Goethe Society

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Goethe Yearbook 1880 Titel.png

The Goethe Society in Weimar e. V. , founded in 1885 at the suggestion of Grand Duchess Sophie under Grand Duke Carl Alexander of Saxony-Weimar-Eisenach , is a literary-scientific society based in Weimar . Among other things, it wants to "contribute to a deeper knowledge of Goethe , show his importance for the modern world and give suggestions for research dedicated to him" (statute). Its organs of publication are the Goethe-Jahrbuch (GJb) , which was founded by Ludwig Geiger in 1880 , and in loose succession the writings of the Goethe-Gesellschaft (SchrGG) . The highest award is the Golden Goethe Medal .

The Goethe Society has around 2500 members in 40 countries around the world. Around 7,000 members are organized in the 58 local associations in Germany. In addition to the Goethe Society in Weimar and their local association additions in Germany about 40 Goethe-companies abroad, including the already exist in 1878 as the Vienna Goethe Club founded Austrian Goethe Society . Every two years in the week after Whitsun, the general assembly of the Goethe Society takes place in Weimar with a symposium on young Goethe research, lectures and discussions, and a rich cultural program.

The Goethe Society supports Goethe researchers with a scholarship program, offers lectures, organizes symposia and Goethe academies. Members receive the approx. 400-page Goethe yearbook with the latest findings on Goethe's life and work and have free admission to the approx. 20 museums of the Klassik Stiftung Weimar and the Goethe Museum in Düsseldorf. The current president of the Goethe Society is Stefan Matuschek.

Start time

Renowned women belonged to the Goethe Society from an early age, including the feminist Helene Stöcker , who also featured as an author in the Society's publications.

Weimar Republic and the time of National Socialism

Towards the end of the First World War, local groups (later: local associations) were formed, which increasingly demanded a democratization of society, but the national-conservative leadership of society was reluctant to these efforts. In particular, the largest local group, the Goethe Society Berlin, opposed the society management. The openly monarchist and anti-Semitic president from 1922 to 1926, the Berlin Ordinarius Gustav Roethe , suspected a Jewish cabal behind the opposition of the Berlin local group. The association had to record a sharp decline in membership in the global economic crisis since 1929.

After the handover of power to the National Socialists in 1933, there was a wave of resignation of Jewish members who had been destroyed in their professional existence by the racist professional bans and who, according to the research by W. Daniel Wilson (2015, 2018), were more likely to resign than to Wait for exclusion. After 1933, the society no longer accepted any Jews of its own accord. The DC circuit has been under President Julius Petersen and Vice President Hans Wahl and Anton Kippenberg , which already in 1924 for anti-Semitism had known, occurred in the Goethe research. After the Reichspogromnacht 1938 there was a blanket exclusion of all Jewish members, but according to Wilson's thesis, this exclusion was not enforced, as research claimed. The Goethe Society was discredited by many National Socialists for being “Jewish”. Since 1935, however, Goethe was increasingly involved in foreign cultural policy and the Goethe Society was used for regime purposes. During the war, like all larger private associations, it had to stop its general meetings. However, she still received the necessary paper allocation for her magazine Goethe , so that it could appear almost until the end of the war. For several reasons, the number of members increased so much during the war that a membership ban had to be imposed at times.


Local groups


  • W. Daniel Wilson : The Faustian Pact: Goethe and the Goethe Society in the Third Reich . dtv, Munich, 2018 ISBN 978-3-42328166-9
  • Thomas Neumann: "I am concerned about the future of the Goethe Society." Comments on the discussion about the successor to Gustav Roethes. In: Burkhard Stenzel: The Weimar Republic between metropolis and province. 1996, pp. 57-70.
  • Thomas Neumann: "... who knows how to fully appreciate the ideal impulses of your suggestions." Friedrich Lienhard and the Goethe Society. In: Jürgen John (Ed.): Weimar 1930. Politics and culture in the run-up to the Nazi dictatorship. 1998, pp. 185-210.
  • Jochen Golz, Justus H. Ulbricht (Hrsg.): Goethe in society. On the history of a literary union from the German Empire to divided Germany. Cologne / Weimar / Vienna 2005, ISBN 3-412-18805-0 .
  • Lothar Ehrlich: The Goethe Society in the field of tension between the SED's German and cultural policy . In: Weimar Classic Foundation : Weimar Classic in the Ulbricht era , pp. 251–282.

Web links

  • Goethe yearbooks 1880–2004 at www.digizeitschriften.de
  • Goethe yearbooks from 2005 at www.goethe-gesellschaft.de/goethe-jahrbuch.html.

Individual evidence

  1. Contemporary biography of Grand Duchess Sophie
  2. Helene Stöcker (2015): Memorabilia, ed. by Reinhold Lütgemeier-Davin u. Kerstin Wolff. Cologne: Böhlau, 97.
  3. a b c d e f W. Daniel Wilson: The Faustian Pact. Goethe and the Goethe Society in the Third Reich . dtv, Munich, ISBN 978-3-423-28166-9 , p. 14th ff .
  4. ^ A b W. Daniel Wilson : "Our board is composed of Aryan". In: Süddeutsche Zeitung , June 17, 2015, p. 14.
  5. ( reading sample )