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Hartmann, Moritz

(1821–1872), poet and journalist. Moritz Hartmann was born in Dušnik, Bohemia, and died in Vienna. Coming from a well-to-do family, he studied medicine and philosophy in Prague and Vienna. Hartmann associated with a circle of writers who wrote in German; some of them, including Leopold Kompert and Ludwig August Frankl, were Jews; others, such as August Meissner and Joseph Rank, were Christian. As was the case with the members of his circle, Hartmann wrote poetry based on themes from Czech history. He lived for a time in Breslau, then in Leipzig, where he befriended the German Jewish writer Berthold Auerbach.

Hartmann wrote for many periodicals and traveled frequently. Following a stay in Paris, where he was acquainted with a number of émigrés (including Heinrich Heine), he returned to Prague. There he witnessed the revolution of 1848—which included widespread attacks against Jews and their businesses—and joined with Czech and German students to help curb the violence.

Hartmann was elected as a delegate from the town of Leitmeritz (Litomĕřice) to the Frankfurt parliament, a governmental body that was boycotted by the Czechs under the influence of their political leader, the historian František Palacký. As a representative, Hartmann associated with the far left. When the parliament returned to Vienna, the Austrian delegation that had met in Frankfurt was jailed, with the exception of Hartmann, who was briefly involved in the reduced parliament of Stuttgart and then went into exile. He worked as a journalist first in Geneva and then in Paris, where he served as correspondent for the Kölnische Zeitung; he also traveled to England and Italy in that capacity. From 1862 to 1868, he again worked in Stuttgart as editor of the weekend edition of the Allgemeine Zeitung.

In 1867, Hartmann was granted amnesty by Austria and was offered the editorship of the Neue Freie Presse. Much of the time, however, he suffered from ill health, and though he moved to Vienna, he was too weak to dedicate himself fully to this position. With his wife and young son, Ludo (later a well-known historian), he was largely supported by Jewish philanthropists. Hartmann was distressed by the Prussian victory of 1866 and even more by the unification of Germany that was engineered by Bismarck in 1871.

Although Hartmann was the grandson of the famous Prague rabbi El‘azar Fleckeles, and despite the fact that many of his friends were Jews, he was alienated from his religion. It is said that at the age of 13 he threw his tefillin into a field of grain by the side of the road. In his youth, he was one of a small group of German-speaking literati, both Jewish and gentile, who idealized the Czech past and identified with Czech culture. The question for him remained whether he was Czech or German. It is not known if Hartmann converted to Christianity. He was married in a Christian church but was buried in the Jewish cemetery in Vienna.

Hartmann’s writings included lyric and satirical poetry, novels, journalistic reports, and lively descriptions of the regions and inhabitants he visited, most notably expressed in his Tagebuch aus Languedoc und Provence (Diary from Languedoc and Provence; 1858). The volume Kelch und Schwert (Chalice and Sword) glorifies the Hussites and expresses regret over their downfall. Published in Leipzig in 1845, it was banned in Austria.

The brilliant satire Reimchronik des Pfaffen Mauritius (Rhymed Chronicle of the Priest Mauritius)—Mauritius being the Latin form of Hartmann’s own first name—was published anonymously in 1849; it deals with the failure of the Frankfurt parliament and that of the Hungarian revolution. Bruchstücke revolutionärer Erinnerungen (Fragments of Revolutionary Memories), concerned with the 1848 revolution, appeared in 1861. Hartmann also used his fictional works to highlight the fight for freedom from political oppression and economic injustice; for example, his Erzählungen eines Unsteten (Tales of a Restless Man; 1858) concerns the fates of refugees and exiles. He also wrote lyric poetry in the tradition of the Austrian poet Nikolaus Lenau.

Suggested Reading

Hillel J. Kieval, Languages of Community: The Jewish Experience in the Czech Lands (Berkeley, 2000), pp. 65–94; Margarita Pazi, “Der Reimchronist des Frankfurter Parlaments,” Jahrbuch des Instituts für deutsche Geschichte 3 (1973): 239–266; Hans Schleier, Geschichte der deutschen Kulturgeschichtsschreibung (Waltrop, Ger., 2003), vol. 1, pt. 2, pp. 879–892; Otto Wittner, Moritz Hartmanns Leben und Werke, 2 vols. (Prague, 1906–1907).