This site in German

A 'Romantic' or an Educational Experience? Nietzsche and Ortlepp

'Scandalous' Student Diary Notes

Lecture before the Gesellschaft für kritische Philosophie (Society for Cirtical Philosphy) Nuremberg on April 30, 2003
by Helmut Walther (Nuremberg)

What I want to present to you, today, began actually quite harmlessly. In July, 1864, in his so-called "Hundstagferien" vacatioon period, the 19-year-old high school graduate Nietzsche completed his work on his THEOGNIS paper, and in a letter to Pinder of July 4, 1864, those words about the "old Ortlepp" that, today, give rise to different interpretations, were put into writing (1):

Der alte Ortlepp ist übrigens todt. Zwischen Pforta und Almrich fiel er in einen Graben und brach den Nacken. In Pforta wurde er früh morgends bei düsterem Regen begraben; vier Arbeiter trugen den rohen Sarg; Prof. Keil folgte mit einem Regenschirm. Kein Geistlicher.
Wir sprachen ihn am Todestag in Almrich. Er sagte, er gienge sich ein Logis im Saalthale zu miethen.
Wir wollen ihm einen kleinen Denkstein setzen; wir haben gesammelt; wir haben an 40 Thl.

(By the way, the old Ortlepp is dead. Between Pforta and Almrich, he fell into a ditch and broke his neck. Early in the morning, when it was raining dreadfully, he was buried at Pforta; four workers carried the rough coffin; Professor Keil followed with his umbrella. No priest.
We spoke to him on the day of his death, at Almrich. He said that he was on his way to rent lodgings in the Saale valley.
We wanted to set a small tombstone for him; we have collected money; we have about 40 Thalers.)

Schulpforta in the Saale valley

This is a small--and the last--paragraph of a two-page, cheerful vacation letter that Nietzsche wrote to his friend, and this paragraph refers to an event that lay 20 days in the past, since Ortlepp, according to a report in the Naumburg "Kreisblatt", died already on June 14, 1864--he was reportedly found drowned in a roadside ditch.(2) Obviously Nietzsche, after he had first related to his friend all important events, had found this event newsworthy enough to report about it as an aside, and that probably because Pinder had also known Ortlepp from Naumburg. (The original of the letter can be looked at on the internet at the web site of the Stiftung Weimarer Klassik, Goethe-Schiller-Archiv, where, at present, all letters by and to Nietzsche that are at their disposal are being digitally presented.)

The Places of Nietzsche's Youth
Droyßig, Ortlepp's place of birth, is situated to the left near Zeitz.

On the face of it, Nietzsche reported an obviously tragic event, yet nothing that should have to interest us particularly with respect to himself, and that also since nowhere else did Nietzsche mention Ortlepp, be it in his works, in his letters or in his posthumous papers.

Similar as in the matter of Stirner – whose "Einziger" is, according to the opinion of some, supposed to have influenced Nietzsche considerably (3) – from Nietzsche's lack of mentioning Ortlepp, some do not draw the likely conclusion that the latter might not have been of particular importance to him, but exactly the opposite: His silent omission of Ortlepp must certainly have been intentional, and Nietzsche had something to hide.

As readers of and listeners to my Lecture on Nietzsche's Youth and Childhood will know, the co-editor of A&K, Professor H.J. Schmidt has been spearheading research into Nietzsche's early years (I refer to his great work, "Nietzsche absconditus" (4)); in 1994, in its last volume, he published an explosive finding at the Weimar Goethe-Schiller-Archiv (GSA): a student album of Nietzsche from his years at Pforta, with various entries (5). The explosiveness lies in the fact that Schmidt assumes that certain entries were penned by Ortlepp whom Nietzsche mentioned in passing, in the above-referenced letter, on account of which one could go out from the possibility that the latter had quite an important influence that can hardly be overestimated, which, for research into the world of Nietzsche's thoughts, would be of great importance.

Due to this, we should first take a look at the entries in Nietzsche's album, and what they could be about.

In this album of Nietzsche (which is also called a register (6)), whose acquisition date is not known, thus far, one can find various more or less poetic entries, mostly by fellow students. If is further known that Nietzsche did not keep this album with him at Pforta, but rather kept it right back at home, at Naumburg. This fact is corroborated by his letter of September 7, 1861, to his mother (7), in which he asked for this album: "Ich wollte euch nur bitten, mir morgen nach Almrich mein Album mitzubringen ..." ["I only wanted to ask you to bring my album with you to Almrich, tomorroy..."] – his fellow student Braune who had graduated wanted leave an entry in it. In any event, these lines make one thing clear: Both his sister and his mother knew about the existence and the whereabouts of this album at Naumburg and with that also about the entries in it (after all, both had shown an interest in texts by "their Fritz", from early on and also collected them from early on).

According to Schmidt whose research forms the basis of this lecture, this album has 170 pages, of which 152 are empty. Aside from the entries on pages 61-66, all are from fellow students. The following entries can be found in the album or register:






Max Sohr

Pfe 6/2 64 (probably: Feb. 6, 1864)





unbekannt (Ortlepp?)

