness against France. The impressions of this journey he later described in Reisen durch einen Teil Deutschlands, Ungarns, Italiens und Frankreichs in den Jahren 1798 und 1799 (1802–1804).

Opposition to serfdom and Napoleonic rule[edit]

Arndt in his elder years

In 1800 he settled in Greifswald as privat-docent in history, and the same year published Über die Freiheit der alten Republiken. In 1803 appeared Germanien und Europa, a fragmentary ebullition, he himself called it, of his views on the French aggression. This was followed by one of the most remarkable of his books, Geschichte der Leibeigenschaft in Pommern und Rügen (Berlin, 1803), a history of serfdom in Pomerania and on Rügen, which was so convincing an indictment that King Gustav IV Adolf of Sweden in 1806 abolished the evil.

Arndt had meanwhile risen from privat-docent to extraordinary professor, and in 1806 was appointed to the chair of history at the university. In this year he published the first part of his Geist der Zeit, in which he flung down the gauntlet to Napoleon and called on countrymen to rise and shake off the French yoke. So great was the excitement it produced that Arndt was compelled to take refuge in Sweden to escape the vengeance of Napoleon.

Settling in Stockholm, he obtained government employment, and devoted himself to the great cause which was nearest his art, and in pamphlets, poems and songs communicated his enthusiasm to his countrymen. Schill's heroic death at Stralsund compelled him to return to Germany and, under the disguise of Aßmann, teacher of languages, be reached Berlin in December.

In 1810 he returned to Greifswald, but only for a few months. He again set out on his adventurous travels, lived in close contact, with the first men of his time, such as Gebhard Leberecht von Blücher, August von Gneisenau and Heinrich Friedrich Karl Stein, and in 1812 was summoned by the last named to St Petersburg to assist in the organization of the final struggle against France. Meanwhile, pamphlet after pamphlet, and his stirring patriotic songs, such as "Was ist des Deutschen Vaterland?" "Der Gott, der Eisen wachsen ließ," and "Was blasen Trompeten?" were on all lips.

Arndt's domicile in Bonn after 1819

When, after the peace, the University of Bonn was founded in 1818, Arndt was appointed to impart of his Geist der Zeit, in which he criticized the reactionary policy of the German powers. The boldness of his demands for reform offended the Prussian government, and in the summer in 1819 he was arrested and his papers confiscated.

Although speedily liberated, he was in the following year, at the instance of the Central Commission of Investigation at Mainz, established in accordance with the Carlsbad Decrees, arraigned before a specially constituted tribunal. Although not found guilty, he was forbidden to exercise the functions of his professorship, but he was allowed to retain the stipend. The next twenty years he passed in retirement and literary activity.

In 1840 he was reinstated in his professorship, and in 1841 was chosen rector of the university. The revolutionary outbreak of 1848 rekindled in the venerable patriot his old hopes and energies, and he took seat as one of the deputies to the National Assembly at Frankfurt. He formed one of the deputation that offered the Imperial crown to Frederick William IV, and indignant at the king's refusal to accept it, he retired with the majority of von Gagern's adherents from public life.

He continued to lecture and to write with freshness and vigour, and on his 90th birthday received from all parts of Germany good wishes and tokens of affection. He died at Bonn. Arndt was twice married, first in 1800, his wife dying in the following year; a second time in 1817. His youngest son drowned in the Rhine in 1834.

There are monuments to his memory at Schoritz, his birthplace, at the University of Greifswald, and in Bonn, where he is buried. The Ernst Moritz Arndt University of Greifswald was named in Nazi Germany and the name has been recently contested.[1]

Anti-French resentments and antisemitism[edit]

Originally an enthusiastic supporter of the ideas of the French revolution, Arndt dissociated himself from them when the Reign of Terror of the Jacobins became apparent. When Napoleon began to conquer Europe, this renunciation was transformed into hatred.[2]

Like Fichte and Jahn, Arndt began to define a German nation as a society of homogeneous descent, drawing on the history of the Germanic peoples and the "teutonic" Middle Ages. Yet while his writings lack a specific political programme, they define external enemies instead. While freedom is often cited, it used in a diffuse context, just like the terms nation, home country and people. It has been noted, that the freedom Arndt envisioned was not that of a modern pluralistic society but a freedom of an archaic and Protestant tribal community. The Frenchmen are called weakened, womanish and morally depraved by Arndt while he praises German virtues which should be preserved:[2]

"The Germans have not been bastardised by foreign peoples, have not become half-breeds, they more than many other peoples have remained in their native state of purity..."[3]

These ideas lead Arndt to produce a harshly critical anti-French propaganda during the Napoleonic occupation of the German states whereby he incited the Germans to hate the French people:

"When I say I hate the French carelessness, I despise the French daintiness, I disapprove of the French loquacity and flightiness, I may pronounce a flaw, but it is a flaw that I share with all my people. I could likewise say I hate the English presumption, the English prudery, the English seclusiveness. These hated, despised, dispraised characteristics are not yet vices as such, from the peoples that they represent they may come with great virtues which I and my people are lacking. Therefore let us hate the Frenchmen quite freshly, let us hate our Frenchmen, the infamisers and destroyers of our power and virginity, even more, now that we feel how they weaken and enervate our virtue and strength."[4]

He also warned of too close contact with Judaism. While he reasoned that "the seed of Abraham" was hardly predominant in a second generation after conversion to Christianity, he still warned of the "thousands which by the Russian tyranny will now come upon us even more abounding from Poland", "the impure flood from the East".[5] Moreover he warned of a Jewish intellectual plot, claiming that Jews had "usurped" a good half of all literature.[5]

