Freies Deutsches Hochstift

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Freies Deutsches Hochstift
Freies Deutsches Hochstift Logo.svg
Logo as of August 2022
Formation10 November 1859; 162 years ago (1859-11-10)
FounderOtto Volger
FocusSupervision of the Frankfurt Goethe House and Deutsches Romantik-Museum
Anne Bohnenkamp-Renken [de]

The Freies Deutsches Hochstift (Free German Foundation) is an association based in Frankfurt, Hesse, Germany, whose main focuses are the supervision of the Frankfurt Goethe House and Deutsches Romantik-Museum, producing critical editions of literary works, and holding lectures, exhibitions and concerts. The Hochstift owns an extensive collection of manuscripts, letters and paintings from the period known as the "Goethezeit [de]" (1770–1830).


Founding and leadership by Otto Volger[edit]

1859 seal with the black, red and gold colours of the Frankfurt Parliament
Goethe House in Frankfurt in 2011

The Freies Deutsches Hochstift für Wissenschaften, Künste und allgemeine Bildung (Free German Foundation for Science, Arts and General Education) was founded on 10 November 1859,[1] the 100th birthday of Friedrich Schiller, by 56 people, most of whom were citizens of Frankfurt. The initiator was Otto Volger, a lecturer of geology at the Senckenberg Nature Research Society from Lüneburg, who was involved in the 1848 revolution. Volger founded the Hochstift to be a ""Bundestag" of the German spirit",[2] a place where those who held the pan-German ideas of the 1848 revolution were to find a spiritual and cultural home.[3] This sentiment is reflected in the original seal of the association, which featured the black, red and gold colours of the Frankfurt Parliament.[4] The early members of the Hochstift included Ludwig Büchner (brother of the playwright Georg Büchner) and the chemist Karl Friedrich Mohr.

The original purpose of the Freies Deutsches Hochstift was to provide a general education for the public. It achieved this purpose through holding lectures on various topics,[5] such as geology or philosophy, and by providing a library for use by its members. The Hochstift also offered longer "courses" for members, for example language courses in French or English, and courses providing an overview of German literature.[6] In this regard, the Hochstift provided a similar education to that of a university.

In 1863, Volger purchased the Goethe House, the birthplace of the poet Johann Wolfgang von Goethe,[7] for the Hochstift. The house was opened in 1864 as the first public memorial site for Goethe.[8] After the purchase of the Goethe House, the Hochstift's priorities shifted, and it began to collect books, manuscripts and art of the "Goethezeit [de]" (1770–1830).[9] The Hochstift's lectures began to focus more on literature over science or other topics.

In the late 1870s, Volger began to fall out of favour with the Hochstift, after he published antisemitic remarks in the Hochstift's Jahrbuch, amongst other things.[10] After the Hochstift received a bequest of more than 500,000 Marks from Dr. Adolf Müller in 1881, Volger's opponents sought to remove him from his position as chairmann of the Hochstift, which they achieved in November 1881, when Volger was voted out in favour of Karl Nikolaus Berg [de],[11] a lawyer and politician who had served in the Frankfurt government. After continuing to attack members of the Hochstift administration in open letters, Volger was eventually expelled in 1882.[10]

Post-Volger leadership[edit]

After the removal of Volger, the teaching activities of the Hochstift expanded. An "Academic Committee" was established, which offered lectures in seven departments. In 1887, the Hochstift organised the "Second New-Philology Conference", in which the famous school reformer Karl Reinhardt presented his ideas for a new school system. In 1890, the Hochstift helped start the "Frankfurter Volksvorlesungen" (Frankfurt People's Lectures).[12]

Otto Heuer [de] lead the Freies Deutsches Hochstift as director between 1888 and 1925. With Heuer the Hochstift began holding exhibitions. He extended the collections greatly, and led the construction of a new library and museum building for the Hochstift, which opened in 1897. When the Goethe University Frankfurt was founded in 1914, it took over most of the Hochstift's adult education activities,[13] leading the association to focus more on its museum and collection-related activites.

Modern history[edit]

The Goethe House was destroyed during the air raids on Frankfurt am Main in 1944 and was restored by the painter and architect Theo Kellner [de] after the Second World War. The previous interior and contents were removed in good time and were retained.[7]

In 2021 the Hochstift opened the Deutsches Romantik-Museum in a building next to the Goethe House to display its collections of material related to German Romanticism.[14]

Today, the Hochstift runs a poets' archive, an art collection and a research library. As of 2022 the association is working on critical editions of Goethe's Faust and of the works of Clemens Brentano.[15]


Since 1860, the Hochstift has published a yearly report. Since 1902, this has been published as the Jahrbuch des Freien Deutschen Hochstifts. It contains scholarly articles as well as reports about the collections of the Hochstift. The Jahrbuch is published by Wallstein Verlag.[16][17]

The Hochstift has published several full critical editions of different authors. The critical edition of Hugo von Hofmannsthal, of which the first volume was published in 1975, was completed in 2022.[18] The critical edition of Clemens Brentano remains unfinished, and has run over 40 volumes as of August 2022.[19]


  1. ^ Hendrix, Harald (2012). Writers' Houses and the Making of Memory. Taylor & Francis. pp. 53–56. ISBN 978-1-135-90805-8.
  2. ^ Adler 1959, p. 21.
  3. ^ Sakurai, Ayako (28 July 2015). Science and Societies in Frankfurt am Main. Taylor & Francis. pp. 95–101. ISBN 978-1-317-31981-8.
  4. ^ Adler 1959, p. 44-45.
  5. ^ Adler 1959, p. 56.
  6. ^ Adler 1959, p. 64.
  7. ^ a b Stumm, Alexander (2017). Architektonische Konzepte der Rekonstruktion. Birkhäuser. pp. 161–166. ISBN 978-3-0356-1349-0.
  8. ^ Perels 1994, p. 10.
  9. ^ Adler 1959, p. 124.
  10. ^ a b "Volger, Otto". Frankfurter Personenlexikon. Retrieved 12 August 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  11. ^ Adler 1959, p. 219.
  12. ^ "Seit 1890 Volksbildung in Frankfurt a.M". Volkshochschule Frankfurt am Main. Retrieved 12 August 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  13. ^ Kretschmann, Carsten (2009). Räume öffnen sich Naturhistorische Museen im Deutschland des 19. Jahrhunderts. De Gruyter. p. 251. ISBN 978-3-05-004782-9.
  14. ^ "Deutsches Romantik-Museum. "Die Realisation einer historischen Chance"". 27 August 2021. Retrieved 18 July 2022.
  15. ^ "Homepage". Freies Deutsches Hochstift. Retrieved 17 July 2022.
  16. ^ "Jahrbuch". Freies Deutsches Hochstift. Retrieved 12 August 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  17. ^ "Jahrbuch des Freien Deutschen Hochstifts". De Gruyter. Retrieved 12 August 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  18. ^ "Hofmannsthal". Freies Deutsches Hochstift. Retrieved 12 August 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  19. ^ "Franktfurt Brentano-Ausgabe". Freies Deutsches Hochstift. Retrieved 12 August 2022.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)


  • Adler, Fritz (1959). Freies Deutsches Hochstift. Seine Geschichte 1859–1885 (in German).
  • Perels, Christoph (1994). Das Frankfurter Goethe-Museum zu Gast im Städel (in German). Mainz: Verlag Hermann Schmidt. pp. 8–17. ISBN 3-87439-311-9.

External links[edit]