Ernst Moritz Arndt

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Ernst Moritz Arndt (December 26, 1769 – January 29, 1860) was a German nationalistic and anti-semitic author and poet. Early in his life, he fought for the abolition of serfdom, later against Napoleonic dominance over Germany, and had to flee to Sweden for some time due to his anti-French positions. He is one of the main founders of German nationalism and the movement for German unification. After the Carlsbad Decrees, the forces of the restoration counted him as a demagogue and he was only rehabilitated[citation needed] in 1840.

Arndt played an important role for the early national and liberal Burschenschaft movement and for the unification movement, and his song "Was ist des Deutschen Vaterland?" acted as an unofficial German national anthem.

Long after his death, his anti-French war propaganda was used again by nationalists in both World Wars and also by the National Front of the GDR 1949-1989. This together with some strongly antisemitic statements has led to a rather ambivalent view of Arndt today.


Early life and studies

Arndt was born at Groß-Schoritz (a part of Garz/Rügen) on the island of Rügen in Swedish Pomerania as the son of a prosperous farmer, and emancipated serf of the lord of the district, Count Putbus; his mother came of well-to-do German yeoman stock. In 1787 the family moved to the neighbourhood of Stralsund, where Arndt was able to attend the academy. After an interval of private study he went in 1791 to the University of Greifswald as a student of theology and history, and in 1793 moved to Jena, where he came under the influence of Fichte.

After the completion of his university studies he returned home,for two years was a private tutor in the family of Ludwig Koscgarten (1758–1818), pastor of Wittow, and having qualified for the ministry as a candidate of theology, assisted in church services. At the age of twenty-eight he renounced the ministry, and for eighteen months led a life of traveling, visiting Austria, Hungary, Italy, France and Belgium. Turning homewards up the river Rhine, he was moved by the sight of the ruined castles along its banks to intense bitterness against France. The impressions of this journey he later described in Reisen durch einen Teil Deutschlands, Ungarns, Italiens und Frankreichs in den Jahren 1798 und 1799 (1802–1804).

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