Werner Bergengruen

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Werner Bergengruen (portrayed by Emil Stumpp , 1929)
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Werner Max Oskar Paul Berggruen (born September 4 . Jul / 16th September  1892 greg. In Riga , Livonia , † 4 September 1964 in Baden-Baden ) was a Baltic German writer .


Werner Bergengruen was born as the second son of the German-Baltic doctor Paul Emil Bergengruen (Bergengrün) (1861-1945), of Swedish descent and a member of the aristocratic-patrician upper class, and his wife Helene von Boetticher in Riga. The boy was sent to school by his father because of the Russification policy of the Tsarist Empire in the Baltic States . But he remained connected to his old homeland all his life.

Relocation to Germany

From 1903 to 1908, Bergengruen attended the Katharineum in Lübeck , and from 1908 to 1910 the grammar school Philippinum Marburg . In 1910 he began studying Protestant theology at Philipps University in Marburg and then switched to German and art history . In 1910 he became a member of the Normannia Marburg fraternity . In 1927/28 the federal government became a corps in the Rudolstadt Senior Citizens' Convention . Bergengruen later continued his studies at the Ludwig Maximilians University in Munich without obtaining a regular degree. During the First World War , from 1914 to 1918, he worked as a volunteer and lieutenant or shock troop leader in the German Army in the Baltic States. Under the impression of the murder of family members by Bolshevik troops , he joined the Baltic State Army in 1919 , which fought against the Red Army .

Journalist and freelance writer

On October 4, 1919, in Marburg , he married Charlotte Hensel (1896–1990), daughter of the mathematician Kurt Hensel , sister of the legal scholar Albert Hensel and great-granddaughter of Wilhelm Hensel and Fanny Hensel . The marriage had four children: Olaf (* † 1920), Nino Luise (* 1924), Maria, married. Schütze-Bergengruen (1928-2020), and Alexander (* 1930). Alexander's son is the literary scholar Maximilian Bergengruen .

Werner Bergengruen had been working as a journalist since 1920 and went to Berlin in 1922 , where he became head of the Ost-Informations magazine . That year, his first novel Das Gesetz des Atum , which contains autobiographical features, appeared as a preprint in the Frankfurter Zeitung . In later years he was opposed to this work (“rightly out of print, burnt, forgotten”). In 1925 he became editor-in-chief of the Baltic papers .

In 1927 Bergengruen lived as a freelance writer in Munich and Berlin, where he belonged to the circle around the publisher Victor Otto Stomps and his publisher Rabenpresse . In addition to the co-founder of the Rabenpresse Hans Gebser, who became known as a philosopher under the name of Jean Gebser , this group also included Horst Lange and his future wife Oda Schaefer , for a short time Joachim Maass , Walther G. Oschilewski , Hermann Kasack , Robert Seitz , Jens Heimreich , Rolf Bongs , Werner Helwig and Eberhard Meckel . Bergengruen himself contributed to the literary magazine The White Raven , which Stomps published in the Rabenpresse from 1932 to 1934.

Bergengruen's study in the literature museum in Baden-Baden
The grave of Werner Bergengruen and his wife in the main cemetery in Baden-Baden

Position on National Socialism

The National Socialism was Berggruen (as well as his close friend Reinhold Schneider ) versus negative. Although his attitude was national and conservative, he was increasingly oriented towards Christian humanism. Also for family reasons - according to the Nuremberg Laws , his wife was considered a “ half-breed ” because of her Jewish grandparents on his mother's side and her paternal great-grandmother Fanny Hensel - he was aloof, but did not openly oppose National Socialism.

In 1935 his most successful novel The Grand Tyrant and the Court appeared , which had a circulation of over a million copies sold and was understood by critics of the Nazi regime as a hidden reckoning with National Socialism. In view of the period from 1926 onwards, this reading could be too one-sided. The Völkischer Beobachter initially celebrated the work as a “great Führer novel”. The novel was later filmed, dramatized and translated into fifteen languages.

