Clara Viebig

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Clara Viebig, Berlin, 1890
Clara Viebig - Signatur.jpg

Clara Viebig (* 17th July 1860 in Trier , † 31 July 1952 in Berlin ( West )) was a German storyteller, playwright and columnist , in particular the literary movement of naturalism is attributed. Clara Viebig's works were part of the standard library in bourgeois households at the turn of the century. Some of her work, in particular autobiographical writings and novels set in the Eifel , Moselle and Rhine regions, is being reissued today by Rhein-Mosel-Verlag .


Clara Viebig was the daughter of the Upper Government Council and member of the Frankfurt National Assembly Ernst Viebig and his wife Clara. The family originally came from Posen and came to Trier through the transfer of their father. Clara was born there in what was then Simeonstiftstraße 10, today Kutzbachstraße. In 1861 the family lived at today's Zuckerbergstrasse 24, and later they moved to Olk.

Clara Viebig kept her hometown in good memory throughout her life: “I just chose the most beautiful corner of the whole beautiful Rhineland to be born. My cradle was in Trier, not far from the 'Poort', as the Roman Gate is popularly known. it swayed to the rhythm of the many pious bells that [...] rang with powerful voices over the Moselle. "

In 1868 her father was promoted to deputy to the district president Friedrich von Kühlwetter and had to move with his family to Düsseldorf . There, too, in the hometown of Heinrich Heine , whom she admired , Clara quickly settled in.

For the year 1876, her parents sent the young Clara into pension in the family of a district judge in Trier, whom she later called 'Matthieu' in her writings: “Mathieu, examining magistrate of the Trier district court, which encompassed the entire rural district of the Eifel part belonging to Trier , [...] he took me with him on his many business trips to take the facts, interrogations and autopsies. ”While she was waiting for her uncle in the tavern, she got to know the country and its people through the stories of the landladies. Her love for the Eifel stems from this time, which she later translated into her stories and novels.

After her father's death, Clara moved to Berlin with her mother in 1883 . There she studied singing at the University of Music and gave private lessons to earn extra income.

For 13 years, Clara Viebig spent the holidays with relatives on their estates in the province of Posen . She later translated the impressions received there into numerous novels and stories.

Clara Viebig around 1900

Viebig described the reading of Émile Zola's works , especially Germinal , as crucial for her own literary work; Because of this model, Viebig was also called the "German Zolaid". The writer recalled: “This 'Germinal' was a revelation to me. […] O this power, this greatness, this glow of colors, this abundance of faces, this passion of feelings - that's how you have to write, like that! Without consideration, without fear, without shy hesitation [...] just honest, honest! "

Stylistically, she trained herself on the naturalistic novels of the French writer Guy de Maupassant (1850–1893): "From him I learned to be linguistically picky."

For her first work, Clara Viebig used the pseudonym “C. Viebig ”to gain a foothold more easily in the male-dominated literature of the empire. It was advised, “instead of my honest baptismal name Clara, I should be satisfied with a simple C. He said the audience and editors had a certain distrust of the female pen, especially if the author was still unknown; it would be more advantageous for me if the C. was supposed to be Carl or Clemens or Constantin. ”She managed to publish numerous sketches, fairy tales, novellettes and novellas in the feature sections of newspapers and magazines. In 1896, at the age of 36, Clara Viebig made her debut as a novelist in a Berlin newspaper with the serialized novel Wildfeuer .

In 1895 Viebig came into contact with the publishing house of his son Friedrich Fontane through the acquaintance of Theodor Fontane . This is how she met his Jewish partner Friedrich Theodor Cohn , whom she married in Berlin in 1896. From then on she published almost all of her works in his publishing house F. Fontane & Co. Their son Ernst Viebig (1897–1959) became a composer and conductor. The family lived in Berlin-Zehlendorf in an upper-class family and repeatedly vacationed in the Eifel health resort Bad Bertrich , where they repeatedly found suggestions for their Eifel works.

At the beginning of the First World War , Viebig was initially patriotic and wrote articles in newspapers and magazines. However, her initial enthusiasm quickly turned into skepticism when her son Ernst volunteered for the army: “They were all out of their minds, not the sons, not the teachers, not the fathers - not all of them. Only the mothers saw what it really was like; who suspected how it would come. Came."

