Celebration, Contestation and Commemoration: The Battle of Leipzig in German Memories of the Anti-Napoleonic Wars

  • Karen Hagemann
Part of the War, Culture and Society, 1750–1850 book series (WCS)


The well-known historian, political author and patriot Ernst Moritz Arndt wrote these words in the preface to the second edition of his work On the Celebrations of the Battle of Leipzig, which appeared in the summer of 1815. He expressed his sentiments on the first evening of the ‘National Festival of the Germans’, which was celebrated in hundreds of towns and villages across Germany on 18 and 19 October 1814 to mark the anniversary of the Battle of Leipzig. For Arndt, the experience of the widely visible fires linking the various regions of Germany must indeed have been remarkably moving. After all, the initiative for these ‘joyful bonfires’ (Freudenfeuer), as well as for the national festival as a whole, had come largely from him and a small circle of like-minded friends in Hesse. These included Friedrich Ludwig Jahn, known as the father of the gymnastics movement, who like Arndt worked at this time for the Central Administrative Department of the Allied Powers in Frankfurt am Main, and the Rödelheim Counsellor of Justice Karl Hoffmann. These German-national patriots had met in early May 1814 and made plans for the future. Among the topics of the meeting was the introduction of a ‘Festival of the Battle of Leipzig’, which Arndt had suggested shortly before in his pamphlet Another Word on the French and Us. He intended it to foster the ‘preservation and invigoration of German nature and German thought’, the ‘awakening of German strength and discipline’ and the ‘revival of new and old memories’ of German history.2


Collective Memory National Monument Territorial State German Unification German People 
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© Karen Hagemann 2016

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  • Karen Hagemann

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