Walter Dirks

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Walter Dirks (born January 8, 1901 in Hörde (now Dortmund ); † May 30, 1991 in Wittnau ) was a German Catholic publicist , writer and journalist . He is considered one of the most influential intellectuals in the Bonn republic .

The Frankfurt Walter and Marianne Dirks Prize , which has been awarded since 1995, is named after him, and since 2000 also after his wife Marianne Dirks .


Walter Dirks was born on January 8, 1901 as the son of the beer traveler Anton Dirks and his wife Luise Risse in Hörde. He had three siblings. Due to a heart disease, the father was unable to work, which led to the social decline of the family. The mother worked as a welfare worker, first with the Catholic community, later with the city of Dortmund. The maternal grandfather came from Westönnen (now the city of Werl) and ran the inn "Zur Grafschaft Mark" at Hörder Hermannstrasse 26, a meeting point for the workers at Hermannshütte . Dirks attended grammar school on Lindemannstrasse and graduated from high school there in 1920, but kept in touch with the working class of his parents' house. He studied theology at the Paderborn Theological Faculty and at the University of Münster and joined the Quickborn . In addition to others, Dirks particularly encouraged Wilhelm Hohoff's writings to study the young Karl Marx .

His older brother was shot by French troops during the occupation of the Ruhr , but Walter Dirks called for an understanding of the French position in the Quickborn magazine in the spring of 1923 . In the same year he met the theologian Romano Guardini at Rothenfels Castle . Dirks began his journalistic career in 1924 when he became a member of the editorial board of the Rhein-Mainische Volkszeitung published by Friedrich Dessauer .

On August 28, 1941, he married Marianne Ostertag (1913–1993).

Walter Dirks died on May 30, 1991 in Wittnau.


Dirks was Romano Guardini's secretary in his Berlin years and held a leading position in the Quickborn movement . From 1924 until it was dissolved by the National Socialists in 1934, he was editor of the left -wing Catholic Rhein-Mainische Volkszeitung , which was published by Friedrich Dessauer under the direction of Josef Knecht . From 1928 to 1931 he was in charge of the magazine of the Peace Association of German Catholics and tried to motivate Christian political action. In the blasphemy trial against the painter George Grosz in the Weimar Republic, he stood up as an expert in defense of the freedom of art. Dirks spoke out in favor of the alliance of the Center Party with the SPD and rejected National Socialism without becoming an active resistance fighter. With Theodor Steinbüchel he shared an interest in the early writings of Marx and in ethics in Marxist thought. His dissertation project on Georg Lukács' history and class consciousness , which he had started in Gießen with Steinbüchel, remained unfinished because of doubts about the sustainability of the topic and the persecution by the National Socialists (the manuscript is said to have been burned by the Gestapo because of an imminent house search ) .

From 1934 Dirks was a music critic of the Frankfurter Zeitung , which was tolerated by the regime , and from 1938 its deputy column head. Although he made no political comments during this time, he was banned from writing in 1943 and worked for the Herder publishing house .

After the Second World War , Dirks actively campaigned for the civil rebuilding of Frankfurt and initiated the foundation of the CDU in Frankfurt. Since his vision of the merging of Christianity and socialism could not be enforced in the party in the long term, he withdrew. Together with Eugen Kogon and Clemens Münster , he published the Frankfurter Hefte from 1946 , which aimed at building a democracy on the basis of socialism based on Christian responsibility. From 1949 he was a domestic political commentator for Südwestfunk , at the same time he worked at the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research from 1953 to 1956 , where he edited the Frankfurt articles on sociology together with Theodor W. Adorno . From 1956 to 1967 he headed the cultural department of West German Broadcasting in Cologne.

Through his journalistic contributions Dirks became a figure of identification for critical minorities in German Catholicism from the 1950s to the 1980s. Numerous prizes and honors show, however, that he was widely known and recognized as the "spokesman for the moral conscience of a community" ( Gustav Heinemann ).

Walter Dirks was also involved in educational policy. He was a member of the German Committee for Education , which was founded in 1953, and was involved in the framework plan (1957) and the report on religious upbringing and education in schools (1962).

Research into his life and work, especially during the time of the Federal Republic of Germany, is a desideratum of historical, political and religious studies research, which, however, has recently shown greater interest in him. A doctorate under Alexander Gallus at the Institute for Political Science at the Technical University of Chemnitz aims to close this gap by means of a biographical study.


Publications (selection)

Dirks as co-editor of the Frankfurt Contributions to Sociology
  • Inheritance and duty. Frankfurt am Main 1931
  • The monks' answer. Publishing house of Frankfurter Hefte, Frankfurt am Main 1952
  • View in the future. In: Marianne Feuersenger (Ed.): Is there still a proletariat ? Documentation of a series of broadcasts by Bayerischer Rundfunk . Europäische Verlagsanstalt, Frankfurt am Main 1962, pp. 91-100
  • Against the grain. In: Walter Jens (ed.): The good Samaritan. Kreuz, Stuttgart 1973, ISBN 3-7831-0413-0 , pp. 52-64.
  • Was I a left nut? Kösel, Munich 1983, ISBN 3-466-20241-8 .
  • The Singing Stutterer - Autobiographical Texts. Kösel, Munich 1983, ISBN 3-466-20239-6 .
  • Republic as a task. (Collected Writings Volume 1), Zurich 1989
  • Against the fascist coalition. (Collected Writings Volume 2), Zurich 1990
  • Features in National Socialism. (Collected Writings Volume 3), Zurich 1990
  • Socialism or restoration. (Collected Writings Volume 4), Zurich 1987
  • Say what is. (Collected Writings Volume 5), Zurich 1988
  • Politics from Faith. (Collected Writings Volume 6), Zurich 1989
  • The incomplete enlightenment. (Collected Writings Volume 7), Zurich 1989
  • For another republic. (Collected Writings Volume 8), Zurich 1987


