Adolf Bartels

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Adolf Bartels

Adolf Bartels (born November 15, 1862 in Wesselburen , † March 7, 1945 in Weimar ) was a völkisch - anti-Semitic German writer , journalist , literary historian and cultural politician . He was a representative of the local art movement and propagated anti-democratic and anti-Jewish positions early on, which after 1933 became formative for the cultural policy of National Socialism .


Origin, youth and education

Adolf Bartels was born in Wesselburen in Schleswig-Holstein. He was the oldest of nine children of a master locksmith. From 1877 to 1882 he attended together with the subsequent nationalist writer Gustav Frenssen the school in Meldorf , but it had just before the Abitur leave because his father could not afford the school fees. For some time he lived with his uncle in Hamburg and gave tutoring lessons. He then returned to his hometown and worked for a short time as an assistant clerk at the Royal District Court.

At the same time, he continued to give tutoring, wrote poems , short stories and essays on local history, which his fatherly friend Julius Groth, editor and editor of the Dithmarscher Bote , published in his local paper. This gave Bartels the idea to give a series of lectures on literary and historical topics in order to finance a university course with the proceeds.

Since 1885 he attended the University of Leipzig despite the lack of a higher education entrance qualification and studied political science more for alibi reasons , while he mainly attended lectures on literature, history and philosophy . In Leipzig he met the early naturalists Hermann Conradi , Otto Erich Hartleben and Karl Henckell , whom he later satirically portrayed in a section of his comical epic The Dumb Devil (1896). Like her, he later decided to become a freelance writer . During this period, he wrote smaller stories from his home in Schleswig-Holstein ( Peter Boie von Helse , Johann Fehring , Editha , Rolves Karsten ) as well as a “rebel novel” and a bourgeois drama under naturalistic influence. However, these literary attempts remained fragments that were never published.

Activity as a journalist

In 1888 Bartels broke off his studies after spending two semesters at the University of Berlin . He married his Leipzig fiancée Ida Rehork (1868-1958). Through the mediation of the two writers Hermann Allmers and Julius Grosse , Bartels became editor of Didaskalia , the entertainment supplement of the national liberal Frankfurter Journal, in 1889 . He wrote theater reviews , feature articles and reviews for them .

The management of the journal appointed him editor-in-chief of the Lahrer Zeitung in Baden in 1890 . In Lahr , where he stayed until 1892, he wrote historical dramas such as Popess Johanna and Catilina , for which he could not find a publisher. He also wrote his first literary critical work: Friedrich Geßler. His life and works . In the local literary circle in the Hotel Krauss he met Friedrich Gessler and the poet Ludwig Eichrodt .

In 1892 he was transferred back to Frankfurt am Main and headed the Didaskalia until 1895 . In his theater reviews he accused the upper-class Frankfurt theater audience of showing no understanding of the new literary movement, naturalism , and of preferring instead the shallow fare of French conversation pieces. At the same time he wrote reviews for Friedrich Lange's Daily Rundschau and other papers.

Bartels, who as a student and editor had been an opponent of the creeping anti-Semitism , also got to know writers of Jewish origin in Frankfurt. At first he was open to them, but then increasingly believed that he perceived “Jewish solidarity for better and for worse”. Over time, his attitude towards the Jews became openly hostile.

Writer and anti-Semitic literary historian

After the Frankfurter Journal got into financial difficulties again, Bartels realized his dream in 1896 and became a freelance writer. His father's friend Julius Grosse, secretary of the German Schiller Foundation, supported him in this . He moved to Weimar and presented his first novel and his main fictional work: Die Dithmarscher . In addition, he wrote literary critical articles for renowned magazines such as Die Grenzboten , Der Kunstwart etc. Even before Paul Schlenther , in 1897 he wrote the first independent publication on the naturalist Gerhart Hauptmann .

A series of articles from the Grenzbote appeared in book form: The German Poetry of the Present. Die Alten und die Junge , published several times between 1897 and 1922, was expanded to more than three times its volume over the years and was considered a standard work at the time. Kurt Tucholsky - according to Bartels "a real Jewish cheek" - called the book in 1922 in an article written for the Weltbühne as a "cheeky fraud on the book buyer" and a "book catalog interrupted by silly remarks". About the author, whose "Jewish smugness" he found grotesque and whom he u. a. as a “caricature of Germanness”, a “ pogrom staggering around in the maze of German literature ” and “swastika polichinell”, Tucholsky was equally devastating:

“What appeals to Adolf Bartels and makes him the clown of current German literature is his ignorance, his frivolity and a superficiality that is actually completely un-German. If he did not write such a pathetic style, one could bet on a Romanian semi-scientist who spreads the misunderstood research results of the Paris university in front of the amazed compatriots, hastily and badly grouped. "

Nevertheless, the book established the reputation of its author in völkisch circles as a serious literary historian, whereas until then he had been considered more of a literary critic .

