The Objects

18th May 1815

Source: Universitätsbibliothek Greifswald, with permission.

A Catechism for German soldiers

Contributed by: Emilie Delivré

As secretary to Baron vom Stein (a Prussian statesman at the head of reform and war efforts), Ernst Moritz Arndt was able to avoid serious censorship and make the most of communication networks facilitating publication on a grand scale: during the period 1812-1815, he would become one of the most popular German writers and poets.

In addition to essays, songs and pamphlets, he wrote this very successful catechism for German soldiers, a fourth version of which was published during the 100 Days in Cologne, with an introduction dated 18 May 1815.

For this edition, Arndt added a new introduction that presented Napoleon as evil personified and King Louis XVIII as wise and mild, a victim of injustice. The French army, he argued, was now accustomed to all kind of violence, rape, plunder, and should not be treated with pity. Arndt therefore encouraged all German people to take up arms against the enemy for a holy and sacred war.

Using binary divisions between Good/Bad, Holy/ungodly, German/French, Arndt assured his readers that God would not again abandon the German people, who are more courageous and more Christian the French. Read in the light of this new introduction, the catechism thus becomes a manual describing how soldiers must behave in response to the trial God places before them – as Germans, as Christians, and as human beings – and puts military service within the framework of religious and moral patriotic duty.

For more on Stein, Arndt, and nationalistic, anti-French propaganda, see 'Further Information'.

Geolocation

Heinrich Friedrich Karl Reichsfreiherr vom und zum Stein (commonly known as Baron vom Stein) was a Prussian statesman responsible for introducing several reforms later essential for the unification of Germany. Very critical towards Napoleon during the French occupation of Prussia, he was obliged to resign in 1808, but was then summoned to the Russian Empire by Tsar Alexander I in 1812. There he decided to stage a rearguard attack on Napoleon.

As a fervent nationalist, Stein hoped to liberate his fatherland and awaken the patriotism of his compatriots, the patriotism not just of the bourgeoisie, intellectuals and nobles, but also of Napoleon's troops, and of country dwellers. Until then, the working classes had generally been excluded from nationalist messages; Stein however hoped to make the German 'people' aware of their right and duty to unity and independence. To that effect he decided to make use of the talents of Ernst Moritz Arndt – a popular figure in literary circles and, since the publication of ‘Geist der Zeit’, much appreciated for his nationalist and anti-French texts. Arndt was therefore summoned to Russia, where he would remain for over 18 months as the Baron's secretary.

At the end of October 1812, the propagandist wrote and published an anonymous pamphlet: Kurzer Katechismus für deutsche Soldaten. It was composed of 15 chapters (each about two pages long) and addressed explicitly to the deutsche Legion, which would later become known as the Russian-German Legion (created in Russia with German deserters or prisoners of war who could be induced to fight against Napoleon).

A second version of the catechism, written by Arndt in early 1813 in Königsberg, was circulated by Stein principally at his own expense. This time, the author addressed the soldiers of the regular army, and in particular the Landwehr, which, was under the command of Stein himself. 10,000-15,000 copies of the catechism were financed and distributed in early February 1813, and a similar number in July, during the truce negotiated for the troops from Silesia and Saxony. Stein delegated responsibility for the distribution of the text to his General friends and other military officials. This catalogue of ethical norms for inexperienced soldiers was therefore extremely successful, with 20-30,000 copies distributed throughout Germany. Even though it is always difficult to study the reception of this type of text, it is plausible that Arndt's catechism reached not only Northern Prussia and the Mitteldeutschland, but also the Rhine countries and the allied armies. In any case, it was read or heard by most of the common soldiers in the Landwehr.

But Arndt soon became disappointed by the political developments in his country. Before long, the republication of his catechism was refused and he was asked to show a little more respect for royalty (including Napoleon). In the liberating armies the tide had turned against Arndt’s revolutionary spirit. Arndt reworked his catechism and published a new version in August 1813 in Silesia under the title Katechismus für den deutschen Kriegs- und Wehrmann, worin gelehrt wird, wie ein christlicher Wehrmann sein und mit Gott in den Streit gehen soll. In this third catechism, Arndt's language was much more measured; the introduction and the 'dissident' chapters were replaced by a long prologue providing a relatively precise overview of the historical situation and several new chapters. It became an account of Christian ethics for all soldiers. This catechism was extremely successful, with no less than ten editions and a total of 60-80,000 copies published, on top of numerous commentaries, announcements and reviews in different journals (See Schäfer and Hagemann in the bibliography below for details).