At the height of her literary work, Viebig published a novel or a volume of stories almost every year. Between 1898 and 1933 Clara Viebig went on lecture tours to Basel , The Hague , Luxembourg , New York City , Paris , Saint Petersburg and Vienna again and again, alone or with her husband . Her works are in particular translated into French, Spanish, English, Italian, Dutch, Norwegian, Swedish, Finnish, Czech, Ukrainian, Slovenian and Russian, some of which are translated into Braille.

After the National Socialist seizure of power in 1933, her husband, as a Jew, had to surrender his company shares to the Deutsche Verlagsanstalt , which severely restricted the author's publication options. After his death in 1936, Clara Viebig joined the Reichsschrifttumskammer so that she was able to reprint three older novels.

During the Second World War, the writer fled to the Silesian Mittelwalde because of the air raids on Berlin , survived the war with her long-time housekeeper Marie Holzbauer and returned to Berlin-Zehlendorf in 1946 as a displaced person, sick and impoverished. An old acquaintance from the time of the Eifel travel, Ernst Leo Müller, the former mayor of Hillesheim , supported her from then on, although not always unselfishly, economically and personally.

On the occasion of her 70th birthday, the city of Düsseldorf, who had set a monument to Clara Viebig in particular with her novel Die Wacht am Rhein from 1902, honored her by naming a street. In the Löbtau district of Dresden there has been a Clara-Viebig-Straße since the 1960s, as well as in her native Trier.

Gravestone Ernst and Clara Viebig

Clara Viebig died on July 31, 1952 at the age of 92. She found her final resting place in her father's honorary grave at the north cemetery in Düsseldorf .

Impact history

As early as the Roaring Twenties, the female readership in particular turned to new authors like Hedwig Courths-Mahler or representatives of the New Objectivity like Irmgard Keun .

After the Second World War, the content and style of Clara Viebig's work initially took a back seat to new representatives and directions in German literature, such as that of rubble literature . However, the newly established publishing house Das Neue Berlin in East Berlin reissued some Berlin novels. In West Germany in the 1950s, the Georg Fischer Verlag in Wittlich published some Eifel novels and novels.

It was not until the 1990s that the Rastatt Pabel-Moewig Verlag followed , as well as the Düsseldorfer Erb-Verlag with novels whose plot takes place in the Eifel and on the Rhine, and the Verbandsgemeinde Manderscheid with a new edition of the Weiberdorf and Müller-Hannes , which play in their area .

The Eifelverein and individuals are also committed to Viebig's work. On the occasion of the anniversary of death, the writer Hajo Knebel and the publicists Josef Zierden and Josef Ruland published brief introductions to the work, which are illustrated with excerpts. Bert Kortländer also compiled excerpts from important novels in the Clara Viebig reader of the Cologne Nyland Foundation, as well as autobiographical writings, letters and pictures.

The Clara Viebig Society , founded on July 31, 1992 in Bad Bertrich , is engaged in research into the life and work of the writer. She maintains a Clara Viebig pavilion in Bad Bertrich , created a traveling exhibition on the 50th anniversary of the writer's death, collects secondary literature and works on a database of letters. The society is a member of the Working Group of Literary Societies and Memorials .

In 2005, the Clara Viebig Center was established in the "Weiberdorf" Eisenschmitt . An extensive collection of her works and letters can be viewed in a permanent exhibition.

Artistic creation

Clara Viebig's work includes numerous features articles, novels, short stories, plays, librettos, some literary reviews and an extensive collection of letters. By her 80th birthday, her works had reached a total of 750,000.

Clara Viebig is an important representative of German naturalism , but with some works she goes beyond it. The people in their novels, stories and dramas are often depicted as being dependent on their natural surroundings and their development determined by heredity and social milieu. It is not uncommon for her characters to be shaped by deep piety.

Her depressing descriptions of the milieu, which give the work a socially critical trait, are often compared with the work of Heinrich Zille , whereby she put what Zille drew into words. Human characters are sketched with great psychological empathy. In a naturalistic manner, Clara Viebig reproduces literal speech in colloquial language, which is both dialectally colored and reveals the character of the speaker through the use of different sociolects. In particular, works whose action takes place in the Eifel are classified as local art.

