Famous personalities

Karl Friedrich Schinkel, Peter Joseph Lenné, Karl August Fürst von Hardenberg, Hermann Fürst von Pückler-Muskau, Carl-Hans Graf von Hardenberg: all of these famous people have some connection with Neuhardenberg.

Karl Friedrich Schinkel

Karl Friedrich Schinkel, who was born in Neuruppin on 13 March 1781 and died on 9 October 1841 in Berlin, is one of Germany’s most important 19th century architects. Although a child of Romanticism, he helped neoclassical architecture to achieve unexpected importance far beyond the borders of Prussia.

Schinkel’s complex understanding of architecture, which encompassed formal, functional, social and historical factors and always linked function and beauty through Mediaeval and Greek elements, made him a role model for entire generations of architects. Schinkel also had a major influence on theatre design and on monument conservation. The many different facets of his creative output can be seen in Aachen or in Kaliningrad, in Dresden or in Saint Petersburg, but above all in Berlin, where he worked for decades as an architect and a city planner, a landscape painter and a designer.

It is also the site of his most outstanding buildings, which still define Berlin’s urban landscape to this day (for example the Altes Museum, the Friedrichswerdersche Kirche church, the Konzerthaus Berlin theatre, the Neue Wache and the Schlossbrücke bridge).

Schinkel not only influenced urban architecture but also interior design; he exhibited paintings, was involved in the conservation of monuments and also designed stage settings and numerous objets d’art.

One of the most unusual buildings created by Schinkel at the beginning of his career can be found quite near Schloss Neuhardenberg. It is the ‘Vorwerk Bärwinkel’, a former estate office and dairy building constructed from bog ore in 1802/03 in the style of an early Christian basilica, and the first example Romanesque revival architecture on the European continent. The architect himself later considered it ‘his most important early work’.

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Peter Joseph Lenné

Peter Joseph Lenné, who was born in Bonn in 1789 and died in Berlin in 1866, was one of Germany’s most important 19th century garden and landscape designers.

The parks and gardens he designed still govern the urban landscape of the cities of Berlin and Potsdam in many places, even today. His remodelling of the lakeland landscape between these two cities, which combines usefulness with beauty according to the motto of ‘landscape improvement’, is a major example of early German landscape design that has had a lasting impact.

With the Kloster Berge public gardens in Magdeburg, he created one of the first urban public parks in Germany, thereby establishing a new, progressive tradition. Berlin’s layout still reflects his designs for the improvement of the city.

Many of Germany’s parks and public gardens were laid out on the basis of his designs. His best-known works are the park at Sanssouci Palace in Potsdam and the Grosser Tiergarten park in Berlin, both of which he remodelled extensively. His work has greatly inspired many gardeners and landscape designers across the generations.

Lenné was one of the founding members of the horticultural college in Potsdam-Wildpark, which was established in 1823 and later moved to Berlin-Dahlem. The introduction of a university degree course in garden and landscape design in Berlin was inspired by this college. The respective professions were initially defined in 1929 by the agricultural institute, which was integrated into the present-day Humboldt-Universität as the Institute of Agricultural and Horticultural Sciences in 1934. As a result of the division of the city, a second such department was established at the Technical Academy Berlin (now TU Berlin) in the early 1950s.

Due to their comprehensive approach, stylistic and gardening craftsmanship and their combination of the beautiful with the useful, Lenné’s designs continue to inspire landscape designers, architects and artists.

Karl August von Hardenberg

Karl August Freiherr von Hardenberg was born on 31 May 1750 in Essenrode (near Brunswick) and was elevated to ‘Fürst’, or prince, in 1814. His father Christian Ludwig was a colonel in the service of the House of Hanover. The Hardenbergs were one of the country’s most respected and wealthy landowning families. When the Seven Years’ War broke out, the Hardenberg family moved from Essenrode to Hanover. On June 8, 1774, Hardenberg married the countess Christiane Gräfin von Reventlow. He worked in local government for the House of Hanover until 1782, then went on to serve the Duke of Brunswick. In 1790, the Margrave of Ansbach-Bayreuth appointed him as one of his ministers.