A fourth version of the catechism, slightly different to the third but under the same title, was published during the 100 Days, and this is the one which is presented here, published in Cologne with a new introduction dated 18th May 1815. In this new introduction, Arndt presented Napoleon as evil personified and King Louis XVIII as wise and mild, a victim of injustice. The French army that followed the Emperor, he argued, was now accustomed to all kinds of violence, rape, plunder, and should not be treated with pity. Arndt therefore encouraged all German people to take up arms against the enemy for a holy and sacred war. Using binary divisions between Good/Bad, Holy/ungodly, German/French, Arndt assured his readers that God would not again abandon the German people, who are more courageous and more Christian than the French.

Read in the light of this new introduction, the catechism thus becomes a manual describing how soldiers must behave in response to the trial God places before them – as Germans, as Christians, and as human beings – and puts military service within the framework of religious and moral patriotic duty.It is not surprising that, over the two centuries that followed the Napoleonic era, Arndt's catechism was reedited on numerous occasions in support of the Franco-German Erbfeindschaft (hereditary hate):
The catechisms of Ernst Moritz Arndt were republished in 1913, 1914, 1915, 1916, 1924, 1930, 1937, 1939, 1941 and 1942, dates which call for reflection…

In 1934, Georg Schübel, the author of several school textbooks including some which are part of the 'auszusondernden Literatur', wrote the introduction for a republication Arndt's catechism (as well as another anti-napoleonic catechism of that period, by Heinrich von Kleist) presenting him as 'Vorkämpfer für deutsche Art, Freiheit und Größe' (precursor fighter for German customs, liberty and greatness).


Bibliography
HAGEMANN, Karen: ‘Mannlicher Muth und Teutsche Ehre’: Nation, Militär und Geschlecht zur Zeit der Antinapoleonischen Kriege Preußens, Schöningh, Paderborn, 2002, p. 29.
HAGEMANN, Karen: « Federkriege. Patriotisch-nationale Meinungsmobilisierung in Preußen in der Zeit der Antinapoleonischen Kriege, 1806-1815 », in: SÖSEMANN, Bernd: Kommunikation und Medien in Preußen vom 16. bis zum 19. Jahrhundert, Arbeitsgemeinschaft zur Preußischen Geschichte, Steiner, Stuttgart, 2002, pp. 281-302.
HAGEMANN, Karen, AASLESTAD, Katherine : ‘1806 and Its Aftermath: Revisiting the Period of the Napoleonic Wars in German Central European Historiography’, in: Central European History 39, 2006, pp. 547–579.
BRANDT, Peter: ‘Die Befreiungskriege von 1813 bis 1815 in der deutschen Geschichte’, in: GRUETTNER, Michael et. al. (eds.): Geschichte und Emanzipation. Festschrift für Reinhard Rürup, Frankfurt/Main, New York, 1999, pp. 17-57.
DELIVRÉ, Emilie: Le catéchisme politique allemand de 1780 à 1850. Un prêche pour la formation du citoyen. Avec une préface de Jean-Clément Martin. L'Harmattan, les mondes germaniques, 2014.
DELIVRÉ, Emilie: « The Pen and the Sword: Political Catechisms and Resistance to Napoleon », in: ESDAILE, Charles J. (éd.): Popular Resistance in Napoleonic Europe. Patriots, Partisans and Land-Pirates, 2004, Palgrave Macmillan, Basingstoke, pp. 161-180.
DÜHR, Albrecht: 'Die Text- und Druckgeschichte des "Soldaten-Katechismus" E. M. Arndts', in: Zeitschrift für Bibliothekwesen und Bibliographie 8 (1961), pp. 337-349.
SCHÄFER, Karl Heinz: 'Kollektivbewußtsein am Beginn des 19. Jahrhunderts, dargestellt am Beispiel der Verbreitung der Schriften Ernst Moritz Arndts', in: BLÜHM, Elge (ed.): Presse und Geschichte. Beiträge zur historischen Kommunikationsforschung, Verlag Dokumentation, Munich, 1977, pp. 137-148.
SCHÄFER, Karl Heinz: Ernst Moritz Arndt als politischer Publizist: Studien zu Publizistik, Pressepolitik und kollektivem Bewußtsein im frühen 19. Jahrhundert, Röhrscheid, Bonn, 1974.
WEBER, Ernst: Lyrik der Befreiungskriege (1812-1815). Gesellschaftspolitische Meinungs- und Willensbildung durch Literatur, Metzler, Stuttgart, 1991, pp. 151-168.