Clara Viebig's work is associated with a new type of literature of its time, which, according to "austere, sober objectivity and dispassionate, if not impartial accuracy in the representation of people and powers, customs, relationships and conditions, feelings and feelings" aspires. Viebig did not shy away from "attacking the ruling powers of the time - the militarism of the empire, the Prussian junker caste, the Rhenish bourgeoisie, the Catholic clergy."

Viebig's stories are set in places that the poet knew from her own eyes. From her youth she was familiar with the people and villages of the Eifel; In further novels she designed the impressions from the Düsseldorf time, finally the stories from the eastern provinces and the "Berlin novels" followed. The poet writes: “That's how my three brides live in West and East and on the Lower Rhine. My heart belongs to each of them, I thank each of them good luck. All together, however, my greatest - my art [...] The fourth bride is Berlin. But no, what am I saying ?! No bride! I am - married to Berlin. "

First publications

Clara Viebig's first publications are fairy tales in the Andersen tradition, sketches and novellettes. These smaller works can serve as preliminary studies for your novels.

After her “Zola experience” she wrote the novella The Guilty One in one go. The action takes place in and around Ehrang near Trier, where a young single mother kills the father of her child when he tells her that he wants to take the child away from her. The disappointment was great when nobody wanted to publish this work. In 1896 the work was integrated into the collection of novels for children of the Eifel . From then on it experienced multiple editions.

The first novel Wildfeuer was published in 1896 as a serial in the Berliner Volkszeitung. Set in the Poznan region, the novel is about the right of two young women to self-determination who are to be married off by their fathers. While one daughter evades this determination by suicide, the other enters an arranged marriage out of a sense of duty . Even if this novel, according to Charlotte M. Werner, still plays on the “heart-pain keyboard”, numerous elements of the later novels are already present: “The art of developing and maintaining the arc of suspense, [...] depicting characters credibly or to combine the different levels [...], descriptions of nature [...] that correspond to the moods of the people. "

Stories from the Eifel

Viebig achieved her great literary breakthrough in 1900 with her novel Das Weiberdorf, which is set in the fictional village "Eifelschmitt" and, slightly alienated, was based on Eisenschmitt :

While the men hire out as workers over the year in the Ruhr area, the women have to keep the business running at home and do the hard work in the fields on their own. The highlight is always the vacation of the men in the village: “But then the return home! Rejoiced days, rejoiced nights […] The swaying Rhinelander took off, around thirty couples turned at once in the narrow space. That threw a push, a push and a puff. [...] One could hardly see; the glowing faces shimmered like red spots through the haze. "

The preprint in the Frankfurter Zeitung sparked a supra-regional controversial discussion that turned into a scandal. The inhabitants of the Eifel felt offended by the harsh representation, the church railed against the revealing representation of the people and their passions. The fact that Das Weiberdorf was placed on the Catholic index Librorum Prohibitorum of forbidden books is an inaccurate rumor. Viebig's stories and novels often take place in the Eifel, which at the time was considered backward and was also referred to as "Rhenish Siberia". Not least through Clara Viebig, the Eifel received the rank of a literary landscape .

Novels from the Eastern Provinces

Clara Viebig is wrongly known as the “homeland poet” of the Eifel, although her works are also set in numerous other locations, especially in the up-and-coming Berlin of the imperial era and in the landscape of the former Prussian province of Posen. In the novel Das Schlafende Heer (1904), which is set in the east of Germany, the struggle for supremacy between Germans and Poles is portrayed with undertones that were not uncommon in the era of Wilhelminism .

Ultimately, the Polish shepherd Dudek stated on the occasion of the suicide of Herr von Deutschau: “Years have come and gone, we counted summer and winter, always in mourning, always in sinews, always in hope - but now Poland has slept enough, now stands it on!"

Viebig himself saw in the novel The Sleeping Army a counterpart of the East to her Eifel stories and the novel Die Wacht am Rhein (1902) set in Düsseldorf . While the Prussians and Rhinelander came together for decades in Düsseldorf, this project is doomed to failure in Poland.

