Friedrich Wilhelm Foerster

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Friedrich Wilhelm Foerster (born June 2, 1869 in Berlin , † January 9, 1966 in Kilchberg near Zurich ) was a German philosopher , educator and pacifist .


Foerster on the expatriation list (1933)

Foerster was one of the sons of the astronomer Wilhelm Julius Foerster , the then director of the Berlin observatory and professor at the Berlin University . One of his two younger brothers was the important perennial grower Karl Foerster , the other brother the ship designer and head of the shipbuilding department of the Hamburg-America line Ernst Foerster (1876–1955).

Friedrich Wilhelm Foerster studied philosophy , economics , ethics and social sciences in Freiburg im Breisgau and Berlin. His doctoral thesis , written in 1893, is entitled The Development Course of the Kantian Ethics to the Critique of Pure Reason . His pacifism was based on the idea of international law ( Woodrow Wilson ) and on federalism , based on the thoughts of Constantin Frantz .

In 1898 he was at the University of Zurich with the scripture free will and moral responsibility. Habilitation in a social psychological examination . From 1898 to 1912 Foerster worked as a private lecturer in philosophy and moral education at the University of Zurich and the ETH Zurich . In 1913 and 1914 he became an associate professor at the University of Vienna . In 1914 he received a full professorship at the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich , where he taught education and philosophy.

Foerster took a critical look at the German war policy during the First World War . Above all, he criticized the militaristic attitude of the leading circles in Germany. With this attitude he was a rare exception in Wilhelmine Germany. Because of this and because of his other political and ethical views, he was repeatedly massively attacked by nationalist circles. When he dared to criticize Bismarck's policies during the war, there was a scandal at his university, which resulted in a two-semester leave of absence. Foerster spent this time in Switzerland, where he intensively studied the question of the areas in which Germany was responsible for the outbreak of the First World War. Foerster became convinced that the Germans had blocked the success of the Hague Peace Conferences in 1906 and 1907 and thereby isolated themselves internationally. This would have caused the encirclement of Germany before the First World War. When Foerster returned from Switzerland in 1917, he was convinced of the war guilt of the leading circles in Germany and, above all, of the General Staff. Because of his journalistic activities, Emperor Karl I sought his advice in 1917 and later (1925 and 1937) Edvard Benesch . In November 1918 he became ambassador of the Munich Soviet Republic under Kurt Eisner in Bern .

His views and the resulting publications were very unpleasant for the government and its allies. Therefore, nationalist associations and the newly emerging National Socialist movement saw Foerster as a main enemy. In 1920 Foerster published his book Mein Kampf against militaristic and nationalistic Germany . Thereupon he was threatened with death by the radical right. When Matthias Erzberger and later Walther Rathenau were murdered in 1921 , Foerster resigned his teaching post after warnings in 1922 and fled to Switzerland. In 1926 he moved to France . Since Foerster criticized Germany's nationalist circles from afar and later the rise of National Socialism, he became a main intellectual enemy of the National Socialists. In 1937 Foerster warned Germany's neighbors of Germany's warlike intentions in his book Europa und die Deutschefrage, which was translated into German in Lucerne and partly later into other languages . On August 11, 1938, just a few weeks before the Munich Agreement , he wrote an open letter to SdP party chairman Konrad Henlein , calling on the Sudeten German politicians to terminate Hitler's allegiance so as not to jeopardize the 800-year history of the Sudeten Germans and also to avert a deadly danger from the German people.

After the " seizure of power " by the National Socialists in Germany in 1933, Foerster's works were also publicly burned. In the third fire speech of the National Socialist students during the book burning on May 10, 1933 in Berlin, it was said about the works of Foerster “ Against ideological lasciviousness and political betrayal ”. In his work The Deadly Disease of the German People , which had appeared in Switzerland and France, he had warned urgently against the Nazi regime. Foerster was on the first Nazi expatriation list , signed on August 23, 1933 by the Reich Minister of the Interior.

Foerster was well-liked in France and was made a French citizen. After the German occupation of France in 1940, the Gestapo immediately searched for Foerster, who at the time, out of caution, lived on the border with Switzerland and fled to Switzerland. But the Swiss authorities rejected Foerster, even though he had worked in the Swiss government for years. They even questioned the validity of his French citizenship and stated that he was still German. With a lot of luck, Foerster got to Portugal and emigrated to the USA . He lived in New York until 1963 and finally returned to Switzerland, to Kilchberg near Zurich, where he spent the last years of his life in a sanatorium .

In his work, Foerster dealt with ethical, political, social, religious and sexual issues and called for a reform of education on a Christian and ethical basis: the special enlightenment had a subordinate role in his concept, both in political education and in of sex education. He saw the development of character and will and the training of conscience as the primary goal of education.

In 1946, in an article in the Neue Zürcher Zeitung , which was highly regarded at the time, he warned against “ repression of the whole world”, which would occur if the Germans were unable to atone for this guilt in “awareness of terrible guilt” and for a “new sanctification of all noble values ​​of humanity ”to make a constructive contribution.

In 1953 his memoirs appeared under the title Erlebte Weltgeschichte. 1869-1953 . In this work he placed his hope after two catastrophic wars in a spiritual, Christian renewal of the peoples of Europe and their political elites. The reflection on the common Christian heritage of Europe and the idea of ​​the brotherhood of the peoples should, according to him, overcome nationalism and lead to a voluntary political unification.

Förster was also interested in the movement for an international auxiliary language. He was a member of the International Language Adoption Delegation, but when it chose Ido , he resigned and publicly endorsed Esperanto .