Other German catechisms of the napoleonic period
ANONYMOUS: Katechismus für Soldaten: als Leitfaden für Offiziere bey dem Unterrichte des gemeinen Mannes; nebst vorangeschickten Bemerk. über d. zweckmässige Einrichtung d. Unterhaltungsstunden mit letzerem, von e. Kgl. Sächs. Offizier, Kleefeld, Leipzig, 1809;
ANONYMOUS: 'Bürger-Katechismus und kurzer Inbegriff der Pflichten eines Spaniers, nebst praktischer Kenntnis seiner Freiheit und Beschreibung seines Feindes. Von großem Nutzen bey den gegenwärtigen Angelegenheiten. Gedruckt zu Sevillia und für die Schulen der Provinzen vertheilt', in: Sammlung der Aktenstücke über die spanische Thronveränderung, Bd. 4, Germanien, s. ed., Vienne, 1809;
ANONYMOUS: Catechism-Napoleon: oder Französisches Fragebuch vom Jahre 1813, Reval, 1813, 31 p.;
ANONYMOUS: Kriegeskatechismus für die Landwehr, Decker, Berlin, 1813, 130 p.; ANONYMOUS: Kriegskatechismus für die Landwehr, Pauli, Coblence, 1815, 120 p (these two catechisms are attributed to Rühle von Lilienstern, himself a close friend of Kleist, and who became, at the end of 1813, the Commissioner-General for Armaments under Stein);
ARNDT, Ernst Moritz: Katechismus für den deutschen Kriegs - und Wehrmann worin gelehrt wird, wie ein christlicher Wehrmann seyn und mit Gott in den Streit gehen soll, Rein, Leipzig, 1813;
ARNDT, Ernst Moritz: Katechismus für den deutschen Kriegs - und Wehrmann worin gelehrt wird, wie ein christlicher Wehrmann seyn und mit Gott in den Streit gehen soll, Breslau, 1813;
ARNDT, Ernst Moritz: Katechismus für den deutschen Kriegs - und Wehrmann worin gelehrt wird, wie ein christlicher Wehrmann seyn und mit Gott in den Streit gehen soll, Körner, Frankfurt/Main, 1814;
ARNDT, Ernst Moritz: Katechismus für den deutschen Kriegs - und Wehrmann worin gelehrt wird, wie ein christlicher Wehrmann seyn und mit Gott in den Streit gehen soll, Wieder abgedruckt zur Beförderung der guten Sache, 1814;
ARNDT, Ernst Moritz: Kurzer Katechismus für teutsche Soldaten: nebst Anhang von Liedern, s. l., 1812;
ARNDT, Ernst Moritz: Kurzer Katechismus für teutsche Soldaten: nebst Anhang von Liedern, Königsberg, 1813;
ARNDT, Ernst Moritz: Katechismus für den deutschen Kriegs - und Wehrmann worin gelehrt wird, wie ein christlicher Wehrmann seyn und mit Gott in den Streit gehen soll, Rommerskirchen, Cologne, 1815;
FRIEDEL, Johann Ludwig: Versuch eines gemeinnützigen Republikanischen Katechismus für die Jugend der vier neuen Departements, Mainz, 1800;
KLEIST, Heinrich von: 'Katechismus der Deutschen, abgefasst nach dem Spanischen, zum Gebrauch für Kinder und Alte' (written in 1809, published only in 1862), in : KLEIST, Heinrich von: Politische Schriften und andere Nachträge zu seinen Werke, mit einer Einleitung zum ersten Mal herausgegeben von KOEPKE, Rudolf, Verlag von A. Charisius, Lüderitz’sche Buchhandlung, Berlin, 1862, 59 p.;
RICHTER, Johann Lorenz Friedrich: Vaterlandskatechismus der Teutschen aus den höhern Ständen, Leipzig, Erlangen, Heyder, 1814, 209 p.;
SCHWEDLER, Johann Gottfried: Worte des Herrn an die Freunde des Vaterlands: Oder Katechismus der christlichen Vaterlandsliebe für den Bürger und Landmann, Breslau, 1809, 48 p.;
WEISE, Johann Christoph Gottlob: Militär-Schule oder katechetischer Unterricht in dem Felddienst für Landwehr- und Landsturmmänner, Erfurt, 1815.


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