A year later (1936) , Bergengruen and his wife converted to the Catholic faith with the then academic and student chaplain Johannes Pinsk . In 1937 he was excluded from the Reichsschrifttumskammer ( e.g. with reference to the novel Großtyrann ) on the following grounds: "Because you are not suitable to contribute to the development of German culture through literary publications." In a report by the Gaupersonalamt Munich / Main Office for Political Assessments said es: “Neither he nor his children are members of any party division. The German greeting 'Heil Hitler' is neither used by him nor by his family. As far as is known, he does not receive any Nazi press. It should also be noted that B. is strongly denominationally bound. "

Nevertheless, Bergengruen received a “special permanent permit” to publish. As a result, the volume of poetry The Eternal Emperor from 1937 and the novel Am Himmel wie auf Erden 1940 were banned, and broadcasting and lectures were also banned. Regardless of this, the poems critical of the regime in the volume of poetry Der Ewige Kaiser went from hand to hand in copies and / or were only published in publications with smaller editions such as the White Papers . The resistance fighter Hans Scholl , who had met him through Carl Muth , was touched by his works.

Despite Bergengruen's difficulties with the Nazi regime, many of his other works were able to appear, not least because he was one of the most popular authors in Germany. After his house in Munich- Solln was destroyed in 1942, he moved to Achenkirch in Tyrol .

In 1945, after the end of the Second World War, Bergengruen judged the time of National Socialism : “Nobody can say that they knew nothing about the atrocities . (...) Everyone knew what happened in the concentration camps, unless they forcibly closed their ears and face. "

post war period

In 1946 Bergengruen moved to Switzerland , then lived in Rome for two years and finally in Baden-Baden from 1958 until his death. In 1952 he wrote his most famous work of the post-war period: The Last Rittmeister (1952), in which he a. a. expressed his doubts and skepticism about developments in the post-war period. For example, he spoke of the “industrial age” or condemned “standardized behavior”. In contrast, he advocated conservative principles such as “sticking to tradition”, which, however, he did not see as a rigid counter-model to the present.

He countered the accusation that he was trying to suppress the criminal past of the Nazi dictatorship in the essay Writing Memories (1961). In it he asks people of all times about their behavior, their failures and their faith and finally surrenders them to the grace of God.

Because of his conception of faith as a “leap over the shadow of one's own existence”, the results of the Second Vatican Council also filled him with suspicion. Because these changes contradicted his non-conformist image of “catholicity” and his basic conviction that “what goes on outside is only a clarifying and coarse picture of the things that happen in the souls of people”.

Artistic creation

As the successor to the great authors of the 19th century, Bergengruen wrote novels, stories, poems and translations, which are characterized by polished language and a classic, exciting structure. He was a narrator who packaged his Christian-humanistic worldview in great fables and parables, both in long-drawn-out novels (such as In Heaven as on Earth ) and in small, often anecdotal forms, some of which were held together by framework narratives brilliant. The novelistic narratives make up a focus in Bergengruen's work.

In the German post-war period he was considered an example of an author of the " inner emigration " against the Nazi regime and was one of the best known and most successful authors of the early Federal Republic. Christianity and Western humanism made up Bergengruen's worldview, which pervades his entire work. His novellas deal with the binding of human beings to a higher order and with the work of divine providence, held in a classic narrative form in which an “unheard of incident” is thematized as a timeless action prototype.

His most famous novel work of the three falcons (1936) leans in its structures to Boccaccio Falk amendment in the Decameron (ninth novella of the fifth day) to. In the case of Bergengruen, the falcon owner is impoverished and single, and he separates himself from material and ideological possessions (Boccaccio's protagonist for the hospitable courtesy, Bergengruens for the high respect for animals). With Bergengruen, the falcon does not play the role of a phallic symbol / a lover, as was common in medieval literature - including Boccaccio.

In 1960 Titulus appeared . That is: miscarriage, collections and fragmentary thoughts on the natural history of the German book title, interspersed with occasional errors. Or: Untitled life novel by a library official , according to the review in the time a “lovable, if somewhat thin approach” to the history of the book title.