Berlin novels and short stories

Another part of Clara Viebig's oeuvre takes place in the Berlin metropolitan area and reflects the changes in the city from the end of the 18th century to the years of the Weimar Republic with all of its urban and social consequences. Industrialization and the resulting rural exodus contribute to urbanization and exacerbate social problems. Recurring topics are the opportunities that open up, especially for women, because they can now lead a self-determined life far away from old traditions, but also the numerous dangers that arise especially for them in the new social situation.

Mine and Bertha, the two country maids, find out that nothing is given to them in the initially promising city of Berlin. Rather, one demands of them: “Serve, serve, serve forever,” which prompts Bertha to exclaim: “No! [...] Do not serve anymore! Rule once too like others rule! For once no more fooling yourself, no longer being chased back and forth, no longer crouching, no longer working off your nails: just for that little bit of daily bread! "

Historical novels

From 1921 Viebig increasingly looked for the material for her novels in historical subjects, whereby she was able to give her stories "myth and contemporary relevance in one." This applies to the novel about Schinderhannes and the aftermath of the French Revolution Under the Tree of Freedom ( 1922), the novels Charlotte von Weiß (1929) and Prinzen, Prälaten und Sansculottes (1931) and her last work The Much-loved and the Much-Hated (1935), in which she shaped the fate of Wilhelmine Enke and Friedrich Wilhelm II of Prussia.

Plays and libretti

Clara Viebig revised a number of her novels and short stories into theater pieces. These include Barbara Holtzer (1897), based on the novella Die Schuldige , Pittchen (1909), which takes up motifs from the novel Das Weiberdorf , and above all the four-part drama cycle Der Kampf um den Mann (1905), whose plays are based on various short stories based. The success of the pieces listed was, however, moderate.

For her son Ernst Viebig , who had started a promising career as a composer, Viebig revised the play Quatembernacht by René Morax into the libretto of the opera Nacht der Seelen, which premiered in 1922 at the Stadttheater Aachen . This was followed by the reworking of Clara Viebig's novel Absolvo te into an opera with the title Die Môra. It was performed in the Stadttheater Düsseldorf in 1925 .

Works (selection)

Heinrich Zille: Cover illustration for The Daily Bread
Fritz von Wille Cover picture of The Cross in the Fens
Franz Stassen Cover picture of The Sleeping Army

Scanned biographical short prose by Clara Viebig / depictions of her life and work


