Erhard Bartsch

7 January 1895 in Breslau; † 5. September 1960 in Klagenfurt

Selg (p41-44 – The Agriculture Course, Koberwtiz, Whitsun 1924: Rudolf Steiner and the beginnings of biodynamics Peter Selg. Temple Lodge 2010. ISBN 978 1 906999 08 7) wrote:

By 1920 at the latest, therefore, various developments stimulated by Rudolf Steiner (or rather suggested by him in response to enquiries) had started in the field of agriculture in different places through different people. These initiatives were only tenuously related to each other. The question of a course in the general principles of such agriculture had been pondered and posed repeatedly by certain individuals – by Count Lerchenfeld, Ernst Stegemann and others. The real initiative for this, though, finally came from two much younger people, born just before the turn of the century, who had been working in agriculture for only a few years, but with great intensity. These were Erhard Bartsch and Immanuel Voegele

Immanuel Voegele came from a family of Swabian Pietists, and originally had no connection with agriculture. His father was a notary. Voegele’s grandfather, however, had done a little work as a winegrower and often spoke to his grandson about the dangers of chemical fertilizer in gardens and on the land. Shortly before the start of the First World War, Voegele left his home in Schoendorf and, at just 17, embarked on an agricultural training in West Prussia. Called up to the army and wounded, he spent some difficult years hospitalized and recovering, and then met Rudolf Steiner after the war ended when the latter was giving the great Threefold Social Order lectures in Württemberg. These made a lasting impression on Voegele, and he then took up agricultural studies in Hohenheim and at a young age became the manager of Guldesmühle farm near Dischingen, which formed part of the estates of Der Kommende Tag. He listened to Rudolf Steiner speak there about new agricultural methods and repeatedly asked him for advice. Steiner praised Voegele for his approach to composting, and the latter was present when Eugen Kolisko and the vet Joseph Werr successfully treated with the support of Rudolf Steiner, and, with Lili Kolisko, set about devel- oping other medicines for animals. At the request of Carl von Keyserlingk, however, Immanuel Voegele moved to Silesia, and from 1921, when he was 24, he managed one of the estates that were under the Count’s direction. Immanuel Voegele was present when Rudolf Steiner visited Koberwitz at the end of January 1922. A few months later, in a small circle, he cautiously expressed his view that probably only Rudolf Steiner would be able to help agriculture in a full and comprehensive way, in the form of a specialist course. He said this in conversation with Erhard Bartsch, a son of the Rector Moritz Bartsch, with whom Voegele had made friends on Count Keyserlingk’s estates. Erhard was two years older than Immanuel and had already met Rudolf Steiner in 1913, when he, Bartsch, was 18. He too had survived the First World War – as aeroplane pilot – with severe wounds, and like his friend Voegele had been inspired by the threefold initiative in Württemberg, which he was studying and promoting locally. On his return to Breslau, he ran the threefold alliance office there, and organized speakers – but at the same time he trained as a farmer alongside his university studies. Like Immanuel Voegele, Erhard Bartsch worked on Carl Keyserlingk’s estates. In his letter to Rudolf Steiner in the summer of 1920, Carl made positive mention of the 25-year-old son of Moritz Bartsch and his plans for a ‘consumers’ association. Thus Erhard Bartsch, too, felt very connected with the tasks and current problems facing agriculture the questions of quality, of dubious pest control methods and of livestock health. He also met Rudolf Steiner again at the end of January 1922 at Koberwitz Mansion. His response to the thoughts of his friend Immanuel Voegele was supportive, immediate and impulsive: ‘Let’s go for it and get on with it!

Immanuel Voegele and Erhard Bartsch belonged to the younger generation of anthroposophists and had suffered and experienced at first-hand the horrors of the front in the First World War but also the uplifting and potentially healing significance of anthroposophy in relation to difficult post-war social conditions. They knew that Rudolf Steiner’s help would be decisive for agriculture and was urgently needed. They therefore decided to support their request to Steiner by collecting the names of farmers interested in anthroposophy, sending out an ‘appeal’ to them on 22 May 1922, shortly after Rudolf Steiner’s second visit to Koberwitz. After duly receiving the replies they then turned to Rudolf Steiner himself in August 1922:

Farmers belonging to the anthroposophical movement, perceiving the vital necessity of their profession and what anthroposophy means for its accomplishment, very much desire to work in their field along spiritual-scientific lines. The first step to realizing this goal would no doubt be if you, esteemed Herr Dr Steiner, would give the general spiritual-scientific foundations and specific suggestions for engaging with agricultural questions, in a course or series of lectures.