1858-1863, partially undated


Raimund Granier



Alexis Braune ("An C.B.")

Sept. 10, 1861 (10.09.1861)


C. v. Gersdorff

September 5, 1864


Victor Kutig

September 6, 1864


Guido Meyer

March 3, 1863

Obviously, these entries have not been made sequentially, but rather randomly (obviously, according to the fancy of those who made the entries, for which purpose Nietzsche had handed them this album over), the earliest possibly from the year "1858" – if, on the unidentified pages 61-66, the year really refers to the year of entry; the latest entries date from the time of Nietzsche's leaving of Pforta after his graduation, in September, 1864. According to the closeness of their relationships to Nietzsche, the writers partially use the familiar "Du" or the "Sie". In some places, a few pages appear to have been removed by unknown hands. This observation could be of importance due to the fact that both the verses by R. Granier (8) as well as pages 61-66 that are in question here have not been removed. There, one can find, partially dated with the years 1858 to 1863, various strophes of poems that go beyond the usual frame of the "student poetry" of most other entries and of which I want to present some characteristic samples to you. After a Plato motto from the Phaidon 72AB in the German language, which, in a broad, probably cosmic sense, addresses the necessity of the dynamics of existence, the following strophes, concretely strive for such "dynamics": This is obviously due to the fact that the one partner (Nietzsche?) did not want to participate in kind in these dynamics of a loving give-and-take -- obviously the reason for this, at first, rather peculiar motto. Let us look at some very characteristic samples of these entries (9):

"Ortlepp" (IX., 1. Strophe:)

"Ortlepp" (IX., 1st Strophe:)

"Wir hatten uns gesehen
Und uns lieben gelernt,
Doch mocht ich nimmer verstehen,
Was so bald uns wieder entfernt:"

"We have met
And learned to love each other,
Yet, I would never understand,
What separated us so soon, again:"

Und es spielte die feine, die weiche Hand
Mit meinen Wangen, den glutentbrannten,
Und doch, im innersten Herzen erstand
das Bild eines noch nicht Unbekannten.–

And the fine, soft hand
Played with my enflamed cheeks,
And yet, in my innermost heart arose
the image of one who was not unknown, yet.–

"Und Du? Das Lied würd’st Du verlachen,
Den Kranz mir wohl zerreißen gar.
Und ich? Ich würde weiter singen
Und lieben Dich noch immerdar.– "

"And you? You would laugh at the song,
Even tear my garlands apart.
And I? I would continue to sing
And love you evermore.– "

Epilog. Uebersetzung des Motto. Mel: Carneval v. Venedig:
Glaub nicht, daß ich mich erschieße,
Wie schlimm auch die Sachen stehn!
Das Alles, mein Vielgeliebter,
Ist mir schon einmal geschehn.
                  (zweimal)                                  Heine.
"Daß ich noch einmal würde lieben
Ich hätte es nimmermehr gedacht!"        Bo.

Epilogue. Translation of the motto. Mel: Carneval v. Venic:
Do not believe that I will shoot myself,
No matter how tought things stand!
All that, my much-loved one,
Has already happened to me, once.
                  (twice)                                  Heine.
"That I would love, once more,
I would never have thought!"        Bo.


All of these verses have obviously been entered by one and the same hand in succession, on pages 61-66 of the album and have, in part, been dated from 1858 to 1863; the distinctive, polished handwriting would not suggest a very young writer. Since the last line shows at its very end an abbreviated name (here, I would passe a facsimile sample of the strophe with the abbreviated name around), such lines, of course, arouse curiosity with respect to the identity of the wroter. In this case, Schmidt thinks to be able to recognize Ortlepp whom Nietzsche had mentioned in his letter that has been mentioned here, above. Accordingly, we should, as our next step, turn to details about Ortlepp.

"Wer war denn Ernst Ortlepp?", writes Prof. Schmidt at the beginning of the description of his life facts in his article in the special Nietzsche Volume No. 4 of Aufklärung und Kritik from the year 2000, thus asking the question as to who Ernest Ortlepp was, and, in doing so, continues the debate over Ernst Ortlepp that had begun with Rainer Bohley in 1983, and which Schmidt had first taken up in his "Nietzsche absconditus"(2) and then, probably as a rebuttal to the critical writing by Gerhard Hödl from the year 1989, in his Nietzsche studies, with a separate book on the topic, "Der alte Ortlepp war’s wohl doch" (10). A further publication of his has appeared in the "Schriften der Ernst-Ortlepp-Gesellschaft zu Zeitz" as No. 1: "Dichterschicksals Wolke"? Ernst Ortlepps Weg nach Zeitz.

