Dolf Sternberger

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Dolf Sternberger (far right) on April 12, 1949 at a meeting of the German PEN Center in Hamburg.

Adolf "Dolf" Sternberger (born July 28, 1907 in Wiesbaden ; † July 27, 1989 in Frankfurt am Main ) was a German political scientist and journalist .

Sternberger is considered to be one of the founders of German political science after the Second World War . In addition to Hannah Arendt , Leo Strauss , Eric Voegelin and other political scientists of his generation, Sternberger is one of the broader representatives of the normative approach in political science, which he also understood as empirical science ( Vogel , 2008). With an article in 1970 in the FAZ and then again on the 30th anniversary of the adoption of the Basic Law (1979) also in the FAZ, Sternberger coined the term constitutional patriotism .


From 1925 Sternberger studied theater studies and German at the Universities of Kiel and Frankfurt . In 1927 he moved to Heidelberg University and attended philosophical, sociological and art-historical events. Sternberger completed his doctorate in 1931 with Paul Tillich in Frankfurt with a thesis on Martin Heidegger's being and time .

Sternberger had been a freelancer since 1927, and from 1934 until it was banned in 1943, it was the editor of the Frankfurter Zeitung . Sternberger, who himself was married to a Jew, used what he called a "hidden spelling" in the newspaper, which was viewed with suspicion by the National Socialists : for example, he described the extermination of the Jews with the fable of the wolf and the lamb .

Between 1945 and 1948 he wrote articles together with Gerhard Storz and Wilhelm E. Süskind for the monthly magazine Die Wandlung , which he co-founded and which he was editor of (with the help of Karl Jaspers , Werner Krauss and Alfred Weber ). In 1957 the contributions were first published in book form under the title From the Dictionary of the Unhuman . The articles use 28 terms to examine the language of the National Socialists , which is still used today. Sternberger wrote in his foreword to the book edition from 1957: "The dictionary of the monster has remained the dictionary of the current German language". It contains u. a. Comments on the following words (or their specific orientation, i.e. their abuse or use under National Socialism): concern, orientation, support, character, perform, genuine, unique, commitment, women's work, design, highlight, intellectual, cultural workers, camp, performance , Girl, human treatment, organize, problem, propaganda, cross-shooting, space, training, sector, portable, unsustainable, representative, know about, current affairs . In the third edition in 1967 the dictionary contained 33 terms: girl was taken out, order, hardship, contacts, people, resentments, etc. a. have been added (see dehumanization ).

After the Second World War, Sternberger became press spokesman for the Middle Rhine-Saar government in 1945 . From 1950 to 1958 he co-edited the magazine Die Gegenwart . Sternberger was a commentator for the Hessischer Rundfunk and wrote leading articles for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung .

In 1947, Sternberger took on a teaching position for politics at the University of Heidelberg, and since 1951 he has built a research group in this department. In 1960 he was appointed associate professor and in 1962 full professor. Sternberger founded the Politische Vierteljahresschrift (PVS), the official journal of the German Association for Political Science (DVPW). Sternberger was chairman of the DVPW from 1961 to 1963 and took on numerous other honorary positions in science and culture in the course of his life. After the resignation of the FDP ministers in the Erhard II cabinet , he and Richard Freudenberg called on November 9, 1966 in an appeal to the members of the Bundestag for the formation of a grand coalition for the purpose of introducing relative majority voting . A coalition of the Union and the SPD actually formed; On December 1, 1966, the Federal President appointed the Kiesinger cabinet .

