Station 13

The Schmallenberg poets' dispute of 1956Blood & Ground Seal no longer works

Information point:
- Town hall

The Stadthalle as a venue for events In
1952 the planning for the construction of a town hall began. The tender was won by the Dortmund architect and builder of the Westfalenhalle Horst Retzki. He took over the planning; the Stadthalle was built in 1953/54. In the autumn of 1954, the town hall hosted the first national marksmen's festival of the Sauerland Shooting Association with around 7,000 marksmen. But the town hall also served cultural purposes: in 1956 it was the venue of the Second Westphalian Poets' Meeting after 1945. To the surprise of the organisers, the poets' meeting resulted in a veritable controversy which went down in the literary history of Westphalia as the Schmallenberg Poets' Quarrel.

"Hunger for spiritual things" after 1945 in Schmallenberg
The city of Schmallenberg had applied for the organization of the poets' meeting organized by the Landschaftsverband Westfalen-Lippe, because with the town hall it now had a suitable location. In addition, the lively activity of the "Cultural Association" Schmallenberg citizens will have been of importance, which was extremely active since autumn 1945, organising concerts, plays and readings, thus trying to satisfy the "hunger for spiritual things" after the war, as mentioned in a council meeting in 1945. From 1950 onwards, the board of directors of the "Cultural Association" included merchant Albert Falke as chairman and official director Siebenkötter as secretary.
The town was awarded the contract to organise the poets' meeting and, at the invitation of the Landschaftsverband Westfalen-Lippe, authors, literary critics and literary scholars met in the Schmallenberg town hall from 17 to 20 April 1956. Among them were all the surviving winners of the Westphalian Literature Prize, which had been awarded since 1934 - including those who had been honoured by the National Socialist regime before 1945. The
circle was expanded to include a few young writers such as Ernst Meister and Friedrich Wilhelm Hymmen.The participating authors were Josefa Berens-Totenohl, Friedrich Wilhelm Hymmen, Jānis Jaunsudrabiņš, Maria Kahle, Heinrich Luhmann, Ernst Meister, Paul Schallück, Hans-Dieter Schwarze, Erwin Sylvanus, Hertha Trappe, Walter Vollmer, Werner Warsinsky and Josef Winckler. Clemens Herbermann, press officer of the LWL and publisher of the "Westfalenspiegel", was in charge of the meeting. Professor Clemens Heselhaus, who teaches German studies in Münster, took part as an important scientific authority.

What is Westphalian in literature?
The question "What is Westphalian in literature?" became a controversial and passionately discussed topic Closely connected with this question was the problematization of the works of a number of older writers and literary critics who closely followed National Socialist ideas and considered themselves to be decidedly Westphalian. The controversy revolved around how political literature is, can and must be, and was also a conflict between the generations, since the criticism came mainly from the ranks of younger writers.
One of the controversial authors present was Josefa Berens-Totenohl, a writer and speaker who was much in demand during the Nazi era. For her book "Der Femhof" she received the Westphalian Literature Prize in 1936, which the Nazis awarded to authors loyal to the regime as an "instrument of cultural policy". Born in 1891 in Grevenstein near Meschede as daughter of the village blacksmith, she grew up in very poor circumstances. As a good pupil she was able to train as a teacher, then studied art in Düsseldorf. She travelled as far as Africa, but returned to the Sauerland to Totenohl near Saalhausen in 1925. Already in 1931 she joined the NSDAP. Her first novel Femhof was published in 1934 and was one of the best-selling books in the "Third Reich". The follow-up novel "Frau Magdalene" was similarly successful


The summary of the two novels provides information about their ideological view of the world: the strong wolf farmer lives on the lonely wolf farm, the "Femhof", with his proud daughter Madlene. The young farmer Ulrich becomes a farmhand here because he had to leave his home because he had to kill a knight who violated his property and his honour. Madlene and Ulrich seem to be destined for each other because of their "innate mastery". But the wulf farmer does not tolerate this connection: Ulrich is only a servant. Madlene flees with Ulrich, the father enforces the death sentence at the Femegericht, which he personally executes. Madlene gives birth to Ulrich's son, under whom the farm flourishes. In the second volume Madlene fights for court and son; the old wulf is killed by lightning. Madlene becomes a role model and advisor to the women of the area through her strong attitude. The dead wolf becomes a legendary figure and rages like Wotan in storm nights over the Sauerland mountains. The characters in the novels face their fate heroically and follow their destiny until their downfall. Although the prevailing Nazi ideology is not explicitly addressed, it becomes very clear through the characters' actions according to the principles of "blood" and "heritage/"soil".