Works (selection)

Lifestyle , memorial to the book burning on the Bonn market square
  • Youth apprenticeship. A book for parents, teachers and ministers. Reimer, Berlin 1904.
  • Life science. A book for boys and girls. Reimer, Berlin 1904.
  • Technology and ethics. A cultural studies study. Felix, Leipzig 1905.
  • Sex ethics and sex education. An examination of the modern. Kösel, Kempten / Munich 1907.
  • School and character. Contributions to the pedagogy of obedience and the reform of school discipline. Schulthess, Zurich 1907 ( digital version of the 4th edition 1908 at; PDF; 10.4 MB ); 15 editions until 1953.
  • Christianity and class struggle. Socio-ethical and socio-educational considerations. Schulthess, Zurich 1908.
  • Way of life. Reimer, Berlin 1909.
  • Citizenship education. Lecture given at the Gehe Foundation in Dresden on March 12, 1910. Teubner, Leipzig 1910.
  • The Austrian problem. From the ethical and state educational standpoint. Heller, Vienna 1914; 2nd edition, with an answer to the critics, 1916.
  • German youth and the world war. War and peace essays. Furche, Cassel 1915.
  • Education and self-education. Main points of view for parents and teachers, pastors and youth carers Schultheß & Co., Zurich 1918.
  • Political Ethics and Political Education. With special consideration of the upcoming German tasks. 3rd, greatly expanded edition of Citizenship Education. Reinhardt, Munich 1918.
  • World politics and world conscience. Verlag für Kulturpolitik, Munich 1919.
  • My fight against militaristic and nationalistic Germany. Verlag Friede durch Recht, Stuttgart 1920.
  • Europe and the German question. An interpretation and an outlook. Vita Nova publishing house, Lucerne 1937; Translation: L'Europe et la question allemande. With a foreword by André Chaumeix . Plon, Paris 1937; Europe and the German Question. Sheed & Ward, New York 1940 / Allen & Unwin, London 1941.
  • Experienced world history 1869–1953. Memoirs. Glock and Lutz, Nuremberg 1953.
  • The Jewish question (= Herder library. Volume 55). Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau 1959.
  • Applied religion or being a Christian in the midst of the present world. Herder, Freiburg im Breisgau 1961.


  • Ludwig Pilger: Friedrich Wilhelm Foerster as an ethicist, politician and educator. Arche Verlag, Munich 1922.
  • Hermann Mathias Görgen : FW Foerster's life and scientific development up to 1904. Zurich 1933.
  • Friedrich Koch : The political sex education Friedrich Wilhelm Foerster. In: Wolfgang Fischer u. a. (Ed.): Content problems in sex education. Heidelberg 1973, p. 9 ff.
  • Friedrich Koch: Sex education and political education. Munich 1975.
  • The German question seen from outside and inside. Friedrich Wilhelm Foerster's comments and answers from home and abroad . Verlag Das Andere Deutschland, Hanover 1947.
  • Hans Kühner: Friedrich Wilhelm Foerster. A way of life against German militarism . In: Fried Esterbauer, Helmut Kalkbrenner, Markus Mattmüller & Lutz Roemheld (eds.): From the free community to federal Europe. Festschrift for Adolf Gasser on his 80th birthday . Duncker & Humblot Verlag, Berlin 1983, ISBN 3-428-05417-2 , pp. 169-186.
  • Maria Hoschek: Friedrich Wilhelm Foerster (1869–1966). With special consideration of his relations with Austria . Peter Lang Verlag, Frankfurt am Main a. a. 2002; 3rd edition 2006. ISBN 3-631-54899-0 .
  • Franz Pöggeler : The pedagogy of Friedrich Wilhelm Foerster - A systematic representation Herder-Verlag, Freiburg, 1957
  • Franz Pöggeler / Joseph Antz : Friedrich Wilhelm Foerster and its significance for contemporary education . Festschrift for the completion of the 85th year of life of Prof. Dr. phil. theol. hc Friedrich Wilhelm Foerster on June 2, 1954. Paperback. Henn-Verlag, Ratingen 1955
  • Hans-Georg Ziebertz : Sex Education in a Social Context. Studies on the conceptual development of Catholic sex education . Weinheim 1993.
  • Günter Wirth: Friedrich Wilhelm Foerster . (PDF; 106 kB) In: UTOPIE Kreativ , H. 102 (April) 1999, pp. 5-18.
  • Overview of the lectures of Friedrich Wilhelm Foerster at the University of Zurich (summer semester 1898 to winter semester 1899)

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Helmut Rüdiger : Federalism, contribution to the history of freedom . Berlin 1979, pp. 271f.
  2. Bruno Hipler: Friedrich Wilhelm Foerster (1869-1966): An inspirer of the Catholic peace movement in Germany . In: Voices of the Time , Issue 2 1990, p. 120
  3. ^ FW Foerster: Erlebte Weltgeschichte 1869–1953. Memoirs. Nuremberg 1953, p. 209 and 211
  4. Herwig Baier: An unadjusted educator writes an open letter: Friedrich Wilhelm Foerster to Konrad Henlein . In: Mitteilungen Haus Königstein , 4-2012, p. 13
  5. Exact quote from Ernst Klee : Das Kulturlexikon zum Third Reich. Who was what before and after 1945. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2007, ISBN 978-3-10-039326-5 , p. 158.
  6. Michael Hepp (Ed.): The expatriation of German citizens 1933-45 according to the lists published in the Reichsanzeiger . tape 1 : Lists in chronological order. De Gruyter Saur, Munich 1985, ISBN 978-3-11-095062-5 , pp. 3 (reprinted 2010).
  7. See also his article in the Rheinischer Merkur of November 29, 1946, which contained the demand: "Germany must be deprecated."
  8. ^ FW Foerster: Erlebte Weltgeschichte 1869–1953. Memoirs. Nuremberg 1953, p. 651
  9. ^ Foerster, Friedrich Wilhelm . In: Enciklopedio de Esperanto, F.