Queer Places:
Fichtestraße 4, 79115 Freiburg im Breisgau, Germany
Northwestern University, 1801 Hinman Ave, Evanston, IL 60208
Princeton University (Ivy League), 110 West College, Princeton, NJ 08544
Bryn Mawr College (Seven Sisters), 101 N Merion Ave, Bryn Mawr, PA 19010
Nordfriedhof München Schwabing, Stadtkreis München, Bavaria (Bayern), Germany

Werner Vordtriede (18 March 1915 – 25 September 1985) was an emigre from Nazi Germany first to Switzerland and then to the U.S. who was a professor of German language and literature at the University of Wisconsin from 1947 to 1960 before accepting an appointment at the University of Munich and returning to West Germany. Beyond his scholarly publications, he translated and authored a number of fictional and non-fictional works.

Vordtriede was born to a well-to-do family in Bielefeld. World War I and the divorce of his parents led to a relocation, first in 1922 to Todtmoos in the Black Forest and in 1923 to Freiburg im Breisgau. As of 1926 he lived with his sister Fränze and their mother Käthe Vordtriede, who worked as a journalist in Weimar Germany. Fränze Vortriede would later become a writer and professor. He was interested in German literature as a youngster and corresponded with such literary luminaries as Kurt Tucholsky and Arthur Schnitzler.

Following the Nazi accession to power in 1933, Vordtriede emigrated to Switzerland, where in 1934 he was introduced to the German Jewish philosopher Edith Landmann in Basel and through her affiliated with the Stefan George Circle, even adopting George’s distinctive calligraphy as his own handwriting style. He matriculated at the University of Zurich in 1934 with a major in German philology and a minor in English philology, taking courses with such noted academics as Emil Ermatinger and Bernhard Fehr, an Oscar Wilde specialist. Prevented from seeking employment by the terms of his student visa, he managed to keep his head above water by working part-time as a private tutor and writing articles and book reviews for the Neue Zürcher Zeitung under various pseudonyms (Werner Salasin, Werner Stoutz, and r. e.). Thanks to a travel stipend, he was able to spend the summer of 1937 in Cambridge, England. Finding the situation in Switzerland increasingly untenable, he chose to emigrate to the U.S. in 1938. At pains to conceal both his homosexual orientation and his Jewish ancestry on his mother's side, he maintained that he had been driven into exile on political grounds.[1] Vortriede’s passage to New York on the luxury liner SS Nieuw Amsterdam was paid for by the English author Robert Hichens, and he was subsequently supported by grants from the American Guild for German Cultural Freedom, personally meeting with its general secretary, Prince Hubertus zu Löwenstein, in 1943. He enrolled at the University of Cincinnati, where he was employed as a teaching assistant and earned a master’s degree in 1939 with a thesis on Friedrich Hölderlin. On a journey to Europe, he was caught off-guard by the outbreak of the World War II and, as a German passport holder, interned as an enemy alien in France. A few months later he was able to return to the U.S. In New York City he became acquainted with the poets W. H. Auden and Chester Kallman, Saint-John Perse, the author Richard Beer-Hofmann, and the sociologist Christiane Hofmannsthal-Zimmer (the daughter of poet Hugo von Hofmannsthal) as well as the emigre Klaus Mann. The poet Robert Duncan was his lover in Woodstock, New York, where he briefly owned a house. He was a teaching fellow at Rutgers University and in 1941 was reunited in New York City with his mother, who also emigrated from Germany. He taught briefly at Central Michigan College before he and his mother moved to Evanston when he enrolled at Northwestern University for doctoral study with a major in French literature and a minor in German literature. There he worked as a teaching assistant and completed the Ph.D. in 1945 with a dissertation on “The Conception of the Poet in the Works of Stéphane Mallarmé and Stefan George”. He was immediately hired at the rank of instructor by Princeton University, where he taught German for one year, and in 1946 he was naturalized as a U.S. citizen. At this time he became acquainted with the literary scholar Erich von Kahler and the writer Hermann Broch. His sister Fränze arrived in the U.S. in 1947, initially residing in Philadelphia. Vordtriede was recruited by the University of Wisconsin as an assistant professor in 1947, and he also taught at the Middlebury German Summer School in 1948. He was described by one colleague as a popular teacher “who brought animation to the classroom”, for example "by acting out in class the role of the village girl who dreamed of marrying a count" in Gottfried Keller's novella "Kleider machen Leute".[2] He chose to go on personal leave for the academic year 1952-53 to bolster his academic track record by publishing numerous book reviews and articles, especially in the pages of the Wisconsin German Department’s house journal Monatshefte. Although he did not yet have a book publication, he was duly promoted to an associate professorship with tenure at the University of Wisconsin in 1954. He now served as a dissertation director for the first time, supervising Roland Hoermann’s 1957 thesis on Achim von Arnim’s symbolism, and he was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1957.[3] Beginning in the late 1950s, he made frequent trips to Europe, also visiting his former home in Freiburg. In Madison, he resided in the modest digs of the bachelor faculty housing on the top floor of the University Club. Following his promotion to a full professorship in 1959, still without a book publication, he supervised the doctoral dissertations of Don Travis (on Stefan Andres, 1960), Henry Geitz (on Franz Grillparzer, 1961), and Philip Glander (on Varnhagen von Ense, 1961) before surprising his colleagues by announcing at a departmental meeting his decision to resign from the University of Wisconsin and relocate to Germany.

In 1960 Vordtriede returned to Germany and taught literary studies at the University of Munich, which conferred upon him the title of emeritus professor at his retirement in 1976. He taught as a visiting professor at Ohio State University in the spring of 1964, at Bryn Mawr College in the fall of 1966, the University of California-Davis in 1968-69, and the University of Massachusetts-Amherst in the fall of 1970. His publications include literary criticism (Novalis und die französischen Symbolisten), poetry (Gedichte), a memoir recounting his years as an emigre in the US (Das verlassene Haus. Tagebuch aus dem amerikanischen Exil 1938–1947), and novels (Der Innenseiter and Ulrichs Ulrich oder Vorbereitungen zum Untergang).

Colleagues, former students, and friends wrote contributions for a festschrift honoring Vordtriede on his seventieth birthday, but the volume did not appear until one month after his death. He died during a study trip near Izmir in September 1985. A lifelong bachelor, he had no descendants and was estranged from his sister as of the 1970s. His friend and former student Dieter Borchmeyer served as the executor of his estate. Vordtriede had preserved documents pertaining to Nazi Germany as authentic historical records, and they along with many letters and other papers were bequeathed to the German Literature Archive in Marbach. His correspondence with his mother Käthe Vordtriede was edited for a book publication (1998) and formed the basis for a televised documentary (2001). Käthe Vordtriede is memorialized in Freiburg with a Stolperstein and a street name. Werner Vordtriede was interred in Munich in 1985, and after the expiration of a twenty-year lease for his burial plot, the grave was cleared in accordance with German cemetery practice.

A private initiative works in the interest of the emigre family Vordtriede, who lived from 1926 to 1939 in Fichte Street Number 4 in the municipal district of Haslach. The family comprises Käthe Vordtriede, Frances (Fränze) Vordtriede-Riley, and Werner Vordtriede. The Initiator is Jürgen Lang, who founded the project in 2014 and who resides in the house. In 2015 the project won a city award for "civic engagement".[4] The former residence could in the future become a meeting place and museum. Its motto is: Recollection, Research, Reminder.

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