Friedrich Meinecke

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Friedrich Meinecke (born October 30, 1862 in Salzwedel , † February 6, 1954 in Berlin ) was a German historian and university professor in Strasbourg , Freiburg and Berlin . During the Weimar Republic and the first few years after the Second World War, he was regarded as the leading representative of German historical studies in the Federal Republic and probably even more so in western countries. He is considered to be the founder of the “ history of ideas ” approach .

Live and act

Friedrich Meinecke's birthplace in Salzwedel
Inscription on the birth house
Memorial plaque on the house at Am Hirschsprung 13, Berlin-Zehlendorf

Friedrich Meinecke was the son of the postmaster Friedrich Ludwig Meinecke. This and the pastoral profession have been common in the family for generations. The "North German Protestant, bourgeois and Prussian civil service world" shaped Meinecke for his later life. He spent the first years of his life in the small town of Salzwedel in the Altmark . The father Lothar of his future historian colleague Egmont Zechlin was his childhood friend.

In 1871 his father was transferred to Berlin, where Friedrich Meinecke passed the Abitur exam at the Cöllnisches Gymnasium in 1882. He then studied German and history at the University of Berlin . He received his doctorate in 1886 with "The Stralendorff report and the Jülich succession dispute" . He joined the Colonia association, which later became part of the Saravia fraternity. In 1909 he was a co-founder and board member of the Burschenschaftliche Historischen Kommission , today's Society for Burschenschaftliche History Research . In 1892/93 he headed the entire association of German history and antiquity associations .

Influential academic teachers were Heinrich von Sybel , Heinrich von Treitschke , Johann Gustav Droysen and Wilhelm Dilthey . At Heinrich von Sybel's request, Meinecke took over the editing of the " Historischen Zeitschrift " , the main body of German historical studies, in 1893 . After Treitschke's death from 1896 to 1935 he edited them alone or in a leading role. In 1896 Meinecke completed his habilitation with a biography on "The Life of Field Marshal Hermann von Boyen" at the University of Berlin .

After a time as a private lecturer in Berlin, he was appointed to the University of Strasbourg in 1901 and to the University of Freiburg in 1906 . The conception of his three main works, Cosmopolitanism and Nation-State , coincided with the time at the two Upper Rhine universities . Studies on the genesis of the German nation state (published in Munich 1908), The idea of ​​reasons of state in modern history (Munich 1924) and The emergence of historicism (Munich / Berlin 1936). Since 1909 he was an associate member of the Heidelberg Academy of Sciences, and since 1914 an external member . In 1911 he became a corresponding member of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences , in 1915 a full member of the Prussian Academy of Sciences . He resigned this membership in 1950 for reasons of age.

Meinecke is considered to be the inventor of the "history of ideas". He wrote the sentence that the Germans went from "cosmopolitan" to "nationalists" through the experience of the Napoleonic occupation. He himself expressly acknowledged this nationalism , but rejected annexation plans beyond the German language borders during the First World War , although until 1917 he considered resettlement actions in the east.

Meinecke had been a professor in Berlin since the winter of 1914, where he also worked as a "high-ranking historical-political commentator" ( Ernst Schulin ) when he advocated a mutual agreement from 1915 onwards . In 1917 he was involved in the founding of the Volksbund for Freedom and Fatherland as a counterweight to the extremist German Fatherland Party . After 1918, he supported the new state with the words: "I remain, facing the past, a monarchist of my heart and, facing the future, I will be a Republican of reason ." Towards the end of the war he wrote, like his younger historian colleague Egmont Zechlin, for the Norddeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung .

Honorary grave, Dahlem cemetery

In 1918 he became a co-founder of the German Democratic Party . In 1933 he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences . After his retirement in 1932, Meinecke withdrew from all public offices during the Nazi era, in 1934 from chairing the Historical Reich Commission founded on his initiative in 1935, in 1935 after an attack on Walter Frank from the editorial team of the historical journal . When Meinecke was invited to a lecture at the Berlin local association of the Goethe Society in 1937 , the rumor circulated that he was “on the party's black list!” Nevertheless, during this time he continued to publish books, including his third main work on the history of ideas, The emergence of Historicism and the first part of its autobiography, Experienced. 1862–1901 (Leipzig 1941).

At the age of 82 he left his house in Berlin-Dahlem in March 1945 and fled with his wife Antonie to Franconia , where he saw the end of the war. In the summer, friends brought him to Göttingen, from where he returned to Berlin in July 1946 with American help - mediated by his emigrated students. There he was elected the first, albeit more honorary, rector of the Free University of Berlin in 1948 .