Here follows a brief outline of Ortlepps data, with special consideration for his particular station in life at Pforta, at that time (this outline is mainly based on information by Prof. Schmidt, as it can, mainly, be found in his article in the Special Nietzsche Volume of A&K (11)):

In the 30's and 40's of the 19th century, in the realm of the German language, Ernst Ortlepp, born on August 1, 1800 at Droysig (situated somewhat left of Zeitz, see map) was a well-known political poet, writer, editor, Shakespeare and Byron translator who published a great deal for works, and some of them with a nome the plume. In 1828, he visited Goethe at Dornburg, who, among other things, at least noted in his "Gespräche" that Ortlepp's "ästhetisch-sentimentale Grillen" (aesthetic and sentimental peculiarities) on the basis of this he "gar kein Verhältnis zur Außenwelt finden kann" (not find a relationship to the outside world, at all), "zu peinlichen Betrachtungen Anlaß" (gave rise to akward observations). (12) Obviously, the old gentleman has made his peace with his own rebellious phase, in which he, with works such as his "Werther" or "Prometheus", stood up against prevailing encrustations--Ortlepp could not do that. As early as from 1833, this writer on whom censors focussed their critical eyes, sat between too many chairs, since he "zu sehr einen eigenen Weg gegangen" (had followed his own path too much). Very likely, two factors are responsible for the professional and social decline of Ortlepp: At first, his "denouncing" criticism of Heinrich Laube, in the Zeitung für die elegante Welt ruined "seinen Ruf nicht nur bei den Jungdeutschen, sondern auch als eines ernstzunehmenden Autors" his reputation not only with "Young Germany", but also that of him as an author who should be taken seriously. Then, in 1834, his Lyra der Zeit–a voluminous poetic and political anthology--fell prey to the eyes of Prussian censors. In 1835, the tone-setting European politician, the Austrian State Chancellor Prince Metternich--and that still before the Bundestag Resolution of December 10, 1835 against 'Young Germany'--turned against Ortlepp's Fieschi, a great poem about the Corse assassin who, in 1834, wanted to assasinate the French King with a "Stalin Organ" and who was executed in 1836. Against this "aller religiösen und moralischen Bande entledigte und nur dem dämonischen Instinkte des Bösen hingegebene Phantasie" (phantasy that had cut itself loose from all religous and moral ties and was only adhering to the demonic instincts of evil), Metternich stepped in "ganz persönlich und mit größter Entschiedenheit" (quite personally and with the greatest decisiveness), so that, in 1836, Ortlepp was banished from Saxony and, in 1853, also from Württemberg. Although he continued to work "wie besessen" (like obsessed) as translator and editor, continued to write poems, songs, epic tales, novels and essays, he could not find a financial foothold. Thus he returned to his homeland, the Saale river area and tried to carve out a living with occasional jobs as well as by tutoring Pforta graduates.

Naumburg around 1870

Having been a Pforta student, himself, as late as in 1856, he had taken the High School teachers' exam in halle, could, however, not find any employment in the school service, and, from 1858 on, went increasingly downhill. Schmidt reports (aaO.): "In den frühen 1860er Jahren hielt sich Ortlepp häufig in von Pforteschülern aufgesuchten Gaststätten auf, sang sich am Piano begleitend ‚dämonische Lieder‘, war zeitweilig arbeits- sowie obdachlos und galt als Trinker. Dennoch eröffneten Ortlepps große Festgedichte weiterhin das wöchentlich zweimal erscheinende Naumburger Kreisblatt. Ortlepps letzter größerer Gedichtband (Klänge aus dem Saalthal) erschien 1856 in einem Naumburger Verlag. Ortlepp, der ein leidenschaftlicher Wanderer war, verkaufte bei möglichst vielen Gelegenheiten Einblattdrucke eigener Dichtungen. Außerdem suchte er durch Schreibarbeiten, Gelegenheitsgedichte, Auftragsdichtungen, Nachhilfe zumal in den alten Sprachen sowie in Deutsch, Orgel- und Harmoniumspiel usw. seine minimale Rente aufzubessern. So ist auszuschließen, das Kind Nietzsche sei in dem Kleinstädtchen Naumburg dem als besonders kinderfreundlich geschilderten Ernst Ortlepp nicht ebenso wie auch Gedichten Ortlepps mehrfach begegnet." (Schmidt writes here that in the early 1860's, Ortlepp often frequented the restaurants and inns that were also frequented by Pforta students, sang demonic songs to himself to his own piano accompaniment, was partially unemployed and homeless and had the reputation of being an alcoholic. In spite of this, Ortlepp's great Festive Poems opened the Naumburg Kreisblatt that was published twice a week. Ortlepp's last great poem collection (Klünge aus dem Saalthal), writes Schmidt, were published by a Naumburg publishing house, in 1856. Ortlepp, reports Schmidt, was a passionate hiker, sold many one-leaf prints of his poems and he tried to supplement his small pension with writing work, occasional poems, occasional writing jobs, tutoring in the ancient languages as well as in German, and by giving organ and harmonium lessons. Therefore, argues Schmidt, it can be excluded that the child Nietzsche, in the small town of Naumburg, would not have encountered the children-friendly Ernst Ortlepp as well as his poems, frequently.)