In 1898 Bartels introduced the term “ Heimatkunst ” into German literary history. Over the next few years, together with Friedrich Lienhard , he was an ardent advocate of this anti-modernist literary genre, which became the forerunner of National Socialist blood-and-soil literature , and contributed to the development of its North German variant, the Low German movement .

Bartels' second historical novel, Dietrich Sebrandt , which appeared in 1899 and deals with the events surrounding the March Revolution in Schleswig-Holstein and Berlin, also follows this tradition . At the turn of the century, a lung disease deteriorated Bartels' health rapidly. He was operated on several times and had to move frequently. Since he believed he was dying, he published his collected poems - poems and dramas - between 1904 and 1905. But gradually his physical constitution improved again.

At the same time, his standard work, the history of German literature , was created, in which his now openly anti-Semitic attitude flowed. He pursued the goal on the one hand to promote the "knowledge of the national treasure" and on the other hand to identify its alleged spoilers. Bartels played a key role in ensuring that anti-Semitism in Germany became an integral part of a “national ethos”.

Two tendencies became increasingly stronger in Bartels' work: his rejection of "Jewish literacy", which included a "clean divorce between Germans and Jews", and the fight against " decadence literature". At the same time, he pointed to young, “healthy talents”. He separated about 9,000 authors “cleanly” into Jews and non-Jews. In several cases, in which he did not know anything about the actual origin of an author, he believed that he could infer their religion and "race" from the style and content of their works. So he classified the Protestant Thomas Mann as a Jewish writer. In his early essay The Solution of the Jewish Question, he contradicted the “captivating” thesis of the “great Germanic poet and literary historian”. As with Mann, Bartels encountered mocking irony, a sober quality judgment, and the rejection of racial ideology as a measure of artistic achievement with other authors, Jews and non-Jews alike.

For Bartels, in spite of his blatant anti-Semitism, “bad literature” and “Jewish literature” were not identical from the outset. But he denied that the works of Jewish authors were German literature at all. His anti-Semitic pamphlet Heinrich Heine, which is still notorious to this day, is characteristic of this attitude . Also a monument . Bartels published this pamphlet in 1906 with the stated aim of preventing the erection of a Heine memorial after he had appreciated the poet himself as a youth. He denounced Heinrich Heine as a "Decadence Jew" and the monument plans as "Kowtow before Judaism". His polemics finally culminated in the statement:

"If he has to have a monument, Judaism can simply set one for him, the means are plentiful: HEINRICH HEINE YOUR GREAT POET AND PREPARATORS THE GERMAN JEWS would have to read the inscription on this monument, and you can guarantee that it will then remains unscathed for the future, even if the Jews were added to the Jewish comrades. However, if it says: HEINRICH HEINE THE GERMAN PEOPLE, then nobody can guarantee that the memorial won't one day (of course I'm only speaking figuratively) - and maybe something else too. "

In 1909 Bartels founded the Weimar National Festival for German Youth , at which schoolchildren from all over Germany were familiarized with the classics of German literature and who were supposed to offer a "protective wall" against the "pernicious influences of German decadent literature" of recent decades. From 1909 Bartels also published a literary magazine, Deutsches Schrifttum . It appeared with interruptions until December 1933.

His play Lafontaine was performed in the folk-oriented mountain theater Thale .

Protagonist of the national movement and militant anti-Semite

Bartels was a member of Friedrich Lange's " German Association " and founded the Volkischer Werdandi Association in 1907 together with Arthur Moeller van den Bruck , Houston Stewart Chamberlain , Henry Thode , Ludwig Schemann and Hermann Hendrich . On January 21, 1913, he gave a speech in Berlin at the invitation of the Deutschvölkischer Studentenverband and the Reichshammerbund in which he declared: "Anyone who is not an anti-Semite in our time is not a good German". In the same year he organized the first " German Day " in Eisenach , an army show of ethnic groups and associations. In his home country Schleswig-Holstein he was one of the initiators of the Hebbel Museum in Wesselburen and the Klaus Groth Museum in neighboring Heide . In 1914 his memoir Kinderland was published , a description of his childhood and youth in rural Wesselburen.