Successful "blood and soil poetry"
Verena Berens-Totenohl can be described as the "blood and soil" poet who popularized National Socialist racial hygiene and racial anthropology. Her two novels are set in medieval Westphalia and are saturated with the themes of Nazi peasant ideology such as blood ties and hereditary guilt, nature and fate, race and people. People do not act individually and responsibly in their books, but as representatives of a class, a race, as victims of their passions or as instruments of fate. With her literary images she unscrupulously resorted to anti-Semitic and antiziganistic clichés.
For the National Socialists, however, she embodied with her novels "the young healthy folklore" and the nationalist sentiment, as it was said in 1934 in the explanatory statement to the award ceremony. The awarding of the prize made the Sauerland author famous; she subsequently gave numerous readings and lectures throughout the German Reich. She promoted "German art", railed against "Bolshevism" and incited her audience with nasty anti-Semitic slogans. Her 1938 lecture "Die Frau als Schöpferin und Erhalterin des Volkstums" (Woman as Creator and Preserver of Popularity) was compulsory reading in the NS Women's League. The income from the books was abundant. The poetess used them to finance her own "Femhof" in Gleierbrück (between Lennestadt and Saalhausen). After 1945 her career was over. The "BluBo" (Blood and Soil) writer had to face the denazification process, but was merely classified as a "fellow traveller".
With today's time distance, an evaluation of the quality and statements of the novels of Berens-Totenohl can be made with a certain ease. The participants of the 1956 Poets' Meeting found it more difficult to do so, and Professor Heselhaus took a clear stand even then, describing the question: "What is actually Westphalian in literature? Westphalian" was not a value in itself, but had to prove itself through literary quality. Neither Grabbe, Freiligrath, Wilhelm Weber nor the Droste had anything specifically Westphalian about them. The "Westphalian" stands for false pathos, for the spirit of blood and soil. At the same time, however, it was a fact at the time that Heimatdichtung was well received by the public, who could not and would not see much political statement in it. Josefa Berens-Totenohl, as well as other Nazi poets, and influential literary critics such as Josef Bergenthal, a former high Nazi literary official, continued to be read, worked and received recognition.

Heimatdichtung must also meet literary standards
The dispute thus revolved essentially around the literary quality of "Heimatdichtung", which had been greatly enhanced during the Nazi era by the neglect of literary quality and the promotion of countless clichés and stereotypes that fostered the most primitive prejudices. It met with great interest: The most important regional newspapers, radio and television were represented at the meeting, and the people of Schmallenberg were also very interested: A reading by authors in the Schmallenberg town hall had more than 1,000 visitors. The result of the conflict was a reorientation in Westphalian literature in the medium term. The Westfälischer Heimatbund withdrew from the promotion of literature. From then on, "Heimatdichtung", too, had to face the aesthetic and artistic demands of good literary production without reservation. Not so long ago, street names in the neighbouring Lennestadt, where Josefa Berens-Totenohl had lived, were renamed: on 26 February 2014, the city council decided to rename the three street names in Gleierbrück that remind us of Josefa-Berens-Totenohl and her works (Josefa-Berens-Straße, Femhofstraße, and Frau-Magdlene-Straße).
Schmallenberg remained on the ball in terms of literature: in 1993 the Society for the Promotion of Literature in the Sauerland was founded here in Schmallenberg, the Christine Koch Society, which deals with the literature of the Enlightenment, Classical and Vormärz periods as well as regional literature and dialect and maintains a literary archive. Authors such as Friedrich Albert Groeteken, Christine Koch, Hanna Rademacher, Michael Soeder and Paul Tigges lived in Schmallenberg; authors Herbert Somplatzki and Kurt Wasserfall still live here today.

The town hall, built in 1954, on the right side of the picture

Town hall, view from the west, 1960s

Church ceremony in the town hall

Street to the town hall, around 1948

Second Westphalian Poets' Meeting 1956 in Schmallenberg: from left Paul Schallück, Hertha Trappe, Hans Dieter Schwarze, Clemens Herbermann, Friedrich Wilhelm Hymmen, Josefa Berens-Totenohl, Amtsdirektor Potthof (Fredeburg), Werner Warsinsky

Second group picture of the poets' meeting in Schmallenberg 1956

Josefa Berens-Totenohl with Bernd Donnepp in Marl.

Appeal in the Westfalenspiegel for the formation of one's own opinion