First Free German Youth Day

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An information board with a colored, repainted photograph and a memorial stone on the Hohe Meißner remind of the First Freideutschen Jugendtag on October 11 and 12, 1913.

The First Freideutsche Youth Day took place on the weekend of October 11th and 12th 1913 on the Hohe Meißner, east of Hessisch Lichtenau ( North Hesse ), as a “Festival of Youth” and a meeting of the youth movement with 2,000 to 3,000 participants. Almost a hundred years after the Wartburg Festival of 1817, the Freideutsche Jugendtag was the first big meeting of an emancipating youth in Germany, here the inviting youth groups .


The aim of this youth festival - later also called the Meißner conference or the Hohe Meißner meeting - was to demonstrate the unity of the youth movement with migrant birds , life reformers , reformed school and student associations , school reformers and other groups both internally and externally.

The specific reason was the will for an alternative event to the anniversary celebration of the Battle of Nations near Leipzig and the associated socially critical protest against the hurray-patriotic and unfestive ceremonial acts of the Empire that took place in October 1913 for the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Nations, which was already under the sign of the impending First World War .


The initiative for the alternative festival did not come from the Wandervogelbünden, but from the ranks of the student associations that were active in youth. The idea was born in the German Association of Abstinent Students and taken up and pursued by the German Academic Freischar . First and foremost, it was the excessive alcohol consumption of the student festivities that was common at the time .

A first preparation meeting took place at Whitsun 1913 in Jena. Thirteen federations took part in this meeting, and here the name, place and general course of the festival were determined. The name “Freideutscher Jugendtag” is based on a suggestion by Friedrich Wilhelm Fulda , the person responsible for the Wandervogel guide magazine. Christian Schneehagen , member of the German Academic Freischar and later co-organizer, recommended the Hohe Meißner as a place . The suggestion to go to Leipzig after the event and to hold a "culture festival" in Weimar or Jena beforehand was rejected in favor of the "nature festival" on the Meißner.

The first appeal in the summer of 1913, published in the Wandervogel-Führerzeitung (issue 7, 1913), was signed by Knud Ahlborn on behalf of the German Academic Freischarians. The second call appeared a short time later in the Gaublatt "Nordmark" of the Wandervogel e. V. (Issue 4, 1913) and was signed for the first time by the organizing associations. Christian Schneehagen was named as the festival director. The 17 km long hiking trail between the Hoher Meißner and the Ludwigstein Youth Castle is named after Schneehagen . A room in the castle bears his name.


Students from the Free School Community from Wickersdorf near Saalfeld in the Thuringian Forest at the First Free German Youth Day on the Hohe Meißner , with Gustav Wyneken (left) and headmaster Martin Luserke (right)

Before the actual festival, representatives of the individual groups met on October 10, 1913 in the walls of the Hanstein castle ruins to highlight the unifying motifs of the Free German youth movement. As in the run-up to the festival, there were already differences of opinion between the life and youth reform groups. Introductory words were given by Bruno Lemke from the German Academic Freischar. In the year of remembrance of the Battle of Nations, he urged the youth to unite and briefly introduced the individual groups. After Lemke, the representatives of 15 other associations had their say, including those of the Settler Association and the German National Handicrafts Association (DHV), who were not part of the Free German Youth. By Hans Paasche the exclamation is "There's a fire in the German house! We are the fire brigade ”.

The following Saturday was a rainy, foggy day. The weather could not prevent the participants from hiking from their night quarters and from train stations on the Hohe Meissner. Exact numbers are not documented, but according to the descriptions 2,000 to 3,000 people took part in the festival. At lunchtime, people scattered over the hill and ate - in small groups - from the pots they had brought with them. In the afternoons there were sporting competitions, choir singing and dancing. In the evening, people pulled torches to the puff and listened to Knud Ahlborn's words .

On Sunday morning Gustav Wyneken and Ferdinand Avenarius spoke to the festival participants. Due to the bad weather, at the end of the festival people gathered in a large tent to perform the play Iphigenia , offered by the Serakreis . After the official end, the meeting slowly came to an end with discussions and singing and dancing.


