Philipp Wasserburg

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Philipp Wasserburg, photograph, 1878
Philipp Wasserburg, alias Philipp Laicus, Kreuz und Kelle (1887), new edition 1927

Philipp Wasserburg (pseudonym as writer Philipp Laicus ) (born October 11, 1827 in Mainz , † April 13, 1897 in Gonsenheim near Mainz) was a German Catholic publicist and writer as well as a member of the Hessian state parliament.

Origin and youth

He was born as the son of Andreas Wasserburg and his wife Dorothea. Bornemann born. The father worked as a private tutor, legal counsel and writer. After attending the Grand Ducal Gymnasium in the Neuen Kronberger Hof in Mainz, Philipp Wasserburg enrolled in 1846 to study law at the Hesse-Darmstadt University of Gießen . He took an active part in the revolution of 1848 and politicized with his comrades in the surrounding villages. In Lollar he stepped z. B. with saber slung around his neck and inspired the peasants for freedom and revolution. During the semester break in Mainz the revolutionary enthusiasm was even greater and Philipp Wasserburg took part as a member of the radical, socialist-oriented workers' association; u. a. he acted with this in Heidesheim and Sauer-Schwabenheim . In 1850 he passed his law exams in Giessen and then worked as a court assessor at the Mainz District Court. The radical socialist workers' association soon disbanded. Wasserburg gathered like-minded people in a communist secret society he founded, which sought the utopian socialism of Étienne Cabet . In 1850 Philipp Wasserburg published a volume of radical political poems in Giessen. It also clearly contained lines calling for a violent overthrow, such as the following:

  • Citizen goes to street fight! Do not spare your blood. Stands around in the smoke for freedom Good.
  • Plaster on! Fight boldly and cunningly at the thunderstorm! Women, children carry stones to the Liberty Building.
  • Go brethren fresh to battle, demolish the houses! The cities rise again from the rubble grave.

Philipp Wasserburg, Poems , Giessen 1850

Wasserburg and 33 other communists were charged with high treason in 1854 and he received 10 months' imprisonment. According to an appeal judgment in November 1855, he was supposed to serve eight months. In the correctional facility (reformatory) he contracted the Egyptian eye disease (trachoma) , which at that time often appeared epidemically in such places. Due to a petition for clemency from his mother, Philipp Wasserburg was finally released in February 1856, with the revocation of his civil rights and his law exams.

Catholic and writer

The unemployed political offender initially found no employment, not even as a simple clerk for a lawyer. Finally, Franz Sausen , editor and co-editor of the Catholic “ Mainzer Journal ”, gave free thinker, atheist and communist Philipp Wasserburg a chance. He hired him as a proofreader and travel agent for 30 guilders a month. An obituary later stated: "His free-thinking in youth was not the result of clear philosophical views, but rather the product of youthful indulgence and a defiant feeling of freedom." So it came about that the order from the publisher Franz Kirchheim - inspired by the Mainz cathedral dean Johann Baptist Heinrich - to translate the work of the French Benedictine Dom Guéranger “La monarchie pontificale” into German, fell on fertile ground with him. Cathedral dean Johann Baptist Heinrich tried to get the young man and a new translation assignment for Dom Guéranger's multi-volume work "L'année liturgique" required Wasserburg to internalize and strengthen the burgeoning Catholic faith. The Kölnische Volkszeitung wrote on April 16, 1897: "The preoccupation with this masterly statement broke through the last obstacle at Wasserburg and since that time he had become a faithful Catholic." He himself stated: "Dom Guéranger made me Catholic!"

In 1856, after his permanent position at the “Mainzer Journal” , Philipp Wasserburg married his bride Johanna Elisabetha Steiger, with whom he had four daughters and one son. She died in 1877, two months after the birth of her son Robert .

In 1872 Wasserburg published his first novel Wrestling Powers under the pseudonym "Philipp Laicus" . In an easily understandable novel form, he takes up all contemporary issues that concern him - international labor movement , Freemasonry , the beginning of the cultural war , Pope and Church, ultramontanism . The book is seen as a key work for Wasserburg's new phase of life, in which he has processed his own change from enthusiastic, violent revolutionary to a mature man who firmly believes in the Catholic religion.