To Schmidt, "Einige Gedichte zumal aus Nietzsches Pfortejahren ... den Eindruck eines Gesprächs mit Ortlepp nahe; andere Texte Nietzsches wirken als Reaktion auf oder Verarbeitung von Erfahrungen mit Ortlepp oder von Anregungen Ortlepps. Nach meinem Eindruck hat Ernst Ortlepp jedoch gerade in Nietzsches Kindheit eine entscheidende Rolle in Nietzsches Entwicklung gespielt" (Schmidt writes here that some poems, particularly from Nietzsche's Pforta years, ... suggest that he had been communicating with Ortlepp; other Nietzsche texts, to Schmidt, appear to him as a reaction or coming to terms of experiences with Ortlepp or of suggestions by Ortlepp, and according to his (Schmidt's) impression, Ortlepp had played a decisive role in Nietzsche's childhood).

To introduce the reader to the world of this writer's thoughts, let us look at an excerpt from one of his texts, the "Vaterunser des neunzehnten Jahrhunderts – Ein Weltchoral" (19th-Century-Lord's Prayer), written at least as early as in 1834 (13):

Ein Zufall nur erschuf die Welt,
Und hier, wie überm Sternenzelt,
Ist weder Weisheit, Glück noch Heil
Verfluchter Myriaden Theil;
Der Aufschwung nach dem Ideal
Belohnt mit grimmer Höllenqual,
Und jeder Flug nach hohem Ziel
Gebiert ein größ’res Trauerspiel.

Only coincidence created the world,
And here, as above the starry canopy,
Is neither wisdom, happiness, nor salvation
Cursed myriads part;
The striving towards the ideal
Rewarded with grim pain of hell,
And every flight towards high goals
Gives birth to an even greater tragedy.

Den einzelnen, der sich erhebt,
Zerpeitscht der Dämon auf jedem Schritt,
Die Völker, die der Geist belebt,
Zerstampft des rohen Schicksals Tritt!
Wer soll noch bitten bei all dem Wehe:
"Dein Will’ auf Himmel und Erden geschehe?"


The individual who rises up,
The demon's whip follows with every step,
Those nations that are awakened by spirit,
Are crushed by fate's rough step!
Who shall still pray after all this woe:
"Thy will be done in heaven and on earth?"


Hörst du der ergrimmten Völker Ton,
Die, über Vermögen versucht, nun droh’n?
Sie flehten mit hochgehobenen Armen
Zum Himmel jahrelang um Erbarmen;
Jedoch der Himmel ließ sie beten,
Um tiefer nur in den Staub sie zu treten;
Kein Gott will mehr herniederblicken,
Den Teufel nur sieht man gräßlich nicken.
Kein Ende seh’n sie ihrer Verfluchung,
Drum beten sie nicht mehr: "Führ’ uns nicht in Versuchung!"
Auch wird sie Gott von dem Bösen
Nimmer erlösen!
Denn sein ist der Wahnsinn,
Und der Widerspruch in sich selbst,
Und das Herz von Eis,
Und die allmächtige Tyrannei,
Die alle Tyrannen schuf und erhält,
Und die schaffende Zerstörungswut
In ihrer blitzumspielten, donnerumkrachten Fürchterlichkeit
Von Ewigkeit zu Ewigkeit!
Zuckend wimmern vor seinem Namen
Die Welten ihr: "Amen!"

Do you hear the enraged nations' cries,
Tried beyond their limits, threatening now?
They pleaded with uplifted arms
For mercy, to heaven, for years;
Yet heaven let them pray,
To only drag them into the dust, even deeper;
No God wants to look down, anymore,
Only Devil one sees grimacing, horribly.
They see no end to their curse,
Therefore, they pray no more: "Do not lead us into temptation!"
Moreover, God will never deliver them
From evil!
For his is insanity,
And self-contradiction,
And a heart full of ice,
And allmighty tyranny,
That created all tyrants and is preserving them,
And creative rage of destruction
In its terror of lightning
And thunder,
From eternity to eternity!
Trembling, the worlds stammer before
Him their: "Amen!"

It is not surprising that the writer of such lines--by the way, quite paralelly to Ludwig Feuerbach--could no longer find employment in the Christian German states of the middle of the 19th century. And thus he eeked out a meagre life, earned some extra money with tutoring and taking on the writing of the papers of many a Pforta student, and to him, they were probably also welcome discussion partners whom he could make aquainted with topics that were of interest to him.

What is certain from the Nietzsche letter that was discussed at the beginning here is that Nietzsche had personal contact with Ortlepp--what, however, justifies the conclusion that the latter would be the author of those lines that thereby also, in a certain way, gain a pedofile slant?

What would speak for that would, of course, be the initial "platonic" quote, which is used quite abiguously at least insofrar--and of which one should hardly expect that it would have been well-known and used by a fellow student of Nietzsche. Furthermore, the polished penmanship of these lines would in no event point towards a younger person, but rather at a person who wrote a great deal, who, on top of it, at the moment of his writing of these lines, did not pay too much attention to the neatness of his handwriting.