The opening speech of the festival was given on the evening of October 11th by the 44-year-old theologian and member of the left-liberal Progressive People's Party (FVP) Gottfried Traub . In his celebratory speech, he discussed the events of 1813 on the occasion of the Wars of Liberation against Napoleon. He benevolently compared the idealism and daring of the time with the spirit of the free German youth gathered before him, but warned not to abuse patriotism for personal or political gain. In contrast to this, he invoked state awareness and a sense of community.

Ludwig Klages gave a welcoming address critical of civilization.

In his “fire speech”, the 25-year-old federal leader of the German Academic Freischarians, Knud Ahlborn , called for social phenomena such as “party struggle”, “self-interest” and “de-soulled work” to be left behind and to counter these with “healthy and genuine”. He demanded political tolerance from the new generation, "which also recognizes and honors the opponent of our own views, simply because he is a seeker of truth". With these liberal demands he was ahead of his older fellow speakers.

The speech by the 38-year-old reform pedagogue Gustav Wyneken on Sunday morning served as a summary and guidance. Wyneken used this to point out possible dangers and contradictions of the movement. For Wyneken, too, the memory of the Battle of Nations was the “eternal symbol of love for the country”. But less than a year before the outbreak of World War I , he also wished that the day would never appear “where the hordes of war” “raged through” our homeland, let alone “where we are forced to wage war in the valleys of a foreign people to wear".

Martin Luserke introduced the first Meißner day (October 12) with a short speech in which he referred to Wyneken's speech from the previous evening. Wyneken had emphatically and decisively emphasized the autonomy and self-importance of youth. In contrast, Luserke described the youth as a preparation time, a time from adult life - as the time of maturity and activity - essentially turned away from concentration and maturation, in which one must acquire the great, fundamental, directional inner values ​​that should last a lifetime . Luserke spoke in a parable of Christ who went into the desert for 30 days before his public activity to collect himself. The renowned Frankfurter Zeitung , which reported in detail on the conference on the Hoher Meißner, called Luserke's speech “the best and finest that has been said at the whole conference”.

The 56-year-old poet Ferdinand Avenarius was entitled to final words. They echoed the concerns and confidence of the old generation. He also complained that the large associations such as the Boy Scouts , the Young German and Social Democratic associations were not able to participate , as there was no possible dialogue between the youth. He reminded those absent of the truthfulness to which they had pledged. In the expectation of peaceful years his last words were: “God bless the Free German youth. See you next year. "


The meeting on the Hoher Meissner was reported nationwide. On October 11th, before the actual festival, the agency's report from the delegates' conference on the Hanstein was only printed. Between the 12th and 15th there were more detailed articles with mostly benevolent, but also sometimes critical reports. Despite the mostly positive reports, the organizers expressed their disappointment. So led Christian Hagen snow back the "movement in the German forest of leaves that caused the cold autumn wind by the High Meissner", the "common disease of Parteibrillentums".

In the magazines of the active groups at the time, there were mostly positive reports about the festival (including German Academic Freischar, Bund Deutscher Wanderer, Jungwandervogel, German Vorruppbund). The Wandervogel eV invited to the festival in its writings, but officially stayed away and refrained from reporting. The old wandering bird did the same and organized its own centenary at Theodor Körner's grave .

Criticism of the Meißnerfest can be found in the Wandervogel guide magazine as well as in the publications of the "Freistudentischen Bund".

Alfred Toepfer , who was the only one who also took part in the Meißner Festival in 1988, reminisced about the first meeting as follows:

“What was demanded was a simple, simple lifestyle in fraternity and commitment to the general public, a cultural renewal and respect and peace for the rest of the peoples. There was an unusual, youthful elation. "

The Meissner formula

The mentality of the Free German youth found expression in the so-called Meißner formula, which, as a general but trend-setting principle of life, decisively shaped the Bundische youth movement in particular. In the formulation, the ideas and speeches of Johann Gottlieb Fichte , which he had formulated on the occasion of the Napoleonic occupation and the wars of liberation between 1806 and 1813, were apparently used.

