MICHAEL FOUNDATION: The History - Dr. Fritz Harzendorf

Dr. Fritz Harzendorf

Dr. Fritz Harzendorf was born in the southern German town of Konstanz on the 27 July 1889. He was the youngest child and only son of a local musician.

 

In 1987 when celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Stiftung Michael, his daughter Agathe Bühler wrote in the jubilee memorandum:

Who was this man really? … who studied without financial help from his family and finished his studies with PhDs in philosophy and political sciences? …whose sole aim was to become a writer and journalist and who, promoted by count Zeppelin, finally succeeded? …who as early as in 1946 managed to analyse the political development leading to Nazi-regime?
Who was this man who -as it was said in the newspapers of that time - 1934 - "had always fulfilled his duties and fought from the beginning to the end of the first world war - in the end as German officer and in charge of young soldiers"?;

(from: Göppinger Zeitung Nr. 10 13th January 1934)

 

My father was 50 years of age when I was born. He was almost 70 years old when I started to fully understand what great a person he had been. Talking about him, means I have to cite from his published work and to refer to my mother's memories.. As a journalist and publisher, my father fought the nazi ideology even before them being in power - because of his personal principles and strong belief that the freedom of speech is the mainstay of democracy. Without being personally prosecuted or endangered, he led is voice as a believer in democracy and might have had his part when in 1933 the number of voters for the Nazi party in the area of his newspaper was very low. He did more than that and continued to fight for his beliefs when it became dangerous.

 

The "Göppinger Zeitung", a local newspaper, wrote on the 16 January 1934, almost one year after the Nazis seized power in Germany:

"Finally, one would have forgiven each and every remorseful sinner. One would have forgiven Dr. Harzendorf's outrageous impertinence had he chosen to fall silent. But that a journalist, who in the past disqualified Hitler as a deserter and described last year's elections as a fake, continues to publically drag the Nazi-movement through the mud and to express his lowest views and deepest dislike of the new era - that such a person should be allowed to publicize and thus educate the German 'volk', is impudent beyond belief."

Dr. Harzendorf was dismissed as a journalist and had to work as salesman first for soap later for insurances. He and his family led a life close to underground. A political sentence in a German concentration camp due to his continuing criticism was imminent, but luckily enough never happened.
After the war Dr. Harzendorf became editor-in-chief of a local newspaper in his hometown. In 1946 the American military government in Southern Germany granted Dr. Harzendorf the permission to publish a regional newspaper, and he became co-publisher of the "Neue Württembergische Zeitung".

 

His liberal and democratic political views (which had been the source of many personal difficulties in the Third Reich) were now the appropriate ideology to rebuild a new and democratic Germany. His role as an editor-in-chief and publisher of a newspaper were the personal means of Dr. Harzendorf to contribute to this development.

His aim to guarantee the freedom of the press led him to plan a foundation around "his newspaper" and thus to maintain its independence. The other co-publisher and a personal stroke of fate disturbed this plan.

 

Shortly after birth, it became evident that Dr. Harzendorf's son Michael was suffering from epilepsy. Still hoping to pass on the work of a lifetime to his son, he consulted the then best doctors in Germany only to learn how little was possible to fight epilepsy at that time and how much needed to be done in the future.
This experience and the fate of his son led him to sell his part of the "Neue Württembergische Zeitung" and to make this money the basis of a private foundation to stimulate research in epilepsy in Germany.

He discussed his plan for a private donation and foundation with his son's doctor, Professor Dieter Janz, and with the professor of law Konrad Duden. The foundation was announced legal and charitable by the regional authorities on the 5 September 1962.

When giving an inaugural reception for the foundation's trustees in 1962, Fritz Harzendorf welcomed his guests at his home near the Bodensee and gave the impression of an idea's content father. Nobody knew, that Dr. Harzendorf was well aware of a severe illness then which he would die of 2 years later.

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