Between Compulsory Exercises and Free Programme
Georg Groddeck’s early years in Weilburg on the river Lahn 1894–1896
Series of lectures in Weilburg on the river Lahn
Altes Rathaus, room Nassau (programme see Flyer
in his Weilburg era
Georg Groddeck – His years in Weilburg on the river Lahn
In 1894, Groddeck was drafted as a young doctor to the preparatory school for non-commissioned officers in Weilburg (today the building houses the fire-brigade). His task was to provide medical care for the aspirants to the career of non-commissioned officer and lecture them on medical issues. During that period he also wrote a series of shorter and longer essays (printed in Ketzereien. Schriften zum Arzten und zur Medizin 1889–1909 / Heresies. About Treating Patients and Medicine. Writings 1889–1909).
His obligations as a military doctor were a constant hindrance to him in his efforts to set himself up as an independent doctor and develop his own concepts of medical treatment. He made every effort to be discharged early from the military and finally succeeded in 1896.
Groddeck got to know his first wife, Else von der Goltz – who had been married to the local county administrator – in Weilburg. Together they moved to Berlin where he worked for a year as an assistant to his revered teacher, Prof. Dr. med. Ernst Schweninger. He gained a lot of professional experience through him and at his request wrote numerous articles on medial, social and societal topics.
During his time in Weilburg Groddeck also wrote diaries and carried on an extensive correspondence with Ernst Schweninger. There will be lectures on this on Friday afternoon in the Nassau Room of the Alte Rathaus.
Groddeck’s independent medical career finally began in 1897, in Baden-Baden. His sanatorium “Marienhöhe” was opened in 1900 and soon became a refuge for chronic sufferers. Patients from all countries began to go there as his reputation as an unorthodox doctor, highly skilled masseur and patient listener to his patients’ stories of suffering grew. He also wrote novels, was an active social reformer in the city, edited journals in which patients were also given a say, discovered psychoanalysis and used it to develop a way of viewing and treating patients that was later called psychosomatic medicine.
Sojourning in Weilburg
Impressions and memories of Georg Groddeck
What on earth was Groddeck doing in Weilburg? The idyllic ducal city of Weilburg is famous for its Renaissance castle and the concerts now held there every summer. It is a rare and picturesque example of a minor German royal residence dating from the period of absolutism and its fate was shaped for centuries by the noble house of Hesse-Nassau. The Dukedom of Nassau, however, was annexed by victorious Prussia after the war of 1866, in which Nassau fought against Prussia on the side of Austria. That is ultimately the reason why, first, we find Georg Groddeck here in the period from February 1894 to March 1896, and second, why 120 years later the GGG’s general assembly took place in Weilburg. The Prussians – and with them, Groddeck – were neither particularly liked as occupiers, nor did they betray any great need to be integrated, with the result that there are few or testimonies of Groddeck’s sojourn to be found in Weilburg; it has become buried in deep, albeit quite sophisticated oblivion.
The venue, bathed in a mild autumnal light, was the Nassau Room of the remarkable Baroque building on the Market Square which accommodates the church and the town hall, also including an older bell tower. It is located directly beside the castle and its extensive park. About thirty Groddeck aficionados had arrived punctually. After some words of welcome by Walter Krause and Michael Giefer, Wolfgang Martynkewicz held a lecture entitled “Nachmittags Stromid, Stadtrat Flesch, Lawn Tennis” (In the afternoon Stromid, City Councillor Flesch, lawn tennis) during which he quoted from the Groddeck dairies, soon to be fully edited, in which he reflected on his time in Weilburg and which illustrate his everyday life there. As revealed in these diary entries, Groddeck mainly moved in military and administrative circles, frequenting, above all, the home of the newly appointed District Administrator Friedrich von der Goltz. But of that more later. Michael Giefer spoke about Groddeck’s correspondence with Ernst Schweninger and how he established himself as the latter’s mouthpiece, hoping for help from him not only on the issue of his discharge from the hated military service, but also for his future employment as a possible colleague in Berlin: “There you have it yet again, another act of heresy!” Groddeck would even have feigned ill-health so as to be rid of that unhealthy soldier’s uniform to which he had committed himself in order to finance his studies.
A concert with the enchanting soprano Cordula Stepp and the sensitive pianist Klemens Althapp lured the GGG members into the house of Friedrich Freiherr von der Goltz (1858-1905), from Burgsteinfurt, District Administrator of the Oberlahnkreis district from 1893-1900, meaning that he was in Weilburg not much longer than Groddeck himself. His private apartment was on the upper floor of the district offices, and his much younger wife Else, mother of a son and a small daughter, was a musical talent who also had a small salon. Otto Jägersberg quoted from the Weilburg diaries regarding how Groddeck discovered music there. In doing this he was accompanied by songs, popular at the time, by Grieg, Beethoven, Schumann, Mendelssohn, Zelter and, finally, Reinhold Becker, who does not quite fit the Weilburg framework, but who put patriotic texts by Groddeck to music for the Baden Artists Festival in 1909. Groddeck’s great love for Else is not really mentioned in the diary entries, nor does he refer to how he actually managed to wrest the highest local magistrate’s wife from him – and what her husband had to say about it. The end of the story, or song, is known.
After the concert, there was an opportunity to stroll in the evening sun in the three-terraced Baroque castle gardens, where the Heracles-Antaeus fountain attracted particular attention: Realising that the giant Antaeus’ strength came from his mother Gaia, the Earth, Heracles lifted him up in the air and was thus able to rob him of his power and strangle him. The fact that the Baroque-style fountain was only installed in 1967 took nothing from the impact it had (I too only read about that later). At the invitation of the GGG, everyone met again for dinner in the Knights’ Hall of the elegant castle. The large round tables seemed a bit lost in the cool high-ceilinged hall, but without any further speeches or musical interludes, lively conversations were soon being engaged in at those very tables and the buffet dinner enjoyed.
The next day was also sunny and warm. The Lord Mayor of Weilburg, Hans-Peter Schick, surprised us by announcing that a memorial plaque in keeping with the ideas of the GGG would be installed at the Hainkaserne barracks to fittingly honour the city’s re-discovered “short-term son". The literary scholar Galine Hristeva then presented Georg Groddeck as the border crosser and enfant terrible of psychoanalysis.
The public part of the conference ended with a tour to the Groddeck sights throughout the city: So, that’s where he seduced the District Administrator’s wife, and that’s the Kanapee lookout point from which he looked down on the city; and that’s where he instructed his corporals, in first-aid, in accordance with the motto: “Doing nothing is a thousand times better than doing too much”, or, more precisely: “It’s a great boon that these people forget the wisdom they have learned within a few weeks so that when an accident happens they do not feel called upon to help. The few who have remembered bits of what they learned in the lesson and are ambitious enough to apply their knowledge usually wreak havoc.” This primum nil nocere quoted from the recently published Ketzereien is still both a warning and a message today.
And what happened then? Groddeck was released from military service, moved back to Berlin, married Else von der Goltz, adopting her daughter Ursula and son Joachim from her marriage to the District Administrator. Joachim became a respected poet in the Baden region. This part of the family history has yet to be unearthed.
Stephan Heinrich Nolte