The Association of Friends of Schloss Wiepersdorf
The Association of Friends of Schloss Wiepersdorf – Bettina and Achim von Arnim, an independent non-governmental organization
Who we are
The Association of Friends, a registered non-profit organization according to German law, represents an independent circle of friends supporting literature and related cultural activities. It was established in 1991 in Frankfurt at the Goethe House and has enjoyed its support since then. Its main focus of activities has been shifting to Berlin.
The Association of friends supports the Cultural Foundation Schloss Wiepersdorf (Kulturstiftung Schloss Wiepersdorf) as a place for lively debates, creative work and substantive encounters. It contributed actively to its foundation in 1918/1919 inculding a hearing to the Brandenburg parliament. In 2023 it established a close cooperation with the Berlin Literary Action - the "Berliner Literarische Aktion". I
Schloss Wiepersdorf was the historic home of Bettina and Achim von Arnim, the famous romantic literary couple, who moved there in 1814. Their works, European romanticism and its role as a precursor to modern literature, the arts and music are given our special attention.
The Association has handed over responsibility for the "Bettina und Achim von Arnim - Museum" at Wiepersdorf, to the Cultural Foundation in 2019. It was renovated in 2022.
Learn more about the history of Schloss Wiepersdorf
Three years after their marriage in 1811, Bettina and Achim von Arnim moved from Berlin to Wiepersdorf. Both are key figures in German romanticism and became well-known all over Germany and beyond. Throughout her life Bettina von Arnim, née Brentano from Frankfurt with an Italian family background from her father's side, was passionately advocating greater individual freedoms and social justice. Her pleas to reduce poverty were widely known. She urged Prussian King Frederick William IV to grant freedom to Poland, partly occupied by Prussia. She was also known as a supporter to the revolution of 1848 though attached to the idea of a monarchy between the sovereign and his people ("people`s monarchy"). In her honor, a German emigré group supportive to the pre-revolutionary movement of 1848, founded a settlement in Texas/US named "Bettina". It was short-lived, however.
A portrait of Bettina von Arnim, painted by her grandson Achim von Arnim-Baerwalde (who lived at Wiepersdorf), was made available by the Association of Friends to the official residence of the German Federal President at Schloss Bellevue. President Steinmeier selected it for his office in 2022.
Schloss Wiepersdorf remained in the Arnim family until 1945, when Soviet troops occupied the place. The last private owner of the three Arnim-family estates Wiepersdorf, Zernikow and the medieval castle Bärwalde (close to Wiepersdorf, destroyed in 1947) was Friedmund von Arnim, who died in 1946 as a prisoner in the Soviet Union. His sister, the painter Bettina Encke von Arnim, initiated the transformation of Schloss Wiepersdorf into a public literary retreat for writers and artists. She was supported by Ivan Katz, a former Communist and Jewish member of the Reichstag, who enjoyed protection by Friedmund von Arnim and by the Encke family during the Nazi-era. Starting in 1946, at the initiative of Bettina Encke, Schloss Wiepersdorf became a holiday home and place for studies in the GDR-era. The Arnim-family then left East Germany.
In East Germany (GDR, German Democratic Republic) Wiepersdorf quickly became a much cherished retreat for writers. A pre-requisite to stay in Wiepersdorf after 1946 was a permission by the East German Writers Union, which became owner in 1956. Its first president was Anna Seghers, who often came to Wiepersdorf. Many residents, also from Central Eastern Europe, became attached. On 4th April 1965 Schloss Wiepersdorf was named “Bettina von Arnim-Heim” on the occasion of her 180th birthday. Ownership was transferred to the “Kulturfonds” in 1979. Famous alumni such as Martin Mosebach, Thomas Rosenlöcher, Rüdiger Safranski, Marcel Beyer, Agus Sarjono and Svetlana Alixejevitch, the 2015 Nobel-prize laureate for literature from Belarus, added to the reputation of Wiepersdorf.
After German unification the Association of Friends was established.