The Meißner formula including the last two sentences, which are not always quoted, is usually expressed in the following words:

“The Free German youth want to shape their lives according to their own determination, before their own responsibility, with inner truthfulness. She stands up for this inner freedom under all circumstances.
Free German Youth Days are held for mutual understanding. All joint events of the Freideutschen Jugend are alcohol and nicotine free . "

The words of the Meißner formula are traced back to Knud Ahlborn , which he formulated together with physicians who were active in young people, Erwin von Hattingberg and Gustav Franke, on the way between Hanstein Castle and Meißner. Ahlborn not only signed the first call for the festival, but was also responsible for the overall management and the fire speech and was ultimately also elected first chairman of the committee of the Free German Youth .

The circle of frets

The Meißner meeting at Whitsun 1913 in Jena (and Göttingen ) was prepared by an amalgamation of the following associations, youth associations and life reform groups :

From this group, with the exception of the Wandervogel eV, the Freideutsche Jugend or the " Verband Freideutscher Jugend " emerged as a loose umbrella organization . Historically, however, this attempt at agreement can be assessed as having failed.

Well-known Meissner drivers from 1913


Today a basalt block with a simple plaque commemorates the first Meißner meeting at the historic location on the Hausener Hute near the mountain inn "Hoher Meißner" . An information board about the youth meeting will be set up near it.

A bronze plaque on the nearby Ludwigstein Youth Castle also commemorates the First Freideutschen Jugendtag, on the 50th anniversary of which the Meissner Building was named and inaugurated. It also houses the so-called Meißner hall, the largest hall in the castle.

Through the meeting in 1913, the painting Light Prayer by the artist Fidus became internationally known. The sixth version of the postcard was sold en masse at the meeting and could thus become a cult image of the reform movement.

Little known, however, is the fact that the mountain, previously only known as “Meißner”, only became known nationwide as “Hoher Meißner” through this meeting. Even if the mountain was already called "Hoher Meißner" years before in hiking bird circles, it was only the high "holy" atmosphere of the festival and the corresponding reporting that brought about the common use of the name affix.

Later Free German Youth Days and commemorative festivals


As a commemorative celebration of the First Freideutschen Jugendtag, they came together in 1923 for the Second Freideutschen Jugendtag. At the “Conference on the Hoher Meissner” there was an additional aspect of remembrance, the memory and commemoration of the migratory birds that fell in World War I.

Intermediate Period (1933–1953)

In 1933, twenty years after the Meissner Festival, the National Socialists tried to take over the youth movement for themselves, although a few months earlier they had dissolved the free youth movement by dictation by banning the Greater German Federation . In the Ludwigstein Youth Castle, the memorial room for the migratory birds that fell in World War I was inaugurated and the reconstruction of the castle was officially declared over.

On October 13, 1946, around a thousand representatives from various youth organizations met on the Hoher Meissner for a “Young Generation Day”. In connection with the Meißner Day of 1913, a proclamation was passed, according to which the young generation wants to “serve the peace of nations with inner truthfulness” in a “league of leagues”. In the same year the proposal was made to build a new federal capital on the Hohe Meißner. It should not come to that, and the desired large union did not materialize either.

In 1953, Voggenreiter-Verlag (Godesberg) published a “short chronicle” of the Free German youth movement, edited by Knud Ahlborn


On the occasion of the 50th anniversary, the Third Free German Youth Convention took place in 1963. As a result of this meeting, some of the young leagues decided to work together more closely, which in 1966 led to the establishment of the Ring Junge Bünde . Here, too, a separate declaration of principle was adopted, which finally states:

"[...] We know that the attempt of the Bundische Jugend to lead a life in freedom means a risk for its members as well as for society. We demand of a society that is committed to freedom not only to tolerate this risk, but to secure the necessary space for it. We defend ourselves against all efforts that restrict this space.
Since our endeavors for self-realization can only succeed in a free state, we undertake to convince the young people entrusted to us of the idea of ​​a democratic constitutional state. We hope that that part of the German youth, to whom all this is denied, can one day lead a life in freedom with us. For the freedom of young people to form a group with friends in order to shape a youth's life in their own determination, in responsibility before their own conscience and in obligation to society, the Bundische Jugend is united under all circumstances. "


Meissner camp 1988

There was also a meeting on the Hoher Meissner on the 75th anniversary of the Freideutschen Jugendtag. Several thousand youth movements from various associations took part in the Meißner meeting. The following declaration was adopted:

“We are sadly following the path on which today's civilization is advancing. The irresponsible destruction of nature, the loneliness of people and the turning away from the qualities of life endanger the existence of the earth and its creatures.
In the search for a new worthy way of human culture, we see the task of everyone who wants to do justice to today's times. The individual groups, groups and personalities want to shape their search together in the sense of the Meißner formula of 1913 according to their own determination, before their own responsibility and with inner truthfulness. "


For the 100th anniversary of the Freideutschen Jugendtag in October 2013, as in 1988, several commemorative events took place near the Hoher Meissner.

Individual evidence

  1. Winfried Mogge, Jürgen Reulecke: Hoher Meißner 1913 - The First Freideutsche Youth Day in documents, interpretations and pictures. Edition archive of the German youth movement. Vol. 5. Verlag Wissenschaft und Politik, Cologne 1988. ISBN 3-8046-8723-7 , pp. 42–45
  2. Schneehagenweg. Archived from the original on July 20, 2014 ; Retrieved July 7, 2010 .
  3. Snow Hag room. Archived from the original on May 9, 2013 ; Retrieved July 7, 2010 .
  4. Winfried Mogge, Jürgen Reulecke: Hoher Meißner 1913 - The First Freideutsche Youth Day in documents, interpretations and pictures. Edition archive of the German youth movement. Vol. 5. Verlag Wissenschaft und Politik, Cologne 1988. ISBN 3-8046-8723-7 , pp. 282–288
  5. Winfried Mogge, Jürgen Reulecke: Hoher Meißner 1913 - The First Freideutsche Youth Day in documents, interpretations and pictures. Edition archive of the German youth movement. Vol. 5. Verlag Wissenschaft und Politik, Cologne 1988. ISBN 3-8046-8723-7 , pp. 289-292
  6. Winfried Mogge, Jürgen Reulecke: Hoher Meißner 1913 - The First Freideutsche Youth Day in documents, interpretations and pictures. Edition archive of the German youth movement. Vol. 5. Verlag Wissenschaft und Politik, Cologne 1988. ISBN 3-8046-8723-7 , pp. 293-301
  7. Martin Kießig : Martin Luserke. Shape and work. Attempt to interpret the essence . Phil. Diss., J. Sarchen. Berlin 1936; quoted from The Journey of Martin Luserke . Lecture by Kurt Sydow on the 100th birthday of Martin Luserke on May 3, 1980
  8. Winfried Mogge, Jürgen Reulecke: Hoher Meißner 1913 - The First Freideutsche Youth Day in documents, interpretations and pictures. Edition archive of the German youth movement. Vol. 5. Verlag Wissenschaft und Politik, Cologne 1988. ISBN 3-8046-8723-7 , pp. 302–306
  9. Friedrich Oldenburg: The Freideutsche Jugendtag on the Hoher Meißner in October 1913 in: Gerhard Ille, Günter Köhler (Ed.): Der Wandervogel - It began in Steglitz Stapp Verlag, Berlin 1987, p. 139
  10. Dieter Brauch: The roots of the Meißner formula in: Ludwigsteiner Blätter, No. 221, December 2009 (PDF; 689 kB), p. 11.
  11. In the publications after the youth convention there were different wording. see. Karsten Schulz: Description and location of two inter-association youth meetings of young youth movements , Kassel 2009.
  12. Knud Ahlborn, in: The Meißnerfest der Freideutschen Jugend 1913 . Georg Callwey, Munich 1913.
  13. Andersen, Erich R .: Adult Education Center in the Dune Sand . Pro Business, Berlin 2009, pp. 137-139
  14. ^ The journey through life of Martin Luserke . Lecture by Kurt Sydow on the 100th birthday of Martin Luserke on May 3, 1980
  15. Hans Paasche (ed.) The research trip of the African Lukanga Mukara into inner Germany . Green branch No. 45 Osnabrück or JS 90–93
  16. a b Barbara Stambolis, Jürgen Reulecke: 100 years of Hoher Meißner (1913–2013) - Sources on the history of the youth movement , Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2015. p. 11
  17. Wille und Werk press service of the German youth movement, 6th year, No. 25, 1933
  19. Archived copy ( Memento of September 13, 2012 in the Internet Archive )
  20. Archive link ( Memento from October 24, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) Meißner appointments on the website of the Ludwigstein Youth Castle


  • Knud Ahlborn: The Free German Youth Movement . Reprinted on Meißner's Day 1963 from the Dürerbund's 172nd crime pamphlet in 1913.
  • Andersen, Erich R .: Adult Education Center in the dune sand . Pro Business, Berlin 2009.
  • Schulz, Karsten: Description and location of two inter-association youth meetings of young youth movements. First Freideutscher Jugendtag 1913 and environmental festival kick-off in 1993. Dissertation. Weber & Zucht publishing house. Kassel 2009. ISBN 978-3-88713-058-9 .
  • Free German youth: for the centenary on the Hoher Meissner in 1913 . Eugen Diederichs, Jena 1913. (with a picture of Fidus and further illustrations)
  • Ulrich Herrmann (Ed.): “The new time moves with us” - The wandering bird in the German youth movement . Juventa, Munich 2006.
  • Gerhard Ille, Günter Köhler (Ed.): The Wandering Bird - It all began in Steglitz . Stapp, Berlin 1987.
  • Johannes Jacobs (Ed.): What was that - the Meißnerfest 1913? . Association for the Preservation of the Hohburg eV, Kiel 1987.
  • Werner Kindt: Documentation of the youth movement . Volume II: The Wandervogelzeit. Sources for the German youth movement 1896 to 1919. Diederichs, Düsseldorf 1968.
  • Artur Künzel (Ed.): Contributions to the history and natural history of the Witzenhausen region . Writings of the Werra Valley Association Witzenhausen, issue 24, 1993.
  • Winfried Mogge, Jürgen Reulecke: Hoher Meißner 1913 - The First Free German Youth Day in Documents, Interpretations and Pictures. Edition archive of the German youth movement. Vol. 5. Verlag Wissenschaft und Politik, Cologne 1988, ISBN 3-8046-8723-7 .
  • Gerhard Ziemer, Hans Wolf: Wandervogel and free German youth . Voggenreiter Verlag, Bad Godesberg 1961.
  • Gerhard Ziemer, Hans Wolf: Wandervogel picture atlas . Voggenreiter Verlag, Bad Godesberg 1963.
  • Susanne Rappe-Weber: The awakening of youth - The 1st Freideutsche Youth Day , [on the Meißner, today: "Hoher Meißner"] is celebrating its 100th anniversary . In: Communications from the Association for Hessian History and Regional Studies Kassel 1934 e. V, No. 64, July 2013, pp. 62-83
  • Susanne Rappe-Weber: event, memory, redefinition. The Freideutsche Jugendtag on the Hoher Meißner 1913 , in: Journal [Yearbook] of the Association for Hessian History and Regional Studies [ZHG], Volume 117/118, 2012/13, Kassel 2013, pp. 197–204, 4 fig.
  • Barbara Stambolis , Jürgen Reulecke: 100 Years of Hoher Meißner (1913–2013) - Sources on the history of the youth movement. Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2015, 509 pages, ISBN 3-8471-0333-4 .

Web links