During the First World War , Bartels was a member of the anti-Semitic German Nationalist Party , which existed from 1914 to 1918. The party spoke out against peace negotiations and demanded the greatest possible annexations, the expulsion of the Jewish population and a ban on immigration from Eastern Europe. After the November Revolution, it was absorbed into the German National People's Party (DNVP). Bartels, too, initially tended towards the DNVP in the first years of the Weimar Republic . In addition, he sat on the advisory board of the German National Protection and Defense Association , for which he was active in propaganda.

During this time he was one of the leading representatives of the Völkische Movement and was also committed to German Christianity . He openly declared his racism and especially his anti-Semitism. In the Encyclopedia of National Socialism he is therefore characterized as a racist and militant anti-Semite .

Bartels' pupil and temporary personal secretary Hans Severus Ziegler , after 1933 general director and deputy NSDAP Gauleiter of Thuringia , as well as his compatriot Ernst Graf zu Reventlow won Bartels gradually for National Socialism. In 1924 he published the brochure Der Nationalozialismus Deutschlands Rettung , published several times, and met Adolf Hitler in 1926 , whom he briefly appears in the final chapter of his last novel, The Last Supreme Authority (1931).

The local NSDAP group in Weimar made Bartels an honorary member in 1925. In 1928 he appeared as a public sponsor of the National Socialist Society for German Culture . After the seizure of power in 1933, Bartels received numerous honors as a "völkischer pioneer" (honorary salary, honorary citizenship awards, party awards). His admirers included u. a. Reich Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels , Reich Dramaturge Rainer Schlösser and Reich Youth Leader Baldur von Schirach . Bartels viewed the public book burnings with mixed feelings, since he believed that the burnings had little to do with “national reconstruction work”. His Weimar National Festival for German youth , founded in 1909 , was resumed and placed under the patronage of the Reich Youth Leadership.

In 1939 he declared his collaboration with the Institute for Research and Elimination of Jewish Influence on German Church Life .

After 1933 his literary and fictional works appeared in several new editions. One of his last major works was the history of Thuringian literature (1938–1942), thanks to his adopted home, on which he had worked for several years. At the suggestion of a National Socialist member, the Goethe Society in Weimar accepted Bartels as an honorary member on his 75th birthday in 1937.

The last major events in his life included the “Greater German Poet Days” in Weimar, where he and Joseph Goebbels spoke to 200 invited poets and writers, and the celebrations for his 75th and 80th birthday. On the occasion of this birthday, Ziegler, now director of the National Theater in Weimar , had Bartels' youth drama Catilina premiered. Bartels planned a state library and memorial hall for his home town of Dithmarschen, but died after a short illness on March 7, 1945 at the age of 82 in Weimar.

Bartels' library and legacy writings were completely destroyed in the fire of the Duchess Anna Amalia Library in Weimar on September 2, 2004.


Until 1933:

  • 1905 Professor hc (by Grand Duke Wilhelm Ernst of Weimar)
  • 1914 Friedrich Hebbel Prize
  • 1922 Renaming of Gartenstrasse in Wesselburen to Bartelsstrasse. Renamed to Wulf-Isebrand-Straße in 1966.
  • 1927 honorary citizenship of Wesselburen (revoked 1987).
  • 1932 plaque of honor from the city of Weimar

1933 to 1945

After 1945:

  • 1954 the new elementary school in Heide is given the name "Adolf-Bartels-Schule" (canceled in 1958 by the Ministry of Culture)
  • 1965 Entry on the “ Dichterstein Offenhausen ” by the right-wing extremist cultural association of the same name.

Fonts (selection)