Friedmund von Arnim’s s wife Clara von Arnim, née von Hagens, took the initiative in order to allow for a smooth transition from the East German use of the house as a residence to the Kulturfonds, then to the new owner, the Foundation for the preservation of Historical monuments (Deutsche Stftung Denkmalschutz). She renounced her entitlement as the heiress to claims for compensation and secured the transfer of the literary heritage as a gift to the Weimar Classic Foundation. For placing public over private interest, German Federal President Johannes Rau awarded her the Maecenas Prize of the Circle of Independent Cultural Institutes in 1999. Professor Hartwig Schultz, the former Head of the Brentano Department at the Goethe-House in Frankfurt followed Clara von Arnim as chairman until 2013, when Ambassador (ret.) Dr Norbert Baas was elected his successor and has been chairman since then. He served as German Ambassador in Georgia, South Korea and Indonesia including ASEAN. Previously, he was director for relations with Russia, Central Eastern Europe and the Caucasus. Norbert Baas was re-elected in 2022 as President of the German Association of Friends of the Johns Hopkins University SAIS Europe. He is married to Dr. Annabel von Arnim-Baas, a pediatrician and a descendent of Bettina and Achim von Arnim. Clara and Fiedmund von Arnim were her grandparents. Norbert and Annabel Baas live in Berlin. The couple have two children.
In 2006, the German Foundation for the Preservation of Historical Monuments became owner of Schloss Wiepersdorf and managed the place. The State of Brandenburg took over in 2019, based on a law establishing a "Cultural Foundation" (Kulturstiftung) adopted by Parliament. This was an initiative emanating from the Association of Friends, which greatly welcomes the new structural architecture.
In October 2015, the Association of Friends, in cooperation with the Artist Residency, held a symposium on how the perception of romanticism evolved in East Germany (GDR).. The writings of Franz Fühmann and of both Christa and Gerhard Wolf shed new light on German romanticism, which had met with scepticism during the first years of the German Democratic Republic but became more and more accepted underlining the growing desire for societal transformation and greater freedoms of expression. In 2017, the Association published a book “Die Blaue Blume in der DDR – Bezüge zur Romantik zwischen politischer Kontrolle und ästhetischem Eigensinn” (Quintus-Verlag Berlin) with fifteen contributors, edited by Friederike Frach and Norbert Baas.
Gifts or membership contributions to the Association of Friends are highly welcome. They are tax-deductible according to German law and used exclusively to support writers who are in need. In memoriam Bettina von Arnim, the Association arranged several fellowships in the past, the last one by the Martin-Roth-Initiative for Ma Thida (Myanmar) 2022/23 covering a one-year stay in Berlin. She is the Chairwoman of the Committee for writers-in-prison of PEN International.
To lend support to artists in need, in particlar refugees, the Association of Friends of Wiepersdorf are grateful for gifts. Transfers to the account „Freundeskreis Schloss Wiepersdorf e.V.“, Mittelbrandenburgische Sparkasse, IBAN: DE90 1605 0000 1000 5265 81, BIC: WELADED1PMB. Recipients will be carefully selected in cooperation with PEN.
The Association would greatly appreciate applications for membership. The annual minimum contribution is 30,00 Euros. Please contact us for any question or queries at
Board of the Association of Friends:
Dr Norbert Baas, Ambassador (ret.), chairman, Berlin
Elisabeth von Haebler, editor of the Journal "Ästhetik und Kommunikation" (Berlin), deputy chair
Philipp von Knebel Doeberitz-Forssman, treasuer and accountant, Wiesbaden
Additional advising Member:
Dr Asmus Trautsch, philosophy and arts
Board of Advisors:
Dr Reinhard Anders, former member of the Volkskammer
Dr Hildegard Baumgart, author
Professor Dr Wolfgang Bunzel, Head of the Brentano Department, Goethe House Frankfurt
Dr Friedrich Dieckmann, author, Berlin
Dr Christian Ehler, Member of the European Parliament
Dr Friederike Frach, directon of the Brandenburg Literary Council
Lisa Schmitz, artist and exhibitions
Dr Torsten Walter, lawyer, legal advice