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Herwegh, Georg

Herwegh, Georg, born on May 31, 1817, the son of impoverished restaurant keepers in Stuttgart, is one of the outstanding poets of the German pre-March movement and the revolution of 1848-49. His first volume of poems, "Poems of a Living Creature" published in 1841, made him famous throughout Germany. In verses of rousing and emotional language, he had succeeded in expressing the political demands of the anti-feudal opposition. In this way the poet contributed substantially to the ideological preparations for the revolution.

Herwegh was in Paris in February 1848 in when the revolutionary storm broke and, later in Germany in March,as storm echoed. In Paris, he wrote "To the French People" in which he expressed his enthusiasm for the republic. At a formal meeting of some seven thousand German residents in Paris at the beginning of March, the document was handed over to the represtatives of the French provisional government.

The Parisian February revolution stimulated the founding of the German Democratic Society, which sought to organize the Germans in the French capitol under arms, and to form a volunteer corps, which would march into Germany to establish a republic. Herwegh was elected to be president of this society and, in his various appeals, proclaimed its political aims. The Communist League, which was politically active in Paris, altough it also placed the demand of a unified indivisible German republic at the top of its political agenda, the most influential representatives, Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels and their friends, very strongly opposed any armed interference in the political movement gripping Germany.

Nevertheless, the volunteer corps of the democratic society was established and marched in the direction of the German border with Herwegh and his wife at its head. This decision broke his friendly relations with Marx, whose strong warnings of the folloy of any armed action proved correct. The volunteer corps that crossed the Rhine river near Strassbourg in the night from April 23 to 24 with a view to joining the uprising of the republicans in Baden was completely dispersed in a single clash with a company of Württemberg soldiers near Dossenbach on April 27. Herwegh and his wife Emma managed to flee to Switzerland. The poet was able to follow the further course of the revolution only from abroad, but he managed to express his opinions in letters and poems which he published, some anonymously, in German democratic newspapers. However, the fiasco of the expedition greatly limited his inluence on his contemporaries. The best known poems of Herwegh, in which he expressed his views on the revolutionary events, are full of outrage and indignation at the errors and inconsistencies underlying the political actions of the progressive and show a bitter disappointment at the princes and the aristocratic party's suppression of the aspirations of freedom in the early stages of the revolution. In this way he denounced the election of an Austrian prince as regent of the empire as a scandalous mistake. In Herwegh's poem Homage, which appeared in the Deutsche Reichstagszeitung, he anticipated its disastrous consequences for the revolution. With bitter irony, his poem, "The debating has no end!", derided the Frankfurt parliamentarians' fruitless discussions.

The poet, looking back to the German revolution of the occasion of its twenty-fifth anniversary in 1873, paid special tribute to the struggle waged by the workers, dedicating to them an eternal poetical monument with his poem "Eighteenth of March."

Wolfgang Büttner


Büttner, Wolfgang Georg Herwegh: ein Sänger des Proletariats 2d ed, Berlin 1976.

_______. "Georg Herwegh. Poet und Revolutionär" in Männer der Revolution von 1848 Berlin 1987, II.

Fleury, Victor Le poete Georges Herwegh (1817-1875).Paris, 1911.

Georg Herwegh Werke Hermann Tardel (ed.) Berlin-Leipzig- Vienna- Stuttgart (1909).

_______. Werke. Hans-Georg Werner.(ed) Berlin and Weimar 1967.

Bruno Kaiser Der Freiheit eine Gasse. Aus dem Leben und Werk Georg Herweghs. Berlin, 1948.

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