Although Meinecke rejected National Socialism out of personal and political conviction, he felt the defeat in the Second World War and the destruction of the German Reich by the Allies as The German Catastrophe - the title of his most influential work in the first decades after the Second World War - something has recently received posthumous criticism, especially abroad (cf. the secondary literature). In the work mentioned there are also controversial passages concerning the Jews about the emancipation of the Jews ("The Jews, who tend to enjoy a favorable economic situation that once smiled at them, had caused some offense since their full emancipation") and anti-Semitism in of the Weimar Republic ("To those who brought the cup of the power that had fallen to them too quickly and greedily to their mouths included many Jews. Now they appeared to all anti-Semitic-minded people as the beneficiaries of the German defeat and revolution.") Meinecke wrote in 1941 (!) Experienced in his autobiography with appreciation of some Jewish or “ Jewish-related ” friends and colleagues.

Effect and maintenance

In 1949 he received the Goethe plaque from the city of Frankfurt am Main .

In the fall of 1951, the "Seminar for Medieval and Modern History" at the Free University of Berlin was renamed the Friedrich Meinecke Institute (FMI). The historical institute of the FU bears this name to this day.

From 1957 to 1979 he published nine volumes of his works by the Koehler Verlag in Stuttgart, partly also by the Oldenbourg publishing house in Munich and the Toeche-Mittler publishing house, Darmstadt, edited by Hans Herzfeld and others on behalf of the Friedrich Meinecke Institute of the Free University of Berlin ; A 10th volume followed in 2012.

Since 2001, a “Friedrich Meinecke Prize” has been awarded in Berlin for historical dissertations. Initially, the prize money was donated by professors emeritus from the Meinecke Institute; since 2012, the prize has been awarded by the Department of History and Cultural Studies at the Free University of Berlin and the Friedrich Meinecke Society.


Bibliography of the works, commemorative publications and translations of Meinecke and the secondary literature

  • German state and German parties. Contributions to the history of German parties and ideas. Friedrich Meinecke for his 60th birthday. Edited by Paul Wentzcke . R. Oldenbourg, Munich and Berlin 1922.
  • Historical magazine. 174, 1952, issue 2 (dedicated to Friedrich Meinecke; bibliography prepared by Anne-Marie Reinold).
  • Friedrich Meinecke Today. Edited by Michael Erbe , 1981 (bibliography compiled by Monika Fettke up to and including 1979).
  • Friedrich Meinecke in his time. Edited by Gisela Bock and Daniel Schönpflug , 2006 (complete bibliography compiling addenda up to and including 2006 by Stefan Meineke).

Works (complete edition)

  • Volume 1: The Idea of ​​State of State in Modern History. 3. Edition. 1963.
  • Volume 2: Political Writings and Speeches. 2nd Edition. 1966.
  • Volume 3: The emergence of historicism. 1959.
  • Volume 4: On the theory and philosophy of history. 2nd Edition. 1965.
  • Volume 5: Cosmopolitanism and the nation state. 1962.
  • Volume 6: Selected correspondence. 1962.
  • Volume 7: On the history of historiography. 1968.
  • Volume 8: Autobiographical Writings. 1969.
  • Volume 9: Brandenburg, Prussia, Germany. Small writings on history and politics. 1979.
  • Volume 10: New Letters and Documents. 2012.