The epilogue on p. 66 of the album, in a fascimile copy of the original handwriting

Here, I can not discuss at length the dispute that arose with respect to the handwriting of these album verses, although the matter, in itself, is rather suspenseful: The antagonist in this matter is Gerhard Hödl, according to Schmidt "wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter an der kritischen Edition der Kinder- und Jugendschriften Nietzsches ... am Institut für Religionswissenschaften der Katholisch-Theologischen Fakultät der Universität Wien und Anfang 2000 Habilitand in Christlicher Philosophie" (Schmidt describes Hödl as being involved in the editing work of the critical edition of Nietzsche's early writings, at the Institute for Religious Sciences at the Catholic theological faculty of the University of Vienna and, at the beginning of 2000, as doctoral fellow in Christian Philosophy). This background is also important for the counter-argumentation: The "mainstream" of Nietzsche interpretation tries (according to Schmidt) to blot out disturbing elements of Nietzsche's development and to present him in a light that is not too disturbing to religion and religious institutions, instead of taking its genesis, particularly in his childhood, seriously.

Hödl thus published an attack against Schmidt's view and assumes that Nietzsche's fellow student Stoeckert might have been the writer of those verses, in order to block off the possible, particularly anti-Christian influence of Ortlepp on Nietzsche. However, as Schmidt thoroughly proves, this is, particularly with respect to Stoeckert's handwriting that has also been preserved, entirely improbable. It could rather have been the case that also Stoeckert received help from Ortlepp, so that parts of Stoeckert's valedictorian paper could have been written directly by Ortlepp. Many reasons would speak for this, since in the headline of this paper and on page 16 of it, suddenly, a completely different handwriting appears. This obvious fact had been completely overlooked by Hödl in his rebuttal in which he meant to be able to prove that Stoeckert was the writer of these poems. Therefore, it could, paradoxically, be the case that Hödl might at least be right in pointing out that parts of this valedictorian paper shows similarities in its handwriting to that of the album texts, but that he is completely wrong with respect to Stoeckert, since in both cases, Ortlepp could have been the actual writer.

The change in penmanship in the Stoeckert valedictorian paper

Signature of the epilogue on p. 66 of the album, "?o."

Comparison of "?o" with "Bürger" and "Bild" from the handwritings

However, in the album, the writer, in addition to "signing" his entry after the last verse, with the letters "Bo.", also leaves us another clue as to his identity by describing himself, in the last verse, in this manner: "That I would love, once more, I would never have thought". Life experience would suggest to us that this can not have been a young person who quoted this Heine verse (the entire epilogue paraphrases Heine, from his "Buch der Lieder" (14)), which, in addition to the polished handwriting, would serve as a second indication that we are dealing with an older person--however, what does the name fragment "Bo." mean? Here, Schmidt reads "Lo." and thinks that Ortlepp possibily might have turned around the initial letters of the vowels of his last name. Personally, I consider this rather far-fetched, and in addition, I think that the letters are not representing "Lo." but, according to the evidence of the handwriting samples introduced here, they might read as "Bo." (However, as Schmidt contends, not a great deal can be derived from the facsimile--the original that he had studied, himself, would look quite different, again.) Be that as it may--here, we can not furnish any ultimate proof and therefore, for the time being, the author of these ominous lines in Nietzsche's album remains unknown.

Aside from the identity and person of the writer--how are the verses and their import, themselves, to be considered? Could they not also be "exercises" in "romantig poetry"? After all, already the ten-year-old Nietzsche began to write his own poems--what if here, he would have found a "teacher" (who, in that event, could certainly have been Ortlepp)? Why, then, a platonic "motto" and a Heine "epilogue", by which the entries that obviously span over a few years, are framed in? At this time, I see more open questions here than answers that could perhaps be narrowed down by general psychological considerations.

If one puts oneself into the position of the owner of the album, then, depending on the importance of the content of such poems as those by Granier and those that have been ascribed to Ortlepp, certain diverging consequences emerge:

In the event that such poems dedicated to Nietzsche have been written on the basis of actual personal and possibly sexual relationships (Schmidt considers such a homoerotic and possibly also pedophile hypothessis for the most plausible one), then such an album owner, according to the logic and the moral context of his time, would have aimed at keeping such glorifying poetic outpourings of his partners hidden from others--and that Nietzsche was inclined to keep his own counsel, that secrecy was one of his survival strategies, is even confirmed by Schmidt in many instances.

However, Nietzsche obviously did not keep these--in the event of underlying pedophile respectively homoerotic relationships--dangerous verses (170 lines by "Ortlepp", 96 lines by Grainer) a secret, at all, as can, first of all, be derived from the fact that he, knowing of his mother's and his sister's curiosity, left the album at Naumburg, and that with his knowledge of the "Ortlepp" entries, at lest until 1861. And he had also handed this same album over to others for their entries, although, in the later cases, all "Ortlepp" and Granier verses had already been entered in the album--fully knowing that in such cases, those who made new entries would also read all previous entries. Obviously, also this appears to have posed no problem to Nietzsche.

Due to this it can be convincingly concluded that Nietzsche did not see himself as the topic or addressee of such verses--rather, such texts are only passed along to others if one has a "clear conscience" with respect to them and would not think of the possibility that others would interpret them in that manner.

