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Werner Vordtriede

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Werner Vordtriede (18 March 1915 – 25 September 1985) was a German professor and an important translator, editor and writer born in German Empire. He was persecuted as a half-Jew resp. Mischling in the time of the National Socialism. Vordtriede had to go in emigration as young man.

Life[edit | edit source]

Vordtriede cames from a rich family. Barely born in Bielefeld, he moved because of the First World War and the early divorce of his parents, 1922 to Todtmoos in the Black Forest and in 1923 to Freiburg im Breisgau. As from 1926, Werner grew up with his sister Fränze and her single mother Käthe Vordtriede. The female journalist got famous in post-war Germany. Werner Vordtriede was already interested at an early age, in German literature and corresponded frequently with literary greats like Kurt Tucholsky or Arthur Schnitzler.

Emigration and career[edit | edit source]

After the Nazis came to power, he emigrated to Switzerland in 1933 and to the United States later. He began his studies in Zurich and worked part-time as a house teacher. Meanwhile, he wrote articles and book reviews for the Neue Zürcher Zeitung. The young man used several pseudonyms because of prohibition of work. He earned his PhD and taught French and German Literature with various universities, including Princeton University and University of Wisconsin-Madison. During a journey to Europe, Vordtriede was surprised by the outbreak of the Second World War and interned as an Enemy alien in occupied France. Only by interventions, he came free months later and was allowed to go back to America. He met his mother in New York late in 1941, who also emigrated to the USA. He received the American citizenship in 1946 and became a Guggenheim Fellow in 1957.[1] His sister Fränze emigrated in 1947 and went to Philadelphia. The whole family was in the USA now.

Return and work[edit | edit source]

In 1960, he returned to Germany and taught literary studies at Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, which conferred him the Emeritus Professor title in 1976. His publications include literary criticism (Novalis und die französischen Symbolisten), poetry (Gedichte), a diary of his exile in the USA (Das verlassene Haus. Tagebuch aus dem amerikanischen Exil 1938-1947) and novels (Innenseiter and Ulrichs Ulrich oder Vorbereitungen zum Untergang).

Death and legacy[edit | edit source]

He died during a study trip near Izmir in September 1985. The funeral took place at his residence in Munich. Vordtriede was not married and did not have any descendants. Curator became the former friend and a student Dieter Borchmeyer. He bequeathed many letters and documents to the German Literature Archive in Marbach am Neckar. Vordtriede had kept everything as contemporary historical documents to Nazi Germany. Many letters to his mother Käthe Vordtriede was then processed into books and a documentary film in 2001. Käthe Vordtriede became well-known in Freiburg im Breisgau and honoured with a Stolperstein and a street name. The grave of Werner Vordtriede was dissolved in 2015.

Vordtriede House Freiburg[edit | edit source]

The private initiative works in the interest of the emigrated family Vordtriede. They lived from 1926 to 1939 in Fichte Street Number 4 in urban district Haslach. Beside Käthe Vordtriede, the early children Dr. Frances Vordtriede Riley and Prof. Werner Vordtriede also belong to it. The Initiator and also tenant is Jürgen Lang, who founded the project in 2014. In year 2015, the project won an City award for “Civic Engagement”.[2] In the future, the former dwelling house could become a meeting place and museum. The motto is: Recollection, Research, Reminder.

Translations[edit | edit source]

  • by John Donne: Metaphysische Dichtungen. Berlin 1961 (Englisch-German).
  • by Andrew Marvell: Gedichte. Berlin 1962 (English-German).
  • by William Butler Yeats: Liebesgedichte. Achim und Bettina in ihren Briefen. 2 Bände. München 1980 (English-German).
  • by Stefan George: Werke. Ausgabe in vier Bänden. Band 2 und 3. München 1983 (French-German).

Editorship[edit | edit source]

Published works[edit | edit source]

  • Novalis und die französischen Symbolisten. Stuttgart 1963.
  • Der Nekromant. Text für eine Oper. München 1968.
  • Das verlassene Haus. Tagebuch aus dem amerikanischen Exil 1938–1947. München 1975.
  • Geheimnisse an der Lummer. Wien 1979.
  • Der Innenseiter. München 1981.
  • Ulrichs Ulrich oder Vorbereitungen zum Untergang. München 1982.

Secondary literature[edit | edit source]

  • Dieter Borchmeyer and Till Heimeran: Weimar am Pazifik. Literarische Wegen zwischen den Kontinenten. Festschrift für Werner Vordtriede zum 70. Geburtstag. De Gruyter, Berlin 1985, ISBN 3-484-10521-6.
  • Gesa Schönermark: Telemachs Wandlung. Werner Vordtriede. Eine wissenshistorische Biographie. Herbert Utz Verlag, München 1995, ISBN 3-8316-7532-5.
  • Käthe Vordtriede: „Mir ist es noch wie ein Traum, dass mir diese abenteuerliche Flucht gelang.“ Briefe nach 1933 aus Freiburg i. Br., Frauenfeld und New York an ihren Werner. Published by Manfred Bosch. Libelle Verlag, Lengwil 1998, ISBN 3-909081-10-X.
  • Jürgen Lang: The Vordtriede Quiz. 50 questions and answers about the emigrated Freiburg family. BoD, Norderstedt 2015, 2. Auflage 2016, ISBN 978-3-7392-1764-2.

External links[edit | edit source]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Guggenheim Fellowship of Werner Vordtriede. by John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, retrieved on 18. Januar 2017.
  2. Brückenbauer und Lotsen. Die Stadt hat Ehrenamtliche und Freiwillige für langjähriges Engagement ausgezeichnet. by Badische Zeitung on Dezember 4, 2015, retrieved on Januar 17, 2017.


Category:1915 births Category:1985 deaths Category:People from Bielefeld Category:German people of Jewish descent Category:People from Freiburg im Breisgau Category:German emigrants to Switzerland Category:People from Zürich Category:Jewish emigrants from Nazi Germany to the United States Category:Northwestern University alumni Category:People from Princeton, New Jersey Category:People with acquired American citizenship Category:American people of German-Jewish descent Category:University of Wisconsin–Madison faculty Category:Guggenheim Fellows Category:Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich faculty Category:English–German translators Category:Editors Category:German male writers Category:People from Munich


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