Single fonts

  • 1891: The German societies and the Hoffmannsche Bund. A contribution to the history of political movements in Germany in the age of the Wars of Liberation .
  • 1896: The life of Field Marshal General Hermann von Boyen . Volume 1: 1771 to 1814 (habilitation thesis).
  • 1899: The life of Field Marshal General Hermann von Boyen . Volume 2: 1814 to 1848 (habilitation thesis).
  • 1906: The age of the German uprising 1795–1815 (2nd edition 1913, 3rd edition. 1924, 4th edition. 1941).
  • 1908: Weltbürgertum und Nationstaat ( Werkausgabe , Volume 5, Stuttgart 1962, the preface to the first edition is correctly dated 1907, which is sometimes erroneously given as the date of the first edition).
  • 1910: On the criticism of Radowitz's fragments (in the Festschrift for Karl Zeumer ).
  • 1913: Radowitz and the German Revolution (final volume to the biography of Joseph Maria von Radowitz by Paul Hassel ).
  • 1914: What goods are we fighting for? ( Breisgauer Zeitung , August 19).
  • 1916: Germany and the World War , 2 volumes, Teubner, Leipzig a. Berlin, 1916 (co-editor).
  • 1917: Problems of the World War. Articles (written 1915–1917).
  • 1918: Prussia and Germany in the 19th and 20th centuries. Historical and political essays .
  • 1919: After the revolution. Historical considerations about our situation (essays from 1919).
  • 1924: The Idea of ​​State of State in Modern History. [Ed. and introduced by Walther Hofer . Friedrich Meinecke works; Volume 1. Munich, R. Oldenbourg, 1957].
  • 1926: The German universities and today's state. Lectures given at the Weimar Conference of German University Professors on April 23 and 24, 1926 (with Wilhelm Kahl and Gustav Radbruch ).
  • 1927: History of the German-English alliance problem 1890–1901 .
  • 1928: Kühlmann and the papal peace campaign of 1917 (special reprint from the session reports of the Prussian Academy of Sciences, Philosophical-Historical Class, 1928, XVII).
  • 1932: About Justus Möser's view of history. Introductory remarks (special edition from the session reports of the Prussian Academy of Sciences, Philosophical-Historical Class , 1932, I; preliminary work on The emergence of historicism ).
  • 1933: Goethe's displeasure in history (special edition from the session reports of the Prussian Academy of Sciences, Philosophical-Historical Class , 1933, III; preparatory work for The emergence of historicism ).
  • 1933: State and Personality. Studies .
  • 1934: Shaftesbury and the roots of historicism (special edition from the session reports of the Prussian Academy of Sciences, Philosophical-Historical Class , 1934, VII; preparatory work for The emergence of historicism ).
  • 1936: Leopold von Ranke. Commemorative speech (special edition from the meeting reports of the Prussian Academy of Sciences, Philosophical-Historical Class , celebratory lecture of January 23, 1936; preparatory work on The emergence of historicism ).
  • 1936: The rise of historicism .
  • 1937: Schiller and the idea of ​​individuality. A study of the history of the origins of historicism .
  • 1939: On the historical sense and the sense of history (collection of articles).
  • 1941: Experienced. 1862–1901 (autobiography).
  • 1946: The German catastrophe. Considerations and recollections (2nd edition 1946, 3rd edition. 1947, 4th edition. 1949, numerous translations).
  • 1948: Ranke and Burckhardt. A lecture given at the German Academy of Sciences in Berlin .
  • 1948: 1848. A secular view .
  • 1949: Goethe and history (special print from The emergence of historicism ).
  • 1949: Strasbourg, Freiburg, Berlin: 1901–1919. Memories .