Insofar, Schmidt's argument contains an unsolvable contradiction when he, on the one hand--and that justifiedly--describes Nietzsche as the great artist of "aloofness" who keeps personal matters hidden and secret, and that already in his younger years, while he, on the other hand, has Nietzsche appear as a veritable naive fool who, without a thought, would allow his family and others to read dangerous secrets. (15)

Also the fact that this album has been preserved to this day would rather speak against than for Schmidt's hypothesis; for, if Nietzsche himself, his mother or his sister would, indeed, would have gone out from the "explosiveness" of these texts, then it would have been easy to either let the relevant pages (as possibly also other missing pages) disappear or even the entire album. After all, it is known how outraged Nietzsche was about the insinuation of frequent masturbation made by Wagner/Otto Eiser--and, considering this, he was--if Schmidt's hypothesis would be true, supposed to have virtually left similar material for posterity, for free? And also his sister Elisabeth with her eagerness to protect family honor obviously found nothing defamatory or discrediting, otherwise, these pages would not have found their eventual way into broad daylight but rather a direct way into a burning fireplace.

Due to this it appears much more likely that to Nietzsche, these texts did not appear to be as explosive as Schmidt considers them: Since he--naively--did not even think of such a possibility of their interpretation.

Let us try yet another approach to this problematic topic, from Nietzsche's viewpoint. What would be the inner situation of an intelligent boy who, affected by life catastrophes, experiences himself doubly uprooted, first by his father's death and then by being torn away from the circle of his family and friends at Naumburg, on account of his enrolment at Pforta--it can be considered certain that on account of these events, Nietzsche found himself thrown back onto himself. To withstand such events is often the beginning of all reflection ... However, also such an introverted boy (Nietzsche, stylizing himself: already at seven years, as he later reported, was aware of the fact that no word of any of his fellow human beings could really reach him ... ) urgently needs role models and regulatives--and due to this, his vulnerability is 'wide open'. If we add to that the difficulties of adolescence, and that was certainly happening to the 14-year-old Nietzsche in 1858, the year in which the entries into his album began, such a boy could be the topic of such texts as those that Schmidt attributes to Ortlepp. The mentioned catastrophes, the introvert development that they triggered as well as the onset of puberty, but also, on the positive side, the possibilities that such a teacher could offer, outside of the strict school environment, for his mental and human development, could certainly have caused Nietzsche to enter the kind of relationship that Schmidt assumes that existed between him and Ortlepp--that he, on the other hand, also formed contacts to the female gender, to Anna Redtel, in 1863, is also well known. Perhaps, the failure of his first attempt at a heterosexual relationship should also be seen in this particular context, here?

In any event, there opened themselves up considerable opportunities to exercise influence and authority, particularly on this youth. Alas, ultimately it might be less important as to whether the verses in Nietzsche's album have been written by Ortlepp or by a third person--perhaps more important appears to be that, at least between 1858 and 1864, Nietzsche, in all likelihood, had been in contact with Ortlepp and that he might have seen in him a father substitute, to a certain extent--a role that later, for a time, Schopenhauer would take on ("as educator") and ultimately Wagner. And thus H.J. Schmidt might still be right in maintaining that Ortlepp exercised a great influence on the developing philosopher. Such considerations appear reasonable on account of often quite improbable coincidences between educational content and consequences in thought between Ortlepp and Nietzsche: close parallels can be seen in their going out from the ancient classical era and their anti-Christian stances which, with Nietzsche, made their early appearance in form of depicting ancient Greek deities as well as in his reading of Feuerbach literature. Love of poetry and music as well as insistence on the free individuality of man, on independent thinking, those are character traits respectively ways of thinking that are similar in both. As a concrete example may, for example, serve Byron whose works Ortlepp used to translate into German, and whom the young Nietzsche valued very much. Where did he now Byron from?

All these objective considerations would, therefore, suggest an early influence of Ortlepp over Nietzsche--on the other hand, the following consideration might stand in the way of that: Always then when Nietzsche, as, for example in Schopenhauer or Wagner, had found a stimulating teacher, he could not help himself but report on it exuberantly to his friends and even include them in this new-found realm. Why, then, do we not hear a single word from him with respect to Ortlepp, particularly one that would have been directed at his 'Germania' friends Krug and Pinder, who certainly must have known Ortlepp, as well? Why only the one laconic mention in his letter?

In order to return to this letter and to close our circle, one more word with respect to the unfortunate Ernst Ortlepp of whom, to this day, not picture has been found, which shows how forgotten he is ...: The actual cause of his death is still very unclear to this day: accident--a possibility which the authorities of the time ("drowned") and Nietzsche ("broke his neck") went out, in the above-quoted letter--, suicide or murder, everything is possible.

Let us, once more, listen to Nietzsche's report and his unusual tone in which he rendered it:

"Der alte Ortlepp ist übrigens todt. Zwischen Pforta und Almrich fiel er in einen Graben und brach den Nacken. In Pforta wurde er früh morgends bei düsterem Regen begraben; vier Arbeiter trugen den rohen Sarg; Prof. Keil folgte mit einem Regenschirm. Kein Geistlicher." (By the way, the old Ortlepp is dead. Between Pforta and Almrich, he fell into a ditch and broke his neck. Early in the morning, when it was raining dreadfully, he was buried at Pforta; four workers carried the rough coffin; Professor Keil followed with his umbrella. No priest.)