Immanuel Voegele and Erhard Bartsch told Rudolf Steiner that their enquiries had met with a whole-hearted response from anthroposophically oriented farmers and others interested in agriculture. They said that they had already received many questions relating to such a course. They wrote, further:

Based on the questionnaire we circulated, we now have the names of 38 people interested in such a course, of whom 35 belong to the Anthroposophical Society and 29 work in farming or related professions. We enclose the list of names and addresses received. The decision as to who of these may attend will no doubt need to be based on that you yourself will give guidelines

This letter from Immanuel Voegele and Erhard Bartsch was personally handed to Rudolf Steiner by Ernst Umlauf, the branch manager of the Anthroposophical Society in Breslau. But Rudolf Steiner’s response was reticent: ‘Yes, an agricultural course will certainly be needed at some point, but for the time being the project does not yet have sufficient strength to sustain it. Bartsch and Voegele later received a more detailed explanation of these words from Guenther Wachsmuth, who also held the post of secretary to Steiner in Dornach: ‘Rudolf Steiner would be glad to hear whether and in what way his future audience has already formed ideas on the requested theme.‘ At this, Voegele and Bartsch intensified their work, meeting each other regularly. Other young people wishing to prepare the ground for an agricultural course given by Steiner also joined the small Breslau study group. These included the youth-movement member and chemist Franz Dreidax and a 19-year-old farmer and agricultural student Almar von Wistinghausen, who heard about the Breslau preparatory group from his brother Kurt von Wistinghausen. Erhard’s brother Hellmut Bartsch, who ran an estate under Carl Keyserlingk’s direction, was also part of this work and group of friends from the beginning.

Camphill Correspondence April 1978

Given by Dr. Karl König at Brachenreuthe

WE HAVE GATHERED TONIGHT in order to remember our friend Erhardt Bartsch. Tomorrow, four years will have passed since he crossed the threshold of death, filled with new intentions and new impulses. It has not been possible for him to carry out these decisions any more; yet he has planted seeds in the hearts of many people and a few of these seeds have begun to germinate.

We who have gathered here today know that a kind of destiny has made it possible that the ideas of Erhardt Bartsch have been able to meet the impulses of the Camphill Movement and that through this meeting this germination could start. The two intentions, which are so much related to each other, met and were able to recognise that they have a common path.

What is all this about? If we search for the original impulses which work in this matter, then we shall find first and foremost the Agricultural Course, which was held at Whitsun forty years ago by our teacher Rudolf Steiner. In these lectures as well as in the events that then took place at Koberwitz, the following was intended: The awakening of a new agricultural thinking and acting ; the renewal of a modern spiritual peasantry through whose work a gradual healing of the soil and the entire kingdom of the plants can become possible . These are three steps:

  • The Awakening of Thinking and Action.
  • The Renewal of Peasantry
  • The Healing of Soil and Plant

From Koberwitz Rudolf Steiner travelled to Jena ; there he opened the Lauenstein as the first curative home and immediately after this he held at Dornach the Curative Course . This is the second fountain- head which can be found . Through this course the possibility was given to change in future much destiny which had been misunderstood thousands of times. Because at that time – forty years ago – Curative Education was still a modest chapter in the social co-operation of man. Today it has become a great social question. Millions of children are unable to follow their rightly designed way of incarnation. The deviations become more and more manifold, intricate and numerous. These children are the victims of the human catastrophe of today, within which we already live. To make it possible that these children can unfold their soul-spirit-being despite their handicaps, for this aim a way has been opened for the future through the Curative Course at Dornach.

From the meeting of these two streams, coming from the renewed agriculture and from the embracing curative education, there developed the Village Impulse as a third new stream. And it is very interesting to see that at any place where the attempt is made to lead stranded, rejected, stunted human existence back into holy humanity – there develop, so to speak instinctively – Villages. These impulses are very well meant, yet very seldom are they real villages. They become settlements and therefore they forego the healing power and the healing stream of the motherly earth power. But on this everything depends. Because only where the new agricultural impulse unites itself with the renewal of humanity for all the outcasts, will there develop what Erhardt Bartsch has worked for and waited for.