  • Monika Fette: Friedrich Meinecke Bibliography up to 1979. In: Michael Erbe : Friedrich Meinecke today. Report on a memorial colloquium on the 25th anniversary of his death on April 5 and 6, 1979. Berlin 1981, pp. 199–258.
  • The capital problem in history. Ceremony for Friedrich Meinecke's 90th birthday. Edited by the Friedrich Meinecke Institute at the Free University of Berlin. Tübingen 1952.
  • Waldemar Besson : Friedrich Meinecke and the Weimar Republic. On the relationship between historiography and politics. In: Vierteljahrshefte für Zeitgeschichte . 7, 1959, pp. 113-129 ( ).
  • Gisela Bock , Daniel Schönpflug: Friedrich Meinecke in his time. Studies of life and work. (= Pallas Athene. Contributions to the history of universities and science. Volume 19). Franz Steiner Verlag, Stuttgart 2006, ISBN 3-515-08962-4 .
  • Walter Bussmann : Friedrich Meinecke. A memorial lecture. Berlin 1963.
  • Ludwig Dehio : Friedrich Meinecke. The historian in crisis. Ceremonial speech given on the day of the 90th birthday . Berlin 1953.
  • Michael Erbe (Ed.): Friedrich Meinecke today. Report on a memorial colloquium on the 25th anniversary of his death on April 5 and 6, 1979. Berlin 1981.
  • Imanuel Geiss : Critical review of Friedrich Meinecke. In: ders .: Studies on history and historical science . Frankfurt am Main 1972, pp. 89-107.
  • Johannes Gerhardt: Reflections on Friedrich Meinecke ( pdf, 21 pages ( memento from April 23, 2014 in the Internet Archive )).
  • Felix Gilbert : Friedrich Meinecke. In: ders .: History, Choice and Commitment . Cambridge / London 1977, pp. 67-87.
  • Walter Goetz : Friedrich Meinecke. Life and personality. In: Historische Zeitschrift 174, 1952, pp. 231-250.
  • Hans Herzfeld : Friedrich Meinecke. For his 90th birthday. In: GWU 3, 1952, pp. 577-591.
  • Walther Hofer : Historiography and Weltanschauung. Thoughts on the work of Friedrich Meinecke . Munich 1950.
  • Harm Klueting : 'Reasonable Republicanism' and 'Trust Dictatorship'. Friedrich Meinecke in the Weimar Republic. In: Historische Zeitschrift 242, 1986, pp. 69-98.
  • Jonathan B. Knudsen : Friedrich Meinecke (1862–1954). In: Hartmut Lehmann , James van Horn Melton (Eds.): Paths of Continuity. Central European Historiography from the 1930s to the 1950s . Cambridge / Mass. 1994, pp. 49-72.
  • Edgar Liebmann: Friedrich Meinecke. In: Rüdiger Voigt , Ulrich Weiß (Hrsg.): Handbuch Staatsdenker . Stuttgart 2010, ISBN 978-3-515-09511-2 , pp. 283-285.
  • Gerhard Lozek : Friedrich Meinecke - a progenitor of NATO historians in West Germany. In: Journal of History . 10, 1962, No. 7, pp. 1538-1574, and No. 8, pp. 1786-1807.
  • Gerhard Masur : Friedrich Meinecke. Historian of a World in Crisis. In: James J. Ethridge, Barbara Kopala (Eds.): The Origins of Modern Consciousness . Detroit 1963, pp. 133-147.
  • Stefan Meineke: Friedrich Meinecke. Personality and political thinking until the end of the First World War . Berlin / New York 1995.
  • Robert A. Pois: Friedrich Meinecke and German Politics in the 20th Century . Berkeley / Los Angeles / London 1972.
  • Gerhard A. Ritter (Ed.): Friedrich Meinecke. Academic teacher and emigrated student. Letters and notes 1910–1977 . Oldenbourg Verlag, Munich 2006, ISBN 3-486-57977-0 (= Biographical Sources on Contemporary History , Volume 23).
  • Gerhard A. Ritter: The repression of Friedrich Meinecke as editor of the historical magazine 1933–1935. In: Dieter Hein , Klaus Hildebrand , Andreas Schulz (eds.): History and life. The historian as a scientist and contemporary. Festschrift for Lothar Gall on his 70th birthday . Munich 2006, pp. 65-88.
  • Hans Rothfels : Friedrich Meinecke. A look back at his scientific life's work. Funeral speech . Berlin 1954.
  • Franz Schnabel : Friedrich Meinecke October 13, 1862 - February 6, 1954. In: 1954 yearbook of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences. Munich 1954, pp. 174-200.
  • Ernst Schulin : Friedrich Meinecke. In: Hans-Ulrich Wehler (ed.): German historians . Volume 1, Göttingen 1971, pp. 39-57.
  • Nikolai Wehrs: On the difficulties of a historical revision. Friedrich Meinecke's review of the German catastrophe. In: Jürgen Danyel (Ed.): 50 classics of contemporary history. Göttingen 2007, pp. 29-32.

Web links

Commons : Friedrich Meinecke  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. See Ritter: Preface. In: Friedrich Meinecke. 2006, p. 7.
  2. a b full text at .
  3. ^ Members of the HAdW since it was founded in 1909. Friedrich Meinecke. Heidelberg Academy of Sciences, accessed June 21, 2016 .
  4. ^ 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. 142-144 .
  5. Peter Th. Walter: Historians who emigrated to the United States 1945–1950. Looking or jumping across the pond? In: Christoph Cobet (Hrsg.): Introduction to questions to the historical science in Germany after Hitler . Frankfurt am Main 1986, p. 46.
  6. Meinecke in: The German catastrophe , quoted here from Götz Aly : Why the Germans? Why the Jews? Equality, envy and racial hatred 1800–1933. Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, Frankfurt 2012, ISBN 978-3-596-18997-7 , p. 295.
  7. Meinecke in The German Catastrophe , quoted here from Götz Aly: Why the Germans? Why the Jews? Equality, envy and racial hatred 1800–1933. Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, Frankfurt 2012, ISBN 978-3-596-18997-7 , p. 295 f.
  8. See Friedrich Meinecke Prize Award for excellent historical dissertation, press release from the Free University of Berlin from 2001, accessed March 21, 2018 .
  9. See page about the Friedrich Meinecke Society of the Free University of Berlin, as of 2014, accessed March 21, 2018 .