Arndt also mingles his hatred of the French with antisemitism, calling the French "the Jewish people (das Judenvolk)", or "refined bad Jews (verfeinerte schlechte Juden)".[6] In 1815 he writes about the French: "Jews... I call them again, not only for their Jewish lists and their penny-pinching avarice but even more because of their Jew-like sticking together."[7]

Anti-Polish and Anti-Slavic views[edit]

Arndt was also an enemy of the Polish people and published an anti-Polish pamphlet in 1831 where he described Polish "barbarity and wilderness".[8] In 1848 during events of Spring of Nations when the Polish issue was raised Arndt declared that "tribes" of Slavs and Wends "have never done or been able to do anything lasting with respect to state, science, or art" and concluded, "At the outset I assert with world history that pronounces judgment: the Poles and the whole Slavonic tribe are inferior to Germans."[9]


See also German Wikisource.

Poems and songs[edit]

Arndt's lyric poems are not all confined to politics. Many among the Gedichte are religious pieces. This is a selection of his best-known poems and songs:

Other works[edit]

(A selection.)

  • Reise durch Schweden ("Voyage through Sweden", 1797)
  • Nebenstunden, Beschreibung und Geschichte der Shetländischen Inseln und Orkaden ("Description and history of the Shetland and Orkney Islands", 1820)
  • Die Frage über die Niederlande ("The Netherlands question", 1831)
  • Erinnerungen aus dem äusseren Leben (1840) An autobiography, and the most valuable source of information for Arndt's life. This is the basis of E. M. Seeley's Life and Adventures of E. M. Arndt (1879)
  • Rhein- und Ahrwanderungen ("Peregrinations along the Rhine and Ahr", 1846)
  • Meine Wanderungen und Wandlungen mit dem Reichsfreiherrn Heinrich Carl Friedrich vom Stein ("My peregrinations and metamorphoses together with Reichsfreiherr Heinrich Carl Friedrich vom Stein", 1858)
  • Pro populo germanico (1854) Originally intended to form the fifth part of the Geist der Zeit.


  • Schenkel (Elberfeld, 1869)
  • E. Langenberg (Bonn, 1869)
  • Wilhelm Baur (Hamburg, 1882)
  • H. Meisner and R. Geerds, E. M. Arndt, Ein Lebensbild in Briefen (1898)
  • R. Thiele, E. M. Arndt (1894).

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Themenseite der Universität zu Ernst Moritz Arndt, mit Links zu den öffentlichen Anhörungen, dem Bericht der Namenskommission und zum Senatsbeschluss 2010
  2. ^ a b Staas, Christian. "Einheit durch Reinheit". Zeit Geschichte (in German) (3/2010): 38–42. 
  3. ^ Ripper, Werner (1978). Weltgeschichte im Aufriss (in German) 2. Frankfurt: Verlag Diesterweg. p. 191. ISBN 3-425-07379-6. Die Deutschen sind nicht durch fremde Völker verbastardet, sie sind keine Mischlinge geworden, sie sind mehr als viele andere Völker in ihrer angeborenen Reinheit geblieben... 
  4. ^ Arndt, E.M. Geist der Zeit (in German) 4. Leipzig. p. 148. Wenn ich sage, ich hasse den französischen Leichtsinn, ich verschmähe die französische Zierlichkeit, mir missfällt die französische Geschwätzigkeit und Flatterhaftigkeit, so spreche ich vielleicht einen Mangel aus, aber einen Mangel, der mir mit meinem ganzen Volke gemein ist. Ebenso kann ich sagen: Ich hasse den englischen Übermut, die englische Sprödigkeit, die englische Abgeschlossenheit. Diese gehassten und verachteten und getadelten Eigenschaften sind an sich noch keine Laster, sie hängen bei den Völkern, die sie tragen, vielleicht mit großen Tugenden zusammen, die mir und meinem Volke fehlen. Darum lasst uns die Franzosen nur recht frisch hassen, lasst uns unsre Franzosen, die Entehrer und Verwüster unserer Kraft und Unschuld, nur noch frischer hassen, wo wir fühlen, dass sie unsere Tugend und Stärke verweichlichen und entnerven. 
  5. ^ a b Schmidt, Jörg (7 September 2009). "Fataler Patron". Die Zeit (in German). Tausende, welche die russische Tyrannei uns nun noch wimmelnder jährlich aus Polen auf den Hals jagen wird,... die unreine Flut von Osten her. 
  6. ^ Arndt, E.M. (1814). Noch ein Wort über die Franzosen und über uns. p. 13 ff. 
  7. ^ Arndt, E.M. (1815). Das Wort von 1814 und das Wort von 1815 über die Franzosen. p. 71. Juden... nenne ich sie wieder, nicht bloß wegen ihrer Judenlisten und ihres knickerigen Geitzes, sondern mehr noch wegen ihres judenartigen Zusammenklebens. 
  8. ^ Germany and Eastern Europe: Cultural Identity and Cultural Differences Keith Bullivant,Geoffrey Giles, Walter Pape, page 144 Jurgen Lieskounig "Branntweintrinkende Wilde" Beyond Civilization and Outside History: The Depiction of the Poles in Gustav Freytag's "Soll und Haben"
  9. ^ The apocalypse in Germany Klaus Vondung and Stephen D. Ricks page 112,University of Missouri Press 2001


External links[edit]