Kosmos Wiepersdorf


Wolfgang Bunzel: Freimund von Arnim


Wolfgang Bunzel: Freimund von Arnim

Johannes Freimund, born on May 5, 1812, was the first child of Bettina and Achim von Arnim. His birth was of great importance for the economic situation of the Arnims, because, on the basis of the will of Achim’s grandmother, the role of the heir general automatically fell to him. In her last will and testament, Caroline von Labes decreed in her will that the estate be entailed, stipulating that the existing financial assets of her two grandsons Achim and Carl Otto were not to be touched, but were to be administered in trust for their legitimate children until they came of age. The land owned by the family could, however, be farmed but not sold under the terms of the will.

When Achim von Arnim died early in 1831, his seven children inherited his share of the Bärwalde entail. It was agreed that Freimund, as the eldest, should learn agricultural economics and manage Bärwalde. It is not clear from the sources when he started doing so. His coming of age in 1837 is the probable date. In any case, he learned to manage an estate, advised by an administrator, and soon recognized this task as his profession in life. According to his sister Maximiliane, he acted from “now on ... [as] the head of the family”

Freimund von Arnim’s work as an estate owner absorbed him entirely, and he took extensive care of the agricultural matters—first at Bärwalde, then at Wiepersdorf. They included cattle breeding, hunting, and the cultivation and harvesting of grain, fruit, and vegetables. These pursuits were only interrupted by an occasional trip to Frankfurt and Berlin. Carl Otto von Arnim, Freimund’s uncle, sold his share of the Bärwalde estate to his nephew in 1845, so that Freimund then owned a total of seven twelfths of the estate and was thus the majority owner. One twelfth belonged to each of the other five siblings.

In the same year, the medieval castle of Bärwalde was so badly damaged by fire that it was no longer habitable. The Arnim family was able to persuade the tenant at Wiepersdorf to vacate, and it then became Freimund’s new residence. Together with her youngest daughter Gisela, Bettina von Arnim furnished the Wiepersdorf manor house in the fall of 1845.

Busy managing the estate and family affairs, Freimund took his time before deciding to look for a wife, especially since Berlin social life was much to his distaste, and most of the time he returned as quickly as possible to Wiepersdorf from his short visits, just as his father had once done. Shortly before Christmas 1846, while visiting family, he unexpectedly became engaged to Anna von Baumbach, twelve years his junior. At the end of May 1847, the wedding took place in an intimate circle in Nentershausen, where the Baumbachs resided. At Freimund’s request, only his favorite sister Armgart of the Arnims came along. Six days after the revolution broke out, on March 24, 1848, their only son was born, who was named Achim after Freimund’s father. Hardly three quarters of a year later, Anna von Baumbach died, leaving behind a distraught Freimund von Arnim.

But soon mourning for the early loss of his young wife had to make way to fulfilling the need of giving his son a family in Wiepersdorf again, an undertaking that could only be realized by marrying anew. Freimund asked his cousin Claudine for her hand in June 1851, and barely a year later they married. But Freimund von Arnim’s health began to decline at the end of the 1850s. Step by step, he entrusted to his second wife not only Achim’s upbringing but also increasingly the tasks of managing the Wiepersdorf estate. In the fall of the following year, Freimund’s condition deteriorated so drastically that Claudine moved the patient to Frankfurt am Main for better medical care. There, the lifelong epileptic died on March 2, 1863, as the result of a final stroke.

Prof. Dr. Wolfgang Bunzel, born in 1960, is head of the Romanticism Research Department at the Goethe-Haus/Freies Deutsches Hochstift in Frankfurt. In addition, he teaches modern German literature at the Goethe University Frankfurt and since mid-2014 has been one of the two managing directors of the Brentano-Haus Oestrich-Winkel gemeinnützige GmbH. His main field of research is the literature of German Romanticism. For many years he has co-edited the Internationales Jahrbuch der Bettina-von-Arnim-Gesellschaft. In 2009, on the occasion of the 200th anniversary of her death, he curated an exhibition on Bettine von Arnim at the Freies Deutsches Hochstift, parts of which were also on display in Wiepersdorf. He has also published numerous editions as well as books and essays on Romantic literature, especially on Bettine von Arnim.