Awards and honors


  • The Law of Atum , novel 1923
  • Rosen am Galgenholz , stories 1923 (including the journey of the Lord of Rings)
  • Schimmelreuter poured me , stories
  • The bridal shirt , stories 1925
  • The great Alkahest , novel 1926 (new version 1938: The Starost)
  • The book Rodenstein , Novella cycle 1927 (extended 1951)
  • The Empire in ruins , historical novel 1927
  • The great monk , stories 1930
  • Duke Charles the Bold or Mind and Fate , historical novel 1930 (revised 1943)
  • The Week in the Labyrinth , novel 1930
  • Capri , poems 1930
  • The golden pen , novel 1931
  • Zwieselchen , children's book 1931 ff.
  • The traveling tree , poems 1932
  • Kashubian Christmas carol , poems
  • The Trial by Fire , novella 1933
  • The Easter grace , story 1933
  • German trip . A 1934 memory book
  • The cord around the neck , 1935
  • The Grand Prince and the Court , Renaissance novel 1935
  • Justice , narrative 1935
  • The Rose of Jericho , poems 1936
  • The three falcons , story 1937
  • The Eternal Emperor , poems 1937
  • The hidden fruit , poems 1938
  • ETA Hoffmann , biography 1939
  • The passionate , narrative 1939
  • The Death of Reval , Tales 1939
  • In heaven as on earth , historical novel 1940
  • The Spanish rose bush , story 1940
  • The Hornunger Heimweh , story 1942
  • Treasure hunt story , 1942
  • Dies irae , poems 1945
  • Spells and blessings , 1946
  • The Sultan's Rose , Tales 1946
  • The confessional seal , narration 1946
  • Virginity , novella 1947
  • Pelageja , novel 1947
  • Star stand , story 1947
  • The hands on the mast , story 1948
  • Roman memory book , 1949
  • The fire sign , novel 1949
  • The Devil in the Winter Palace , story 1949
  • The little temple , story 1950
  • The perfect world , poems 1950
  • The last journey , story 1950
  • Lombard elegy , poetry 1952
  • The last Rittmeister , volume of stories 1952
  • The peacock bush , story 1952
  • Message from the Phoenix Bird , story 1952
  • The flame in the pillars , stories 1952
  • The Secret Remains , Records and Confessions 1952
  • Die Sterntaler , story 1953
  • The Rittmeisterin , Roman 1954
  • The ride of the Lord of Rings , stories 1955
  • The twins from France , stories 1955
  • With a thousand tendrils , poems 1956
  • Das Netz , amendment 1956
  • Hubertus Night , story 1957
  • Bear stories, tale 1959
  • Anger, Time and Eternity , Tales 1959
  • The third wreath , novel 1962
  • The sisters from the Mohrenland , story 1963
  • Räuberwunder , story 1964
  • The Most Beautiful Novellas , 1965
  • Poet case , autobiography 1966
  • And your name erased , Tales 1971
  • Schnapps with sakuska . Baltic reader. Edited by N. Luise Hackelsberger . Arche, Zurich 1986, ISBN 3-7160-2045-1 .
  • Compendium Bergengruenianum , Records 1940–45, 1992
  • From Riga to elsewhere or stations in a lifetime . Books, travel, encounters. Edited by N. Luise Hackelsberger. Arche, Zurich 1992, ISBN 3-7160-2148-2 .

Bergengruen in the Baltic States

Memorial plaque in the entrance area of ​​the Smilšu iela building (Sandstrasse) 12 in Riga , installed on the initiative of the German-Baltic-Latvian Center Domus Rigensis . - Bergengruen's parents' house was actually at Kalkstraße 12 (today Kalķu iela 22) and was demolished in 1914 or replaced by a new building. Bergengruen died in 1964, not 1962.

In the Baltic Berggruen's work is hardly known today. In Soviet times, reminiscences of the influence of German-Baltic culture and language were undesirable. Finally, selected stories have been translated into Latvian and Estonian and offer the opportunity to rediscover literary evidence of the country's history.