A busy and restless time began. Philipp Wasserburg first headed the “Kreuzermagazin” and then until 1874 the “Mainzer Journal”. In addition, he wrote smaller and larger articles almost daily for many national and international magazines. He often openly dealt with topics such as atheism and liberalism in his political texts. He was also responsible for editing magazines for the major Catholic publishers Herder in Freiburg, Kirchheim in Mainz, Benziger in Einsiedeln and Badenia in Karlsruhe. In addition, he was a welcome employee of the Mainz local papers in municipal matters. In addition to this journalistic activity, there were around 30 novels and translations of the French works by Zénaïde Fleuriot (1829–1890), Antoine-François-Félix Roselly de Lorgues (1805–1898) and Lucien Biart (1829–1897). Philipp Wasserburg - alias Philipp Laicus - published his books largely with the Catholic publishers Kirchheim in Mainz and Benziger in Einsiedeln. Wasserburg wrote the two-volume work Silvio in 1873 , a novel from the days of Mentana . It deals with the struggles for the preservation of the Papal States in the 1860s. In it he sets a literary monument to the papal Zouave officer Joseph Alois Bach from the Palatinate by giving him a role in the novel and mentioning it several times. The novel “Cross and Trowel”, published in 1887 and very popular at the time, deals with the life and murder of the Ecuadorian President García Moreno . It is one of the few works by Wasserburg that was reprinted again in later years (1927). In 1891, Philipp Wasserburg published a highly acclaimed future novel “Something Later” near Kirchheim in Mainz , in which he represented the future theses for the year 2000 represented by Edward Bellamy in his 1888 utopian novel A look back at the year 1887 World without God, without family and without private property - leads to absurdity and satirized.

His strictly ecclesiastical and anti-Prussian convictions earned him two months of imprisonment in Darmstadt . He had written an open letter to Kaiser Wilhelm I , in which he attacked him and held against him: "The Kaiser is just as bound by the general laws of moral order as the least of his subjects." The letter was printed in many newspapers during the ruling Kulturkampf . In a trial brought against him, the publicist was acquitted. The Prussian government put the Hessian Grand Duke under such pressure that the aforementioned fortress detention was imposed in a second trial. Wasserburg published the small volume about it in 1874: Two months in Darmstadt fortress. Memories and it says among other things:

“In this brochure I think I am entertaining my readers with my own personality. When someone is suddenly made an important man because he has launched a letter that would hardly have been noticed in a free country, because everyone would speak like that there, while in our country half the Reich was in a state of excitement and twenty public prosecutors were in action so it will not be very much to blame if he speaks of himself once. "

- Philipp Wasserburg: Two months in the Darmstadt Fortress - memories

His social streak and his deeply rooted sense of justice soon moved him back to political activity. In 1877 and 1880 he was elected for the Center Party in the Mainz City Council, where he was also a member of the City Expansion Committee (→ Mainz-Neustadt ), the Legal Committee and the Theater Committee (→ City Theater Mainz ). Elected to the second chamber of the Hessian Landtag as a candidate for the Center Party for the Offenbach-Land district at the end of 1878 , he retained this seat until 1890. In 1893 he moved back into the Landtag for the Bingen-Land district . He applied for a seat in the Reichstag several times without success.

Philipp Wasserburg was one of the most famous German-speaking Catholic writers and publicists of his time. He died on April 13, 1897 at the age of almost 70. The honorable obituaries from the Catholic camp were numerous and detailed. More important, however, are evaluations that came from the other side. The liberal "Mainzer Anzeiger" wrote on his death:

“Wasserburg certainly represented a completely different worldview than we did, he was also far removed from us politically, but he was a people's man in the best sense of the word ; glowing only for freedom and at the same time full of soul for the social needs of our time. That alone raised him above so many. "

- Mainzer Anzeiger, April 13, 1897

And on April 15, 1897, an obituary in the same newspaper said:

"A few weeks before his death he said:" If I have to appear before my Lord God, I hope to have done my duty on earth. "The man who literally had no time to be tired has not only before his God, but before all human beings, he has done his full, full duty. Mainz has lost one of its best sons in Wasserburg. Like only a son's mother, Wasserburg loved his hometown, ardently, with passionate devotion. Hesse and its parliamentary representatives can mourn the loss of one of the most capable and most dutiful politicians, but the Center Party of Germany may mourn one of its most capable, active and honest leaders and fighters. "

- Mainzer Anzeiger, April 15, 1897

Stanley Zucker stated in 1982: "If you want to follow the suggestion of Federal President Carstens that you should pay more attention to the political roots of the Federal Republic of Germany, then a place in history would have to be found for figures like Philipp Wasserburg."