Sternberger's concept of the political

As a co-founder of German political science, Sternberger also commented on his own view of what constitutes the political. Sternberger's “Heidelberg Inaugural Lecture” is the primary document on this topic. He said:

“The object and the goal of politics is peace. We must and want to try to understand the political as the area of ​​endeavors to establish peace, to keep peace, to guarantee it, to protect it and, of course, to defend it. Or, to put it another way: Peace is the ultimate political category. Or, to put it another way: Peace is the reason, the characteristic and the norm of the political, all of this at the same time. "


In 1967 he received the Johann Heinrich Merck Honor from the city of Darmstadt. In 1974 Sternberger was awarded the German Critics' Prize and the Great Cross of Merit, and in 1977 the Wilhelm Leuschner Medal , the highest award in the State of Hesse. In 1981 he received the Wilhelm Heinse Medal and in 1985 the Ernst Bloch Prize . Since 1987 he has been a corresponding member of the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences . In 1989 Dolf Sternberger was honored with the Federal Cross of Merit in the Grand Cross level. Sternberger is immortalized on the Frankfurt stairs .

Dolf Sternberger Prize

The Dolf Sternberger-Gesellschaft e. V. has been awarding a “Dolf Sternberger Prize” at irregular intervals since 1992 for services relating to the “connection between politics and language”. The previous winners are Willy Brandt (1992), Martin Walser (1994), Wolfgang Schäuble (1996), Manfred Rommel (1998), Joachim Gauck (2000), Helmut Schmidt (2002), Friedrich Merz (2006), Václav Havel (2007 ), Norbert Lammert (2010), Avi Primor (2014), Hans Maier (2017) and Cem Özdemir (2019).


Edition of the Collected Writings

Individual issues (selection)

  • Understanding death. An investigation into Martin Heidegger's existential ontology . Hirzel , Leipzig 1934. (Dissertation)
  • Panorama or views from the 19th century. Goverts, Hamburg 1938.
  • Living Constitution. Studies on coalition and opposition. Hain, Meisenheim 1956.
  • On Art Nouveau and other essays. Claassen, Hamburg 1957.
  • with Gerhard Storz and WE Süskind : From the dictionary of the inhuman. Claassen, Hamburg 1957.
  • Feeling of alien. Insel Verlag, Wiesbaden 1958.
  • Concept of the political. Insel Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1961.
  • The bottom and bottom of power. Criticism of the Legality of Current Governments. Insel Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1962.
  • I wish to be a citizen. Nine attempts across the state. Suhrkamp Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1967.
  • Justice for the Nineteenth Century. Ten historical studies. Suhrkamp Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1975.
  • Constitutional Patriotism . Lower Saxony State Center for Political Education, Hanover 1982.
  • About the different concepts of peace. Steiner, Stuttgart 1984, ISBN 3-515-04203-2 .
  • Ernst Jünger, Dolf Sternberger: Correspondence 1941–1942 and 1973–1980. (with comments by Detlev Schöttker and Anja S. Hübner), In: Sinn und Form . 4, 2011, pp. 448-473.
  • Images and education. Speech on the occasion of the 150th anniversary of the Alte Pinakothek, given on Nov. 27, 1986. Bayer. State Painting Collections, Munich 1987.
  • Hannah Arendt , Dolf Sternberger, edited by Udo Bermbach: "I'm just a little too revolutionary for you" Correspondence 1946 to 1975. Rowohlt Berlin, Berlin 2019, ISBN 978-3-7371-0063-2 .


Web links

Commons : Dolf Sternberger  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Michael Borchard (Ed.): Dolf Sternberger on his 100th birthday , p. 11 (PDF file; 515 kB)
  2. FAZ of January 27, 1970, p. 11 and FAZ of May 23, 1979, p. 1. (full text here )
  4. Award of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany on January 31, 1990 . In: The Hessian Prime Minister (Ed.): State Gazette for the State of Hesse. 1990 No. 8 , p. 306 , point 172 ( online at the information system of the Hessian state parliament [PDF; 6.1 MB ]).
  5. List of the award winners on the website of the Dolf Sternberger Society e. V. with links to the laudations and speeches of the respective award ceremonies. (accessed on February 12, 2011)
  6. Cem Özdemir receives the Sternberger Prize in Heidelberg Website of the Rhein-Neckar-Zeitung from February 2, 2019 (accessed on July 1, 2020)