These will be villages where the farmer will be responsible for the land, the animals, the plants. Around him will gather craftsmen, artists and artisans in order to work and create out of new spiritual joy. Schools shall be built in these villages, wherein a renewed way of education shall come to life. And the new Christianity shall find there its foundation and ground in order to lead the parents in such a way that their children may grow into men who will become in a declining civilization the carriers of a new culture: preparers of the sixth epoch.

The first steps towards this distant goal shall be attempted from now onwards in this place. The group of farmers and gardeners shall unite under this aspect in order to take on responsibility in mutual understanding and common striving. Then something good may arise from it.

More … which google translates as:

In 1914 he went to war as an officer cadet in the artillery, but in 1916 he switched to the Feldflugtruppe. For his efforts he was awarded the Knight’s Cross with Crown and Swords of the Hollenzollern House Order. After the end of the war he was accepted into the 100,000-man army, but left at his own request in 1920 and headed the office of the Union for Threefolding in Breslau. Then he turned to agriculture and received his doctorate in 1925 from the University of Breslau with very good results.

At the same time, he completed a one-year internship with Carl Graf von Keyserlingk at the Koberwitz Castle estate near Breslau. Together with Immanuel Vögele, he looked for people interested in Rudolf Steiner’s agricultural course and worked out questions for such a course. The course took place in 1924 at Keyserlingk’s invitation at Koberwitz Castle.

The former Reich Chancellor Georg Michaelis, who was very interested in biodynamic agriculture, offered Bartsch his 100-hectare Marienhöhe farm near Bad Saarow in Brandenburg for sale, which consisted largely of extremely sandy soil. In 1928 Bartsch acquired this farm thanks to a donation of 30,000 Reichsmarks. Bartsch, who played a central role in the founding of the Anthroposophical Society’s experimental circle, was given responsibility for the ring’s monthly communications. In 1930 the reports were discontinued and Bartsch became editor of the new monthly magazine Demeter alongside Franz Dreidax, of which he became the sole editor from 1933.[1]

Bartsch managed the office of the experimental circle in Bad Saarow, where its regular winter conferences took place and where, on his initiative, its center and from 1933 that of the “Reich Association for Biodynamic Farming” were located. Bartsch’s father, Moritz Bartsch, wrote in January 1932 that “staunch National Socialists” were also present at the 1931 agricultural winter conference in Bad Saarow. In 1933 he married Emma Wurzer.

Bartsch initially had high hopes for National Socialism and Hitler as a person; he saw a favorable perspective for biodynamic cultivation in Darré’s self-sufficiency program. He advocated a ‘culture-bearing peasantry’ and hoped that the Nazi state would strengthen organic farming against the vehement and existence-threatening attacks of the chemical industry. The leading representatives of the biodynamic movement were generally positive, at least loyal, to his activities. When Bartsch resisted the ideological appropriation of biodynamic agriculture detached from anthroposophy and resolutely refused to join the NSDAP, the party’s internal supporters could no longer support the ecological method.

A visit by Darré – effectively already deprived of power in 1939 after a conflict with Himmler and suspended from office in 1942 – on the farm in 1940 and a subsequent favourable statement by the Reich Peasant Leader to the members of the Reich Peasant Council had no effect. In a letter to the Reichsbauernführer Walther Darré dated June 20, 1940, he wrote:

“I noticed in Marienhöhe that Dr. Bartsch must be on the right track because the results of his farming methods are clearly in his favour. The success clearly speaks for Dr. Bartsch. If science and our previous agricultural management theory have no explanation for these successes, that is their business. For us, only performance and success can be decisive.”

The Reich Association for Biodynamic Farming was dissolved in 1941, and Bartsch was imprisoned twice in the Gestapo prison on Alexanderplatz in Berlin, partly on the grounds that he had sabotage the Reich production battle. After his release on November 30, 1941, he was allowed to continue to work at Marienhöhe and continue to run the farm under a kind of house arrest.

In 1950 he moved to the farm of his wife and sister-in-law, the Wurzerhof in Scheifling (Sankt Georgen am Längsee municipality) near St. Veit an der Glan in Carinthia. There he took the initiative to combine agriculture and curative education and to train disabled young people for agriculture.