To this, in German literature, there exists a famous parallel passage, which the young, avid reader Niezsche certainly must have known:

"Nachts gegen eilfe ließ er ihn an die Stätte begraben, die er sich erwählt hatte. Der Alte folgte der Leiche und die Söhne, Albert vermochts nicht. Man fürchtete für Lottens Leben. Handwerker trugen ihn. Kein Geistlicher hat ihn begleitet." (At night, towards eleven o'clock, he had him buried at the site that he had chosen, himself. The old man followed his remains and the sons, Albert could not bring himself to do so. One was afraid for Lotte's life. Tradesmen carried him. No priest accompanied him.)

Should this 'parallelism' in tone and wording really be a coincidence? Or did Nietzsche not consciously resort to Goethe's ending of his "Leiden des jungen Werther" (Sorrows of the Young Werther) (16)? It is suicide 'victims' who are not accompanied by priests--this was the case with Werther. And Ortlepp? Did Nietzsche provide a hidden clue here? Even more probable does this suicide hypothesis become on account of variious poetic lines of Ortlepp, which, in his last publication, the "Klänge aus dem Saalthal" (Voices/Sounds from the Saale Valley) speak of the longing for death of this poet, in various places, as, for example, in the following verses:

Und sterb‘ ich nun, so stürb‘ ich gern
Im Thale
Der Saale.

And if I die now, I would gladly die
In the valley
Of the Saale.


Da steht noch der Wand’rer und sinnt noch einmal,
Schaut nach der Sonne der Abenstrahl,
Und sagt mit zerrissener Seel‘ Ade
Der Erde Freuden und ihrem Weh;
Und springt hinunter. (17)

There, the wanderer halts, pondering once more,
Looking at the evening sun,
And says, with a broken soul, farewell
To earth's joys and pain;
And jumps down. (17)


According to my information, a retired criminal investigator, having been set on the trail by Prof. Schmidt, is investigating the case once more, based on the existing documentation and statements. This should make us curious enough as to any possible outcomes; in the meantime we can try, for example through our periodical, Aufklärung und Kritik, to set a small monument to the entirely forgotten German poet, as did the Pforta students--in publishing his "Vaterunser des 19. Jahrhunderts"(19th-Century Lord's Prayer) in it?


(1) HKGA Briefe, I, 250

(2) On June 15, 1864, the Naumburger Kreisblatt No. 49 reported:
"Naumburg, 14. Juni. Bei Schluß des Blattes geht uns noch die Nachricht zu, daß heute Nachmittag gegen 5 Uhr der Dichter Ernst Ortlepp in dem Wassergraben längs der Chaussee von Altenburg [=Almrich] nach Pforta ertrunken vorgefunden worden ist." Quoted from Hermann Josef Schmidt, Der alte Ortlepp war’s wohl doch, Alibri Verlag Aschaffenburg 2001, p. 260 (Naumburg, June 14th. At closing, this news reached us, that this afternoon, around 5 o'clock, the poet Ernst Ortlepp has been found drowned in the water ditch along the highway from Altenburg to Pforta).

(3) see, for example, Bernd A. Laska, on the internet at and at

(4) Review in A&K Vol. 17, March 2002, 9th Year, No. 1

(5) Hermann Josef Schmidt, Nietzsche absconditus oder Spurenlesen bei Nietzsche, II. Jugend, 2. Teilband 1862-1864, Alibiri (IBDK)-Verlag 1994, p. 694 ff.

(6) GSA 71/374a

(7) HKGA Briefe I, 156

(8) To illustrate this, a sample (Hermann Josef Schmidt, Der alte Ortlepp war’s wohl doch, Alibri Verlag Aschaffenburg 2001, p. 390):

Granier (3. "Dahin", 3. Strophe:)
Für Dich war mein Herz entglommen,
Du warst einzig in der Welt,
Mochte Alles sein genommen:
Mit Dir hätte nichts gefehlt.

Granier (3. "Dahin", 3. Strophe:)
For you, my heart was enflamed,
You alone were in the world,
If all would have been taken away:
With you, nothing would have been amiss.

(9) aaO. p. 386/388

(10) Hermann Josef Schmidt, Der alte Ortlepp war’s wohl doch, Alibri Verlag Aschaffenburg 2001

(11) Quoted from Hermann Josef Schmidt, Eine rätselhafte und doch konsequenzenreiche Beziehung: Friedrich Nietzsche und Ernst Ortlepp. Eine Skizze. A&K Sonderheft 4/2000, Schwerpunkt Friedrich Nietzsche, p. 70/71

(12) see. Thomas Otto Schneider, "Vom Zustand der Ekstase", Der Magier Ernst Ortlepp und der Adept Nietzsche, A&K Sonderheft 4/2000, Schwerpunkt Friedrich Nietzsche, p. 84

(13) Hermann Josef Schmidt, Der alte Ortlepp war’s wohl doch, Alibri Verlag Aschaffenburg 2001, p. 359ff.; see also Hermann Josef Schmidt, "Dichterschicksals Wolke?". Ernst Ortlepps Weg nach Zeitz, Schriften der Ernst-Ortlepp-Gesellschaft zu Zeitz, No. 1, Verlag Janos Stekovics 2001, p. 12 ff.