  • Latvian:
    • Verners Bergengrīns: Balle austrumu spārnā. Spoku stāsti (ball in the east wing. Haunted stories). Translated by Silvija Brice. Verlag Harro von Hirschheydt, Aizpute 1999. ISBN 9984932915 .
    • Verners Bergengrīns: Nāve Rēvelē. Dīvaini stāsti par kādu senu pilsētu (The death of Reval. Curious stories from an ancient city). Translated by Austra Aumale. Verlag Harro von Hirschheydt, Aizpute 2000. ISBN 998493294X .
    • Verners Bergengrīns: Pasaules tautām; Fon Ringena kunga brauciens; Sargeņģelis; Pēdējā epifānija (To the Peoples of the Earth; The Ride of the Lord of Rings; The Guardian Angel; The Last Epiphany). Translated by Valdis Bisenieks, Riga 1997. ISBN 9984509931 .
  • Estonian:
    • Werner Bergengruen: Nii taevas kui ka maa peal (In heaven as on earth). Translated by Mati Sirkel. Argo Publishing House, Tallinn 2013. ISBN 9789949466832 .
    • Werner Bergengruen: Surm Tallinnas (The Death of Reval). Translated by Rein Sepp and Mati Sirkel. Varrak Publishing House, Tallinn 1999. ISBN 9985302001 .


  • Karl W. Apel, Werner Herzenstiel: Werner Bergengruen's "character test". Esslingen: Long. 1975.
  • Hans Bänziger: Werner Bergengruen. Way and work. 4th, change Ed. Bern: Francke. 1983. ISBN 3-7720-1710-X
  • Carl J. Burckhardt: About Werner Bergengruen , with a complete bibliography, five portrait sketches and curriculum vitae. Zurich: Verlag der Arche, 1968 (therein bibliography of all works p. 43–66: numbers 1–104 own works, numbers 105–111 translations, including works by Tolstoy, Turgenev and Dostoyevsky); Note p. 46: A circulation of over 5 million copies could be calculated (1968).
  • Carola L. Gottzmann , Petra Hörner: Lexicon of the German-language literature of the Baltic States and St. Petersburg . De Gruyter, Berlin 2007, ISBN 978-3-11-019338-1 , p. 184-208 .
  • Theoderich Kampmann: The veiled triumvirate. Werner Bergengruen, Gertrud von le Fort, Reinhold Schneider. Paderborn: Schöningh. 1973. (= writings on pedagogy and catechetics; 24) ISBN 3-506-78174-X
  • Arthur Kaufmann: Relationship between Law and Novellistics. Stuttgart u. a .: Boorberg. 1987. ISBN 3-415-01339-1
  • Helga Kaufmann: The problem of fear in Werner Bergengruen's work. Munich: Univ. Diss. 1984.
  • Günther Klemm: Werner Bergengruen. 3rd edition. Wuppertal: E. Müller Verlag. 1957. (= Poetry and Interpretation; Book 2)
  • Frank-Lothar Kroll; N. Luise Hackelsberger; Sylvia Taschka: Werner Bergengruen - existence of writers in the dictatorship. Records and reflections on politics, history and culture 1940 to 1963 . Oldenbourg, Munich 2005, ISBN 978-3-486-20023-2 . (= Biographical Sources on Contemporary History; Vol. 22)
  • Frank-Lothar Kroll (Ed.): The totalitarian experience. German literature and the Third Reich. Berlin: Duncker & Humblot. 2003. (= literary landscapes; 5) ISBN 3-428-11277-6
  • Frank-Lothar Kroll u. Alfred Schmidt: Poetry as a cultural mediation. The writer Werner Bergengruen. Contributions to teaching and further training. Filderstadt: Weinmann. 1997. (= The Germans and their neighbors in the east; 7) ISBN 3-921262-09-7
  • Paul A. MacKenzie: The ideal world in the lyrics of Werner Bergengruen. Bern u. a .: Peter Lang. 1980. (= European university publications; series 1, German language and literature; 331) ISBN 3-261-04715-1
  • Peter Meier: Werner Bergengruen's novels. Bern: Francke. 1967.
  • David J. Parent: Werner Bergengruen's "Unwritten Novelle". An analysis d. Workshop update from "The Secret Remains". Bonn: Bouvier. 1974. (= Treatises on art, music and literary studies; 157) ISBN 3-416-00896-0
  • Annette Schmollinger: “Intra muros et extra”. German literature in exile and in internal emigration. An exemplary comparison. Heidelberg: winter. 1999. (= contributions to recent literary history; volume 3, vol. 161) ISBN 3-8253-0954-1
  • Ingeborg Scholz: German poetry in the arc of tension between art and religion. Werner Bergengruen and Rudolf Alexander Schröder. Bonn: Verl. Für Kultur und Wiss. 2002. (= Disputationes linguarum et cultuum orbis: Sectio V, Volkskunde und Germanistik; 6) ISBN 3-932829-39-5
  • Elisabeth Sobota: The image of man in Bergengruen. Introduction to the poet's work. Zurich u. a .: Verl. Die Arche u. a. 1962.
  • Julia Valerie Tietze: The objective character of the criminal law in conflict with the subjective sense of justice. A legal dispute with the novel “Das Feuerzeichen” by Werner Bergengruen. Herdecke: GCA-Verl. 2004. ISBN 3-89863-168-0
  • Max Wolfgang Weber: On the poetry of Werner Bergengruen. Winterthur: basement. 1958.
  • Werner Wilk: Werner Bergengruen. Berlin: Colloquium. 1968. (= heads of the 20th century; 52)
  • Hans-Jürgen Wipfelder: The legal and state conception in the work of Werner Bergengruen. Bonn: Bouvier. 1969. (= writings on legal theory and politics; 59)
  • Heidrun Ehrke-Rotermund and Erwin Rotermund: Intermediate Realms and Opposite Worlds: Texts and preliminary studies on the “hidden spelling” in the “Third Reich” . Munich: Fink. 1999. ISBN 3-7705-3387-9
  • Frank Holger Walpuski: Aspects of the fantastic: The supernatural in Werner Bergengruen's work . Frankfurt am Main: Lang 2006. ISBN 3-631-55478-8