  • Christel Aretz (Ed.): Clara Viebig in the mirror of the press. Documentation. Mosel-Eifel-Verlag, Bad Bertrich 2000, ISBN 3-932838-06-8 .
  • Christel Aretz (ed.): Clara Viebig: My life. Autobiographical sketches, Hontheim 2002.
  • Christel Aretz, Peter Kämmereit (eds.): Clara Viebig. A long life for literature. Zell 2010, ISBN 978-3-89801-331-4 .
  • Ina Braun-Yousefi: Clara Viebig. Views - Insights - Prospects . Traugott Bautz, Nordhausen 2019, ISBN 978-3-95948-385-8 .
  • Victor Wallace Carpenter: A study of Clara Viebig's "Novellas". University of Pennsylvania, 1978.
  • Michel Durand: Les romans Berlinois de Clara Viebig (1860-1952). Contribution à l'étude du naturalisme tardif en Allemagne (= Contacts; Série 3, Etudes et documents; 19). Lang, Bern a. a. 1993, ISBN 3-906750-84-1 .
  • Waldemar Gubisch: Investigations into the narrative art of Clara Viebig. Dissertation, University of Münster, 1926.
  • Anke Susanne Hoffmann: Read from the margins - analyzes and comments on the functionality of the “nature” dimension in Clara Viebig's novelistic oeuvre. Dissertation, University of Trier 2005 (full text)
  • Barbara Krauss-Theim: Naturalism and local art with Clara Viebig. Darwinian evolutionary conceptions of nature and their aesthetic forms of reaction. Lang, Frankfurt am Main a. a. 1992, ISBN 3-631-44812-0 .
  • Helmut Kreuzer : "Schinderhannes" - a robber around 1800 with Clara Viebig, Carl Zuckmayer and Gerd Fuchs. On the 200th anniversary of the execution of Johannes Bückler in Mainz on November 21, 1803. In: Reinhard Breymayer (Hrsg.): In the mild and happy Swabia and in the New World. Contributions to the time of Goethe. Akademischer Verlag, Stuttgart 2005, ISBN 3-88099-428-5 , pp. 179-197.
  • Urszula Michalska: Clara Viebig. Attempt to create a monograph (= Prace Wydzialu Filologicznego; Seria Filologia germańska; 6). Poznań 1968.
  • Andrea Müller: Mother figures and motherliness in Clara Viebig's work. Tectum, Marburg 2002, ISBN 3-8288-8346-X .
  • Maria-Regina Neft: Clara Viebigs Eifelwerke (1897–1914). Imagination and reality when depicting a landscape and its inhabitants (= Bonn small series on everyday culture; 4). Waxmann, Münster 1998, ISBN 3-89325-653-9 .
  • Volker Neuhaus , Michel Durand (ed.): The province of the feminine. On the narrative work of Clara Viebig = Terroirs au féminin (= Convergences; 26). Lang, Bern a. a. 2004, ISBN 3-906770-17-6 .
  • Gottlieb Scheufler: Clara Viebig. Booty, Erfurt 1927.
  • Georg Schuppener: Sweet baker & Co. crooks in Clara Viebig's “The Cross in the Fens”. In: Christian Efing, Corinna Leschber (ed.): Secret languages ​​in Central and Southeastern Europe. Peter Lang, Frankfurt am Main 2009, pp. 41–58.
  • Carola Stern , Ingke Brodersen : Come on, Cohn! Kiepenheuer and Witsch, Cologne 2006, ISBN 3-462-03724-2 (double biography and family history of Fritz Theodor Cohn and Clara Viebig).
  • Charlotte Marlo Werner: Writing Life. The poet Clara Viebig. MEDU-Verlag, Dreieich 2009, ISBN 978-3-938926-77-2 .
  • Sascha Wingenroth: Clara Viebig and the women's novel of German naturalism. Dissertation, University of Freiburg i. Br., 1936.
  • Josef Zierden : Viebig, Clara. In: The Eifel in literature. A lexicon of authors and works. Gerolstein 1994, pp. 245-253.
  • Jusef Ruland: Clara Viebig. 1860-1952. In: Franz-Josef Heyen (Ed.): Rheinische Lebensbilder Volume 12, 1991, pp. 215-231.

Web links

Commons : Clara Viebig  - Collection of Images

Individual evidence

  1. Clara Viebig. Retrieved June 26, 2019 .
  2. ^ Hubert Schiel: Trierisches Jahrbuch. 1956.
  3. a b Clara Viebig: From my workshop. St. Galler Tagblatt dated July 15, 1930.
  4. The life of the writer Clara Viebig - an overview. In: Christel Aretz and Peter Kämmereit (eds.): Clara Viebig. A long life for literature - documentation for the 150th birthday. Zell 2010, pp. 17-20, here p. 17.
  5. Barbara Krauss-Theim: Naturalism and Heimatkunst with Clara Viebig. Lang, Frankfurt am Main 1992, p. 110.
  6. Barbara Krauß-Theim: Naturalism and Heimatkunst with Clara Viebig, p. 110.
  7. See Anselm Salzer, Eduard von Tunk (ed.): Illustrated history of German literature in six volumes, Volume IV: From young Germany to naturalism. Frechen n.d., p. 307.
  8. Clara Viebig: From the path of my youth. In: When our great poets were still little girls. Moeser, Leipzig 1912, pp. 87–118, here p. 117.
  9. Ilka Horvin-Barnay: theater and art. An interview with Clara Viebig. In: Neues Wiener Journal. November 19, 1905, p. 12.
  10. Clara Viebig: The female pen. In: Die Woche, Volume 32, No. 48, November 29, 1930, p. 16.
  11. Viktor Zmegac (Ed.): History of German Literature, from the 18th Century to the Present, Volume III: 1848–1918, Königstein 1980, p. 400.
  12. Clara Viebig: Daughters of Hekuba. Berlin 1917, p. 6. On Clara Viebig's war novels, cf. Rolf Löchel: curse the war! For the 150th birthday of the writer Clara Viebig, who is still widely misunderstood as a simple homeland poet, on
  13. The life of the writer Clara Viebig - an overview. In: Christel Aretz, Peter Kämmereit (eds.): Clara Viebig. A long life for literature - documentation for the 150th birthday. Zell 2010, pp. 17-20, here p. 19.
  14. (note without title). In:  Wiener Zeitung , October 12, 1946, p. 2 (online at ANNO ).Template: ANNO / Maintenance / wrz
  15. Clara Viebig at FemBio , requested on April 9, 2020.
  16. Cf. Thea Merkelbach, Wolfgang Heimer, Dieter Heimer: The last years of Clara Viebig's life. In: Düsseldorfer Jahrbuch, 82nd volume, ed. v. Düsseldorfer Geschichtsverein, Düsseldorf 2012, pp. 131–181.
  17. Cf. Carola Stern : Come on, Cohn! Friedrich Cohn and Clara Viebig. Cologne 2006, p. 107.
  18. Clara Viebig reading book, compiled and provided with an afterword by Bernd Kortländer, Cologne: Nyland (Nylands Kleine Rheinische Bibliothek, Volume 10) 2015 (154 pages).
  19. ^ Georg Fritzsche: The Clara Viebig Center in Eisenschmitt. In: Christel Aretz, Peter Kämmereit (eds.): Clara Viebig. A long life for literature - documentation for the 150th birthday. Zell 2010, pp. 170–171, here p. 171.
  20. Clara Viebig - 80 years. In:  Innsbrucker Nachrichten , July 15, 1940, p. 5 (online at ANNO ).Template: ANNO / Maintenance / ibn
  21. ^ Hans Jürgen Geerdts : German history of literature in one volume. Berlin 1965, p. 499.
  22. See article “Viebig Clara”. In: Hannelore Gärtner (Ed.): BI writer lexicon - authors from all over the world. Leipzig 1990, p. 634.
  23. Cf. Bettina Leuchtenberg: In the Eifel I was threatened in 16 before ( Memento from March 24, 2012 in the Internet Archive )
  24. Cf. on this Barbara Krauss-Thein: Naturalism and Heimatkunst with Clara Viebig. Darwinian evolutionary conceptions of nature and their aesthetic forms of reaction. Frankfurt 1992.
  25. Hajo Knebel: Ostracized and Forgotten: Clara Viebig. In: Christel Aretz, Peter Kämmereit (eds.): Clara Viebig. A long life for literature - documentation for the 150th birthday. Zell 2010, pp. 93-98, here p. 98.
  26. Clara Viebig: Foreword. In: West and East. Reclam, Leipzig 1920, p. 8.
  27. Charlotte Marlo Werner: Writing life. The poet Clara Viebig. Dreieich 2009, p. 50.
  28. Clara Viebig: Das Weiberdorf (1900), 21st edition, Fleischel, Berlin 1907, pp. 17 and 32.
  29. Sophie Lange: Clara Viebig was not on the index, "The Catholic Church is very angry with me". In: Eifel-Jahrbuch 2008. pp. 108–113, quoted from Clara Viebig Gesellschaft: secondary literature.
  30. Josef Zierden: Viebig, Clara. In: The Eifel in literature. A lexicon of authors and works. Gerolstein 1994, pp. 245-253, here p. 245.
  31. See: Clara Viebig: The sleeping army. In: Walter Jens (Ed.): Kindlers new literature dictionary, Volume 17. Munich 1992, pp. 138-139, here p. 139.
  32. Clara Viebig: The sleeping army. Fleischel, Berlin 1904, p. 507.
  33. Clara Viebig: Life Outline. In: Berliner Tageblatt of July 12, 1930, p. 7.
  34. Clara Viebig: The Daily Bread (1900), 29th edition, Fleischel, Berlin 1919, p. 361.
  35. Helga Abret: Devil's Angel. In: Renate Möhrmann (Ed.): Rebelliously desperate infamously. The bad girl as an aesthetic figure. Aisthesis, Bielefeld 2012, p. 227.
  36. ^ OV: The composer Ernst Viebig. In: Christel Aretz, Peter Kämmereit (eds.): Clara Viebig. A long life for literature - Documentation for the 150th birthday, Zell 2010, pp. 147–148, here p. 147.
  37. Clara Viebig: People under duress. In:  educational work. Leaves for socialist education , year 1933, p. 19 (online at ANNO ).Template: ANNO / maintenance / bar