  • Friedrich Gessler. His life and his works. Schauenburg, Lahr 1892
  • The stupid devil or the quest for genius. Funny epic in 12 songs. Dresdner Verlagsanstalt Dresden 1896
  • Gerhart Hauptmann. Felber, Weimar 1897
  • The German poetry of the present. The old and the young. Leipzig, Avenarius 1897, 9th greatly increased and improved edition. 1918.
    • The German poetry of the present. New edition in three parts: The Old, The Young, The Youngest . 10-12 Edition Leipzig, Haessel 1921–1922
  • The Dithmarscher. Historical novel in 4 books. Kiel u. Leipzig, Lipsius u. Table 1898.
  • Dietrich Sebrandt. Novel from the time of the Schleswig-Holstein elevation. Kiel u. Leipzig, Lipsius u. Table 1899.
  • The farmer in the German past Leipzig: Diederichs. (= Monographs on German Cultural History 6), 1900.
  • Dürer in Venice. Opera in three acts. Seal by Adolf Bartels based on the novel of the same name by Adolf Stern . Music by Waldemar von Baußnern . Dresden, Brunner 1901
  • History of German literature. 2 volumes. Leipzig, Avenarius 1901/02
  • Criticism and Criticism Aaster. Leipzig, Avenarius 1903.
  • Heimatkunst. A word for understanding. Leipzig u. Berlin, Meyer 1904.
  • Adolf Stern. The poet and literary historian. Dresden, cook 1905.
  • The Weimar court theater as the national stage for German youth. A memorandum. Weimar, Böhlaus Nachf. 1905.
  • Heinrich Heine. Also a monument. Dresden u. Leipzig, cook 1906.
  • Sex Life and Poetry. Leipzig, Wallmann 1906.
  • Handbook on the history of German literature. Leipzig, Avenarius 1906.
  • Heine comrades. On the characteristics of the German press and the German parties. Dresden u. Leipzig, cook 1907.
  • Fritz Stavenhagen. An aesthetic appreciation. Koch, Dresden 1907
  • Chronicle of the Weimar Court Theater 1817–1907. Böhlaus Nachf., Weimar 1908
  • Wilhelm of Polenz. Dresden, cook 19
  • Race. 16 essays on national worldview. Hanseatic Printing and Publishing Company, Hamburg 1909
  • Judaism and German Literature. Zieger, Leipzig 1912
  • Introduction to world literature (from the earliest times to the present) following the life and work of Goethe. 3 volumes. Callwey, Munich 1913
  • German decay. Armanenverlag Robert Burger , Leipzig 1913
  • German- ethnic poems from the jubilee year of the Wars of Liberation in 1913. Armanenverlag Robert Burger, Leipzig 1914
  • Kinderland. Memories from Hebbel's homeland. Armanenverlag Robert Burger, Leipzig 1914
  • The Victory Prize (West Russia German). A political memorandum. Roltsch, Weimar 1914
  • Bismarck the German. Düsseldorf, Lesch u. Irmer 1915.
  • National or universal literary studies? A pamphlet against Hanns Martin Elster and Richard M. Meyer. Munich, Callwey 1915.
  • German Christianity on a purely evangelical basis. Leipzig, Wacher 1917.
  • World literature. An overview at the same time a guide through Reclam's universal library. 3 volumes. Leipzig, Reclam 1918.
  • Lessing and the Jews. An investigation. Dresden, cook 1918.
  • Why I fight the Jews. Clear information. Hamburg, Deutschvölkische Verlagsanstalt 1919 (= H. 8 of the hammer blows)
  • What I ask of a German state. Clear information. Hamburg, Deutschvölkische Verlagsanstalt 1919 (= H. 10 of the hammer blows)
  • The legitimacy of anti-Semitism. A refutation of Herr von Oppeln-Bronikowsky's writing "Anti-Semitism?". Leipzig, Weicher 1921.
  • The Volkish Thought. A guide. Weimar, Fink 1922
  • National Socialism to save Germany. Leipzig, Weicher 1924.
  • Jewish origins and literary studies, a thorough discussion , 1925.
  • Freemasonry and German literature. Findings and assumptions. Munich, more like 1929.
  • The last power of attorney. A novel from the Bismarckian era. Weimar, Borkmann 1931
  • Goethe the German. Frankfurt am Main, Diesterweg 1932.
  • Introduction to German literature for young booksellers and other young Germans. Leipzig, Klein 1932.
  • My life work. Wesselburen, Dithmarscher Bote 1932.
  • Johann Fehring, the people cheating . JJ Weber, Leipzig 1935 ( shuttle-library 7)
  • History of Thuringian Literature. 2 volumes. Jena, Frommann 1938/42