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Entry in the baptismal register of Riga Cathedral (Latvian: Rīgas Doms)
  2. Chronika, magazine of the former Marburg high school students
  3. ^ Helge Dvorak: Biographical Lexicon of the German Burschenschaft. Volume II: Artists. Winter, Heidelberg 2018, ISBN 978-3-8253-6813-5 , pp. 55–58.
  4. ^ Normannia Marburg (corpsarchive.de)
  5. a b From " Knurriculum vitae, that is reluctantly written curriculum vitae ", 1957 and 1962, most recently in From Riga to elsewhere or Stations in a Life , 1992.
  6. Mother Gertrud b. Hahn (1866-1954). In addition Ekkehart Reimer and Christian Waldhoff : Zu Leben und Werks Albert Hensels , Cologne 2000. S. 3 books.google
  7. ^ A b Ernst Klee : The cultural lexicon for the Third Reich. Who was what before and after 1945. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2007, ISBN 978-3-10-039326-5 , p. 44.
  8. For example, the essay death sentence on a bird in September 1936, a review of Der Starost in June 1938 or the poem Great Autumn in October 1942.
  9. ^ Sönke Zankel : With leaflets against Hitler: The resistance group around Hans Scholl and Alexander Schmorell , Cologne 2007, pp. 234–236.
  10. Werner Bergengruen, quoted from: Ernst Klee: Das Kulturlexikon zum Third Reich. Who was what before and after 1945. S. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2007, p. 44.
  11. See u. a. I draw a valken of the Kürenberger and The Hasengeier by Hans Rosenplüt .
  12. Ernst Stein: They are definitely treacherous Die Zeit, April 21, 1961.
  13. Bergengruenstrasse. In: Street name lexicon of the Luisenstädtischer Bildungsverein (near  Kaupert )
  14. Memorial plaque in Riga ( Memento from March 28, 2014 in the Internet Archive )
  15. The Grand Prince and the Court as a film
  16. Heinz Joachim Dill: Justice at Bergengruen, 1961, page 21
  17. Werner Bergengruen: My father's house. In: Schnaps with Sakuska , dtv, Munich 1992, p. 7 f .; there also p. 31 (photo of the parental home) and p. 440 (afterword by NL Hackelsberger).