Uwe Ohlendorf reports that Philipp Wasserburg was a “confidante of Bishop Ketteler's ”. In 1877 he also published a biography of Ketteler.

In Mainz-Gonsenheim a street is named after Philipp Wasserburg. His grave in the main cemetery in Mainz (field 12, row 8 no. 25 near the main entrance) still exists. His brother Dionis Wasserburg (1813–1885) worked as a lithographer in Mainz.

Fonts (selection)

  • Poems. Giessen 1850.
  • Roses and thorns from the life of Pope Pius IX. Kirchheim, Mainz 1868.
  • Liberal phrases, illuminated. Kirchheim, Mainz 1871.
  • Wrestling Powers. A social novel from the present. Kirchheim, Mainz 1872.
  • Silvio, a novel from the days of Mentana. Kirchheim, Mainz 1873.
  • At the right hour. A story from the American planter's life. 1876.
  • Wilhelm Emmanuel Freiherr von Ketteler, Bishop of Mainz. A brief life sketch. 2nd Edition. Kirchheim, Mainz 1877.
  • The rose from Wettersee. Historical novel. 1880.
  • On dark paths to light heights. Historical novel. 1884.
  • The last chief of Killarney. A historical narrative. 1884.
  • Cross and trowel. Novel from the recent past. Benziger, Einsiedeln 1887.
  • Madonna di Tirano. A Veltliner story from the time of the Reformation. 1888.
  • Cross and crescent. Historical novel. 1889.
  • The last king of the Goths. Historical novel. 1891.
  • Somewhat later! Continuation of Bellamy's review from 2000. Kirchheim, Mainz 1891.
  • The riches of the disinherited. 1892.
  • House cardigan. Historical narrative. 1893.
  • Emperor or Pope. Historical novel. 1893.
  • Sunday sanctification - Sunday rest. 1894.
  • The decline of the Roman peoples. 1895.
  • The five wounds of Europe. 1895.
  • In the bloody struggle. Historical narrative from the middle of the 10th century. 1897.


  • Rainer Wahl: The Wasserburg family (II). Four generations of Mainz city history in individual biographies. In: Mainz. Quarterly issues for culture, politics, economics, history. Volume 2, Issue 3, 1982, pp. 108–111, here pp. 108–111.
  • Stanley Zucker: Political Catholicism and German Democracy. The case of Philipp Wasserburg (1827–1897). In: Historical yearbook . 102, 1982, pp. 94-112.
  • Franzjosef Hauser: "A folk man in the best sense of the word". Philipp Wasserburg on the 100th anniversary of his death. In: Gonsenheimer Jahrbuch. 4, 1996/97, pp. 39-56.
  • Anton Maria Keim : barricade poet, communist and catholic publicist. A Mainz fate - after the revolution: Philipp Wasserburg. In: Mainz. Quarterly issues for culture, politics, economics, history. Volume 18, Issue 4, 1998, pp. 77–83.
  • German Writer's Lexicon 1830–1880 , Volume 8, 2. Akademie-Verlag, Berlin 2012, ISBN 978-3-05-005644-9 , pp. 125–135 (with a complete list of publications).

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. The Pope's supreme teaching power. Kirchheim, Mainz 1870.
  2. The church year. Kirchheim, Mainz 1874 ff.
  3. Bach's biographer Jakob Knauber expressly noted this in his 1932 publication. Jakob Knauber: The Papal Officer Joseph Alois Bach. St. Joseph Verlag, Landau-Queichheim 1932.
  4. ^ "To the Kaiser." In: Mainzer Journal of October 16, 1873.
  5. Michael Kläger: Mainz on the way to the big city (1866-1914). In: Mainz: The history of the city. Verlag von Zabern, Mainz 1998, p. 469
  6. Zucker 1982, p. 112.
  7. ^ Uwe Ohlendorf: History of the youth welfare office. Development lines of public youth welfare 1871-1929 (= Kassel studies on social policy and social pedagogy. Volume 2). Bentz, Weilheim 2002, ISBN 3-407-55890-2 , p. 66.
  8. ^ Hermann Wucher: Historical tour of the main cemetery in Mainz. Graves of important personalities as well as a collection of inscriptions worth preserving. 3. Edition. Gustavsburg 2009.