  • Karl Otto Conrady : Adolf Bartels is warned. From a chapter of a misunderstood love of home. In: the same: literature and German studies as a challenge. Sketches and opinions. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 1974, ISBN 3-518-06714-1 , pp. 227-232.
  • Steven Nyole Fuller: The Nazis' Literary Grandfather. Adolf Bartels and Cultural Extremism, 1871–1945. Peter Lang, New York a. a. 1996, ISBN 0-8204-2329-7 .
  • Walter Goetz:  Bartels, Adolf. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 1, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1953, ISBN 3-428-00182-6 , p. 597 ( digitized version ).
  • Peter Goßens: Adolf Bartels. In: Wolfgang Benz (Hrsg.): Handbuch des Antisemitismus. Hostility to Jews in the past and present. Volume 7: Literature. Film, theater and art . de Gruyter Saur, Berlin / Munich / Boston 2014, pp. 221–223.
  • Hans von Hülsen : Envy as an attitude - the manic anti-Semitism of Adolf Bartels. In: Karl Schwedhelm (Ed.): Prophets of Nationalism. List, Munich 1969, pp. 176-188.
  • Ulf-Thomas Lesle : The Low German Theater. From “völkischer Not” to literary comfort . Christians, Hamburg 1986.
  • Thomas Neumann: Völkisch-national Hebbelrezeption. Adolf Bartels and the Weimar National Festival. Aisthesis, Bielefeld 1997, ISBN 3-89528-157-3 .
  • Thomas Neumann: Adolf Bartels. In: Christoph König (Ed.), With the assistance of Birgit Wägenbaur u. a .: Internationales Germanistenlexikon 1800–1950 . Volume 1: A-G. De Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2003, ISBN 3-11-015485-4 , pp. 85-88 (current bio-bibliographical information on Adolf Bartels).
  • Thomas Rösner: Adolf Bartels. In: Uwe Puschner, Walter Schmitz, Justus H. Ulbricht (eds.): Handbook on the “Völkische Movement” 1871–1918. Saur, Munich a. a. 1996, ISBN 3-598-11241-6 , pp. 874-894.
  • Hans Sarkowicz , Alf Mentzer: Literature in Nazi Germany. A biographical lexicon. Adult new edition. Europa Verlag, Hamburg / Vienna 2002, ISBN 3-203-82030-7 .

Web links

Commons : Adolf Bartels  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Adolf Bartels  - Sources and full texts

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Kurt Tucholsky: Herr Adolf Bartels. In: The world stage. 1922, Volume 18, No. 12, pp. 291-294.
  2. Thomas Rösner: Adolf Bartels. In: Uwe Puschner, Walter Schmitz, Justus H. Ulbrich (eds.): Handbook on the "Völkische Movement" 1871-1918 . KG Saur, Munich 1996, p. 882; Steven Nyole Fuller: The Nazis' Literary Grandfather: Adolf Bartels and Cultural Extremism, 1871-1945 . P. Lang, Frankfurt 1996.
  3. Ulf-Thomas Lesle : The Low German Theater. From “völkischer Not” to literary comfort . Christians, Hamburg 1986, p. 53.
  4. Thomas Mann: The solution to the Jewish question. In: Thomas Mann: Collected works in thirteen volumes. Volume 13, supplements, Fischer, Frankfurt 1974, p. 459.
  5. ^ Adolf Bartels: Heinrich Heine - also a monument. CAKochs Verlagbuchhandlung, Dresden and Leipzig 1906.
  6. Uwe Puschner: German reform stage and völkisch cult site. In: Handbook on the "Völkische Movement" 1871-1918. Munich 1996, p. 788.
  7. ^ Uwe Puschner: The völkisch movement in the Wilhelmine Empire. Darmstadt 2001, p. 53.
  8. ^ Uwe Puschner: The völkisch movement in the Wilhelmine Empire. Darmstadt 2001, p. 53.
  9. Uwe Lohalm: Völkischer Radikalismus: The history of the Deutschvölkischer Schutz- und Trutz-Bund. 1919-1923 . Leibniz-Verlag, Hamburg 1970, ISBN 3-87473-000-X , pp. 98 and 386.
  10. ^ Encyclopedia of National Socialism, eds. Wolfgang Benz, Hermann Graml and Hermann Weiß, Munich 2007, p. 895.
  11. ^ Ernst Klee : The culture lexicon for the Third Reich. Who was what before and after 1945. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2007, ISBN 978-3-10-039326-5 , p. 29.
  12. ^ Ernst Klee : The dictionary of persons on the Third Reich. Who was what before and after 1945. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2005, p. 29.
  13. Hans Prolingheuer: We went astray . Cologne 1987, p. 150.
  14. ^ W. Daniel Wilson: The Faustian Pact. Goethe and the Goethe Society in the Third Reich. Deutscher Taschenbuch-Verlag, Munich 2018, ISBN 978-3-423-28166-9 , pp. 41-42, 163-166 .
  15. ^ Professor Bartels' books. In: November 11, 2004, accessed October 28, 2017 .
  16. ^ Martin Gietzelt: History of Dithmarschens. On behalf of the Dithmarscher Association for Regional Studies. Boyens, Heide 2000, ISBN 3-8042-0859-2 , p. 376.
  17. Hans Sarkowicz, Alf Mentzer: Writer in National Socialism. A lexicon. Insel, Berlin 2011, ISBN 978-3-458-17504-9 , p. 101.
  18. ( Memento from December 16, 2015 in the Internet Archive )