(14) The epilogue is mainly comprised of quotes from Heine's works. Here, we want to offer you a chance to compare Heine's original texts from his "Buch der Lieder, HeimKehr" and the album entries:

I. Album:

Epilog. Uebersetzung des Motto. Mel: Carneval v. Venedig:
Glaub nicht, daß ich mich erschieße,
Wie schlimm auch die Sachen stehn!
Das Alles, mein Vielgeliebter,
Ist mir schon einmal geschehn.
                  (zweimal)                                  Heine.
"Daß ich noch einmal würde lieben
Ich hätte es nimmermehr gedacht!"        Bo.

(Epilogue.  Translation of the Motto. Mel: Carneval of Venice:
Do not believe that I will shoot myself,
No matter how tought things stand!
All that, my much-loved one,
Has already happened to me, once.
                  (twice)                                      Heine.
That I would love, once more,
I would never have thought!                    Bo.)

II: Heine, Buch der Lieder, Heimkehr (quoted from: Heinrich Heine, Werke Bd. I, Hg. Paul Stapf, Verlag R. Löwit, Wiesbaden)


Ich wollte bei dir weilen
Und an deiner Seite ruhn;
Du mußtest von mir eilen;
Du hattest viel zu tun.

I wanted to stay with you
And rest by your side;
You had to rush away from me;
You had too much to do.

Ich sagte, daß meine Seele
Dir gänzlich ergeben sei;
Du lachtest aus voller Kehle,
Und machtest ‚nen Knicks dabei.

I said that my soul
Was entirely devoted to you;
You laughed out loud
And curtsied, doing so.

Du hast noch mehr gesteigert
Mir meinen Liebesverdruß,
Und hast mir sogar verweigert
Am Ende den Abschiedskuß.

You have even heightened
My pain borne out of love;
And in the end, even denied
Me a farewell kiss.

Glaub nicht, daß ich mich erschieße,
Wie schlimm auch die Sachen stehn!
Das alles, meine Süße,
Ist mir schon einmal geschehn.

Do not blieve that I will shoot myself,
No matter how bad things stand!
All that, my sweet one,
Has already happened to me, once


Ich hab mir lang den Kopf zerbrochen,
Mit Denken und Sinnen, Tag und Nacht,
Doch deine liebenswürdigen Augen,
Sie haben mich zum Entschluß gebracht.

I have racked my brain,
Thinking, day and night,
Yet, your lovable eyes,
Have brought upon a resolution.

Jetzt bleib‘ ich, wo deine Augen leuchten,
In ihrer süßen, klugen Pracht –
Daß ich noch einmal würde lieben,
Ich hätt es nimmermehr gedacht.

Now I will stay, where your eyes shine,
In their sweet, great glory--
That I would love, once more,
I would never have thought

(15) What should be considered, here, however, his Nietzsche's actual naivete in "love matters" as would become evident in his 1882 encounter with Lou von Salomé: The latter circulated the both famous and dubious "whip" photo depicting Nietzsche, herself and Rée (s. Lou Salomé-Page 1) everywhere, at the Bayreuth Festival, what, of course, led to the fact that Nietzsche was ridiculed and what led to his sister Elisabeth's hating Lou. Nietzsche also exposed himself openly to this awkwardness out of the abundance of his feelings for Lou, without any reflection--would such a "carelessness" not be all the more possible in the young Nietzsche? See also the discussion of Nietzsche's sexuality, on our Lou-Document Page 3.
This question of the possibility for others to have access to the album has, of course, also not been overlooked by H.J. Schmidt, rather, in his "Der alte Ortlepp ...", p. 109-112, he explicitly addresses it; mainly, he discusses it from the viewpoint of Ortlepp's authorship and less with resepct to the actual--possibly precarious--meaning of these verses. The evaluation of the question of "album accessiblity" to others becomes even more difficult, due to it, since it is not certain when the pages in question, pages 61-66, have been filled in--already from 1858 on, as the first entry would suggest, or later, from 1861 on, when N., in the matter of Braune (see above, p. 2), had the album given to him and possibly kept it with him at Pforta? For this speaks that the poems No. I-IV, dated up to the year 1861, hardly contain any clearly "scandalous passages", rather, these--above all no. 1--is rather "awkward", hardly "worthy" of a skilled poet like Ortlepp. Poems nos. V-X, however, rather create a melancholy mood, a mood of finality in a relationship, and, overall, they make a more "mature" impression than poems nos. I-IV. That would speak for a "development" and, insofar, point towards a just "growing/maturing" poet--what, on the other hand, is in contradiction to the handwriting, to the use of the motto and the epilogue, for all these clues would point towards a more mature man.

(16) Goethes Werke, Dritter Band, Tempel-Klassiker, Emil Vollmer Verlag Wiesbaden, p. 294

(17) Hermann Josef Schmidt, Nietzsche absconditus oder Spurenlesen bei Nietzsche, II. Jugend, 2. Teilband 1862-1864, Alibiri (IBDK)-Verlag 1994, p. 734

You are visitor no.Counter since April 30, 2003. Thanks for this counter to: