Eugen Diederichs

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Eugen Diederichs (Photo Alfred Bischoff, Jena)

Eugen Diederichs (born June 22, 1867 in Löbitz , † September 10, 1930 in Jena ) was an important German publisher . In 1896 he founded his publishing house in Florence , whose wide-ranging program extended to works from the German Romantic and Classic periods as well as writings from antiquity and Friedrich Nietzsche . Today the publisher is an imprint of the Random House publishing group in Munich.


The early years

Eugen Diederichs was born on the Löbitz estate near Osterfeld in Thuringia and from 1872 spent his childhood and youth in Naumburg. At the request of his father Carl Friedrich, he trained as a farmer after secondary school and then worked as an administrator on various farms.

In 1888 he followed his real inclination and trained as a bookseller at the theological publisher Eugen Strien in Halle . In the following years he worked as a distributor in various bookstores (among others in the Stuber'schen bookshop in Würzburg and in the Mencke'schen bookstore in Erlangen ). His fondness for traveling was evident as early as 1892 when he undertook the first major venture from the Upper Rhine and Alsace to Switzerland, across the French Alps to Spain and finally to Bordeaux . As a young man he suffered a nervous breakdown and severe depression . Not infrequently, the trips should also serve to recover from his depressive phases.

Eugen Diederichs Verlag Jena 1931

When he moved to Italy in 1896 , he decided to set up a publishing house in Florence. In a letter from Venice to Ferdinand Avenarius dated September 1, he wrote: “ I want to […] found this moment under the company: E. Diederichs, Florenz and Leipzig - publishing house for modern endeavors in literature, natural science, social science and theosophy [ ...] I have the bold plan, I want to have a meeting place for modern spirits . "

The first publications were volumes of poetry by Emil Rudolf Weiß and Ferdinand Avenarius, whereby Diederichs achieved the great success in 1897 with Hans Blum's Die deutsche Revolution 1848/49 . In the same year the company moved to Leipzig . The second book by Hermann Hesse, One Hour Behind Midnight (1899), is one of the publications of the early years .

Publishing activities in Leipzig and Jena

The relief with the logo of Eugen Diederichs Verlag was attached to the publishing house on Carl-Zeiß-Platz in Jena, which was destroyed in 1945, and today adorns the successor building at the same location.
Carl Spitteler received the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1919

The following year Diederichs married Helene Voigt , who was working as an author for the Schleswig-Holstein compatriots at the time of their acquaintance . He had four children with her: Ruth, Jürgen, Niels and Peter Diederichs. In the year of the wedding, he edited Wilhelm Bölsche's Das Liebesleben in der Natur in three volumes. He began to publish the first editions of works by Jens Peter Jacobsen , Novalis and Maurice Maeterlinck , which were followed by others, for example by John Ruskin , Leo Tolstoy , Anton Chekhov and Friedrich Hölderlin . Diederichs designed several series and series over the next three decades , which marked his work as a publisher. The first series of monographs on German cultural history appeared in 1899 , but in 1905 they had to be discontinued after twelve volumes. He also opened the series Erzieher zu deutscher Bildung (1904), The Art in Pictures (1909) and Religion and Philosophy of China (1910).

In 1904 the publisher and his family moved from the metropolis of the Leipzig book trade to Jena , where the publisher's headquarters remained until 1948. In 1907 he became a member of the newly founded German Werkbund .

The first publisher's catalog appeared in 1908 under the title Paths to German Culture , in which the publisher divided his entire inventory into seven categories. In addition to the category of writings from antiquity, German mysticism, the Italian Renaissance as well as German classical and romantic periods , the directory contained the areas of books on Friedrich Nietzsche, individual titles with a cultural-theoretical and philosophical orientation and works of world literature as reference points for "German culture" . The first category included works by Plato , Aristotle and Plotinus as well as Meister Eckehart's writings and ecstatic denominations by Martin Buber . Of the Romantics, Friedrich Hölderlin , Friedrich von Schlegel , Friedrich Schleiermacher and Bettina von Arnim were represented. The most important book in the second section was Carl Albrecht Bernoulli's Franz Overbeck and Friedrich Nietzsche , which counteracted the transfigured Nietzsche image that Elisabeth Förster-Nietzsche and the Weimar Nietzsche archive maintained.

He also published the works of the social philosopher and painter John Ruskin , who served as his model, and books by German-language authors such as Wilhelm Bölsche, Bruno Wille , Hermann Löns and Carl Spitteler . Diederichs also had workers' literature published by his editor Paul Göhre , such as The Life of a Farm Worker by Franz Rehbein .

The wide-ranging publishing program made clear Diederich's claim to run a universal cultural publishing house , the direction of which, however, depended on his personal development and individual perception of the world. Gradually, the company's profile was permeated by religious and anti-rationalist writings and shaped by “neo-romantic” authors such as Ludwig Coellen , Karl Joël and Erwin Kircher . At the same time, the publisher should become the focal point for nationally conservative literature. A part of the fiction was to be assigned to the homeland security movement , which was directed against industrialization and mechanization .

One of the publisher's authors was his own wife, Helene Voigt-Diederichs, who published Aus Kinderland (1907) and the volume of short stories Nur ein parable . After Helene Voigt-Diederichs had affairs with Max Scheler and Erich Kuithan , a marital crisis arose in 1908, which led to the couple's divorce in 1911 . A year later, Eugen Diederichs took over the cultural education journal Die Tat (a social-religious monthly for German culture) , which he had published himself since 1913. Diederichs is considered to be a mentor of the free student Serakreis in Jena.

Since April 18, 1916, he was married to the writer Lulu von Strauss and Torney , who also published some of her writings in the publishing house and actively collaborated.

Shortly before the First World War, the publisher concentrated more and more on the publication of books that were under the sign of a “people's movement”. This direction of the program was to have a decisive influence on the profile of the company while retaining the earlier emphases in the 1920s. His contribution Crisis of the German Book , which he published in the communications of the ethnically -minded, anti-Semitic Kampfbund for German culture initiated by Alfred Rosenberg , showed a further approach to National Socialism .

Diederichs was a member of the Urania Freemason Lodge on Immortality in Berlin; numerous important Masonic works appeared in his publishing house.

The publishing house during the Third Reich

After the death of Eugen Diederichs in 1930, his sons Niels and Peter Diederichs took over management of the company with the help of Lulu von Strauss and Torney and Max Linke.

In the 1930s and 1940s, the name "Diederichs" continued to stand for the content and goals set by Eugen Diederichs, including those of international understanding. Since the orientation of the publishing house was based on a national-conservative tradition, the company was able to continue to exist during the time of National Socialism through an adaptation strategy. Nevertheless, the company felt the effects of the Nazi government's censorship early on. In 1933, Hans Zehrer , the editor of the act , had to give up his position at the behest of the NSDAP ; from 1935 the title was no longer available in stores. The books by Richard Benz , one of the publisher's most important authors, also fell victim to censorship, so in 1935 the publication of his work Geist und Reich was banned. Regardless of this, a year later Diederichs published a new book by Benz, which was published due to its less suspicious title Vom Erdenschicksal Ewiger Musik .

Edwin Erich Dwinger , whose publications generated a major part of the publisher's income since the early 1930s, ran into problems with the censorship authorities in 1942 because of his writing Between White and Red . However, the number of forbidden books remained manageable during the Nazi era; nine works were declared expressly undesirable, while z. For example, between 1933 and 1944, S. Fischer Verlag had to remove 123 books from its publishing program. But books by Herman Wirth , the founder of the Ahnenerbe , were also published.

When Niels and Peter Diederichs were drafted in 1939, Max Linke took over sole management of the publishing house. In 1946 he was arrested by soldiers of the Red Army and died on September 17, 1947 in the Sachsenhausen special camp .

Publishing history after the war

It was not until 1949 that the publishing house was re-established in Düsseldorf and Cologne. It still exists today, was an imprint of Heinrich Hugendubel Verlag (Munich) from 1988 to 2008 and has been part of the Random House publishing group since May 2008 .

Eugen Diederichs and book art

One of the publisher's main concerns was to produce classy books for use. These should stand out from the usual mass-produced goods as well as from representative superb editions. For him, the book represented a total work of art in which all materials ( paper , binding , cover , etc.) had to be coordinated with one another. The external form of the book should in turn match the content of the work. Diederich's role model here was William Morris , who in turn referred to the book art of the Middle Ages.

The inside title, which gave the first impression of the content and direction of the book, played a prominent role in decorating the publications. In addition, Diederichs made a point of using wood-free, rough, non-glossy paper, which, together with the natural binding, gave a traditional handcrafted impression. Furthermore, the publisher wanted an artistically cut font, and the print , the book cut and the endpaper had to be color-coordinated.

While the book equipment in the Leipzig years was influenced by Art Nouveau and Neo Biedermeier , the publisher tried since the Jena days to design a less playful version of his publications. The opulent ornamentation gave way to the desire to achieve greater simplicity in the design of the works, which should nevertheless have a decorative effect. While Diederichs mainly employed artists such as Heinrich Vogeler and Johann Vincenz Cissarz in Leipzig , in Jena he worked with Fritz Helmuth Ehmcke and Peter Behrens , who developed a new Antiqua typeface in 1907/1908 . Moreover occurred Friedrich Hermann Ernst Schneidler , Marie Bock , Anna Gramatyka, Wilhelm Schulz and Erich Kuithan as designers add new.

In the following years, Diederichs succeeded in giving his publishing productions the most uniform possible style thanks to his collaboration with the wood carver, painter and graphic artist Max Thalmann , who was the publisher's artistic advisor until his death in 1944 and who designed a number of books himself.


In 1900 Diederichs received the bronze medal at the world exhibition in Paris for his book artistic achievements . This was followed by a 1st prize at the Dresden Arts and Crafts Exhibition in 1906 as well as being awarded the Grand Prix at the 1910 World Exhibition in Brussels .

1924 lent the University of Cologne Eugen Diederichs at the suggestion of Friedrich von der Leyen , the honorary doctorate . On his sixtieth birthday, the city of Jena made him an honorary citizen .

Series and series (until 1931)

Own writings

  • Shall we get rid of the fracture? In: Hans Feigl (ed.): German Bibliophile Calendar for the Year 1915 , Vol. 3, Vienna 1915, pp. 75–79.
  • Patriotic Societies. (PDF; 1.6 MB). In: The deed. Monthly magazine for the future of German culture. Issue 5/8, 1916.
  • The activities of the Eugen Diederichs publishing house in Jena during the last decade 1914–1924 . Eugen Diederichs Verlag, Jena 1924.
  • Out of my life . Eugen Diederichs Verlag, Jena 1938.


  • Jena and Weimar. An almanac published by Eugen Diederichs in Jena in 1908 . Eugen Diederichs Verlag, Jena [1907].
  • Paths to German culture. An introduction to the books published by Eugen Diederichs in Jena. With book index up to Christmas 1908 . Eugen Diederichs Verlag, Jena [1909].
  • In the sign of the lion. For Eugen Diederichs for the 60th year on June 22, 1927 . Eugen Diederichs Verlag, Jena 1927 (Festschrift)
  • Robert Volz: Reich manual of the German society . The handbook of personalities in words and pictures. Volume 1: A-K. German business publisher, Berlin 1930, DNB 453960286 .
  • Walther G. Oschilewsky: Eugen Diederichs and his work . Eugen Diederichs Verlag, Jena 1936.
  • Lulu von Strauss, Torney-Diederichs (ed. :): Eugen Diederichs - life and work. Selected letters and notes . Eugen Diederichs Verlag, Jena 1936.
  • Friedrich von der Leyen:  Diederichs, Eugen. In: New German Biography (NDB). Volume 3, Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1957, ISBN 3-428-00184-2 , p. 637 f. ( Digitized version ).
  • Eugen Diederichs Verlag (ed.): Bibliography of the publishing works 1896–1956 . Eugen Diederichs Verlag, Düsseldorf 1956.
  • Ulf Diederichs (Ed.): Eugen Diederichs. Testimonials and letters from contemporaries . Eugen Diederichs Verlag, Düsseldorf 1967.
  • Ulf Diederichs: Eugen Diederichs and his publishing house: Bibliography and book history 1896 to 1931 . Wallstein Verlag, Göttingen 2014.
  • Irmgard Heidler: The publisher Eugen Diederichs and his world (1896-1930) . (= Mainz Studies in Book Studies. Volume 8). Diss. Uni. Munich 1991. Harrassowitz, Wiesbaden 1998, ISBN 3-447-04029-7 .
  • Justus H. Ulbricht, Meike G. Werner (ed.): Romanticism, Revolution & Reform. Eugen Diederichs Verlag in the context of the epochs 1900–1949 . Wallstein, Göttingen 1999, ISBN 3-89244-344-0 .
  • Florian Triebel: Culture and Calculation. The Eugen-Diederichs-Verlag 1930-1949 ( Memento of October 29, 2013 in the Internet Archive ). Diss. Uni. Konstanz 2003. CH Beck, Munich 2004 (on the further history of the publishing house after Eugen Diederich's death).
  • Meike G. Werner: Modernism in the Province. Cultural experiments in the Fin de Siecle Jena . Wallstein, Göttingen 2003, ISBN 3-89244-594-X . (for details on Eugen Diederichs Verlag, pp. 63–193)
  • Ursula Martin: The publisher. A novel about Eugen Diederichs . quartus-Verlag, Bucha near Jena 2008, ISBN 978-3-936455-68-7 .
  • Christina Niem: Eugen Diederichs and folklore. A publisher and its importance for the development of science. (= Mainzer contributions to cultural anthropology / folklore. Volume 10). Waxmann, Münster et al. 2015, ISBN 978-3-8309-3240-6 .
  • Hans-Wolfgang Wolter: Eugen Diederichs (1867–1930). In: Heinz-Dietrich Fischer (Ed.): German press publishers from the 18th to the 20th century. Verlag Documentation, Pullach near Munich 1975, ISBN 3-7940-3604-4 , pp. 309-319.

Web links

Commons : Eugen Diederichs  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Gangolf Huebinger (ed.): Meeting place of modern spirits. The Eugen Diederichs publishing house. Departure into the century of extremes . Eugen Diederichs, Munich 1996, ISBN 3-424-01260-2 , p. 509.
  2. ^ MG Werner: Modernism in the Province. 2003, p. 110 f. ( limited preview on Google Books )
  3. ^ Ernst Klee : The dictionary of persons on the Third Reich. Who was what before and after 1945 . 2nd updated edition. Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2005, p. 107.