The German Embassy in Athens will launch an initiative on its social media on Friday, celebrating the bicentenary of the 1821 Greek War of Independence by highlighting 21 German philhellenes.
As part of this initiative, entitled #germanphilhellenes2021, the embassy’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram accounts, will introduce us to one German philhellene every Friday along with contemporaneous passages and testimonies from German philhellenes in Greece and Germany.
This social media initiative is an invitation by the German embassy to join it as it follows in the footsteps of these German philhellenes. These include Karl Krazeisen, military officer and amateur painter whose portrait of Greek hero Theodoros Kolokotronis was used on the Greek five thousand drachma bill, and medical doctor Heinrich Treiber, who embalmed the murdered body of Ioannis Kapodistrias, the first Greek head of state.
The German embassy stresses that the majority of the 1200 philhellenes that arrived in Greece from northern and western Europe following the outbreak of war in 1821 were from the German states and that Germans sacrificed a lot for Greek freedom, with the highest number of casualties among all non-Greek participants.
It is evident that the Greek War of Independence was an extremely popular cause in Germany and its champions were successful in mobilizing the population to support the war effort. An impassioned pamphlet published by Leipzig University professor Wilhelm Traugott Krug “The Rebirth of Greece,” in which he expressed his full solidarity with Greek efforts to achieve liberty, was very influential and had a significant impact on German public discourse. Years before the revolution, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, the famous poet, and philhellene, had expressed his desire for a free Greek state in his work “Iphigenia In Tauris.”
The German Embassy notes that there was, what we would call today, “hype” about the Greek cause in Germany. Greece was a nostalgic ideal, romantically envisioned as a land of hope, freedom of expression, and progress.
The German Embassy also seeks to show how the Greek revolution impacted society and culture at home. It stresses that the Greek War of Independence and its aftermath “were a source of inspiration both for public discourse and the arts and affected the creation of a nascent German identity.”
Finally, the German embassy argues that “it is undeniable that the Greek War of Independence is an important milestone and inspiration for the development of democracy and parliamentarianism both in Europe and much farther away.”
The #germanphilhellenes2021 initiative is a collaboration between the German embassy, the National History Museum, the Society for Hellenism and Philhellenism, and the Philhellenism Museum.