  • Fritz Boll / Manfred Linz / Thomas Seiterich (eds.): Will it even work? Contributions for Walter Dirks (FS for his 80th birthday), Grünewald Verlag 1980, ISBN 3-7867-0857-6 .
  • Ulrich Bröckling : Walter Dirks Bibliography. Archive of Social Democracy in the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung, Bonn 1991, ISBN 3-926132-66-3 .
  • Ulrich Bröckling: Walter Dirks. In: Friedrich Georg Hohmann (Ed.): Westfälische Lebensbilder, Vol. 17, Aschendorff, Münster 2005, pp. 241-254, ISBN 3-402-06737-4 .
  • Ulrich Bröckling: Catholic intellectuals in the Weimar Republic. Criticism of time and social theory with Walter Dirks, Romano Guardini, Carl Schmitt, Ernst Michel and Heinrich Mertens. Wilhelm Fink, Munich 1992, ISBN 3-7705-2808-5 .
  • Benedikt Brunner: Left and everyone moved. Walter Dirks, Helmut Gollwitzer and their past political programs . In: Eckart Conze / Susanne Rappe-Weber (ed.): The German youth movement. Historicization and self-historicization after 1945, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, Göttingen 2018, ISBN 978-3-8471-0908-2 , pp. 179–197, preview .
  • Benedikt Brunner: A "singing stutterer" - Walter Dirks and the "cultural crisis" of the Weimar Republic . In: Zeitschrift für Religions- und Geistesgeschichte 70.1 (2018), pp. 29–51.
  • Benedikt Brunner, Thomas Großbölting / Klaus Große Kracht / Meik Woyke (eds.): "Say what is". Walter Dirks in the intellectual and political constellations of Germany and Europe , Bonn: JHW Dietz Nachf. 2019 (Political and Social History series; 105), ISBN 978-3-8012-4233-6 .
  • Bernd Kettet:  Dirks, Walter. In: Biographisch-Bibliographisches Kirchenlexikon (BBKL). Volume 18, Bautz, Herzberg 2001, ISBN 3-88309-086-7 , Sp. 360-367.
  • Wilfried Köpke: Management without an order. Walter Dirks' understanding of journalism. Hannover 1992, ISBN 978-3-638-71705-2 , preview and download (subject to a charge)
  • Karl Prümm : Walter Dirks and Eugen Kogon as Catholic publicists of the Weimar Republic. Siegen series, vol. 53. Winter, Heidelberg 1984, ISBN 3-533-03549-2 .
  • Gabriel Rolfes: Old, angry, male: Walter Dirks as a figure of identification for non-conformist minorities in German Catholicism . In: Anne Conrad (ed.): Religious practice and theology from a gender historical perspective. Sofie. Writings on Gender Research , Vol. 23. St. Ingbert 2019, ISBN 978-3-86110-747-7 , pp. 279-301.
  • Gabriel Rolfes: "The place of the new beginnings, I said, will have to be the magazine": Eugen Kogon and Walter Dirks as editors of the Frankfurter Hefte in the early Federal Republic. In: Alexander Gallus / Sebastian Liebold / Frank Shell (eds.): Measurements of an Intellectual History of the Early Federal Republic. Göttingen 2020, pp. 333-350, ISBN 978-3-8353-3472-4 .
  • Thomas Seiterich-Kreuzkamp: Left, free and Catholic - Walter Dirks: a contribution to the history of Catholicism in the Weimar Republic. European Theses, Series 23; Vol. 292. Lang, Frankfurt am Main a. a. 1986, ISBN 3-8204-8926-6 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Bruno Lowitsch: The circle around the Rhein-Mainische Volkszeitung. Steiner, 1980, ISBN 3-515-03151-0 , 142 pages, p. 26.
  2. ^ A b Matthias Arning: aftermath in Germany. In: Frankfurter Rundschau . May 28, 2010, accessed March 31, 2020 .
  3. ^ Joachim Rotberg: Between Left Catholicism and Bourgeois Collection: The Beginnings of the CDU in Frankfurt am Main 1945-1946 . Verlag Josef Knecht, Frankfurt am Main 1999, ISBN 978-3-7820-0824-2 .
  4. ^ Gabriel Rolfes: Old, angry, male: Walter Dirks as a figure to identify with nonconformist minorities in German Catholicism . In: Anne Conrad (Hrsg.): Religious practice and theology from a gender historical perspective . Sofie. Writings on Gender Studies, No. 23 . Roehrig-Verlag, St. Ingbert 2019, ISBN 978-3-86110-747-7 , pp. 279-301 .
  5. Benedikt Brunner, Thomas Großbölting / Klaus Große Kracht / Meik Woyke (eds.): "Say what is". Walter Dirks in the intellectual and political constellations of Germany and Europe . Political and Social History Series, No. 105 . JHW Dietz Nachf., Bonn, ISBN 978-3-8012-4233-6 .