Hardenberg became a Prussian minister in 1791 and oversaw the incorporation of the margraviate of Ansbach-Bayreuth into the Prussian state. Subsequently, he was entrusted with the government of the new Prussian province.

In 1795, he made a decisive contribution to the negotiations for the separate peace agreed between France and Prussia at Basel, which compensated Prussia for the loss of its land on the left bank of the Rhine with territories on the right bank of the river. Hardenberg left the province in 1798; he had been summoned to Berlin to take up a post in the ministry of foreign affairs.

He was appointed head of the ministry in 1804, and in 1806, after the Prussian defeat near Jena and Auerstedt, he was Prussia’s most senior minister for a while. However, still in the same year, he was dismissed at the urging of Napoleon. In 1807, he was again appointed minister for a brief spell but had to resign, again by order of Napoleon. Hardenberg then went to Riga. From there, he acted as adviser to the Prussian king Frederick William III, recommending for instance the appointment of Freiherr vom Stein as head minister.

In 1810, after Stein’s dismissal, which had actually been recommended by Hardenberg himself, he was appointed state chancellor of Prussia. He continued to implement the reforms which Stein had initiated: he attempted to introduce equal taxation for all Prussians (which the aristocracy naturally objected to), continued to pursue the abolishment of serfdom, guaranteed Jews equal rights, dismantled the strict rules imposed by the guilds and the restrictions limiting free trade, and secularised church property.

Initially, he pursued a policy of cautious rapprochement towards France – in 1812, he formed an alliance with Napoleon against Russia. Following Napoleon’s defeat in Russia in 1813, he formed an alliance with Russia against France in the German Campaign of 1813. In 1814/15, Hardenberg represented Prussia at the Vienna Congress and succeeded in securing considerable territorial gains for Prussia. He subsequently reorganised and standardised Prussian government procedures; however, due the European Restoration, his plans to remodel the ‘representation of the estates’ failed, as did some of the other reforms proposed by him.

Hardenberg died on 26 November 1822 in Genoa. His body was brought back to Neuhardenberg and buried in the mausoleum there. At his own request, his heart was preserved and integrated into the altar of Neuhardenberg’s Schinkel Church, where it still rests today.

Hermann von Pückler

Hermann Ludwig Heinrich Fürst von Pückler-Muskau was born on 30 October 1785 at Muskau Castle (Upper Lusatia) and died on 4 February 1871 at Schloss Branitz near Cottbus. He was a renowned landscape designer, a widely travelled adventurer, a liberal writer, a dandy and the subject of numerous anecdotes, in short one of the most colourful men of his time.

His 1817 marriage to the divorced countess Lucie von Pappenheim, daughter of Karl August Fürst von Hardenberg, made Pückler the Prussian state chancellor’s son-in-law.

From 1813 onwards, the heir to one of Germany’s largest estates took part in the German Campaign of 1813, became adjutant to the Grand Duke of Saxe-Weimar and, for a brief period, military governor of Bruges. His first journey to England greatly inspired his later landscaping of the grounds of the stately homes at Muskau, Branitz and Neuhardenberg.

His frequent sojourns to Berlin brought him into intensive contact with literary circles (friendships with Rahel and Karl August Varnhagen von Ense, E.T.A. Hoffmann, Heinrich Heine, Bettina von Arnim).

His passion for landscape gardening and his eccentric lifestyle cost a fortune; he therefore agreed to a pro forma divorce (supposedly suggested by his wife and sanctioned by the King), which would allow him to boost his finances by way of marriage to a wealthy English lady.

Unfortunately, his stay in England between 1826 and 1829 to secure such a one did not lead to the desired outcome; however, the account of his travels in the form of letters to Lucie, edited by Varnhagen (‘Briefe eines Verstorbenen’, later published in English as ‘Tour in England, Ireland and France in the years 1828 and 1829 by a German Prince’), were a literary sensation and one of the 19th century’s most spectacularly successful books.

Pückler travelled to Algeria, Tunis and Greece in 1835; toured Egypt in 1837, and visited the Levant and Asia Minor in 1838. Finally, in 1845, he was forced to sell Muskau and moved to Schloss Branitz with the wife he had divorced but never really separated from. He spent the rest of his life there, in her company.

Carl-Hans von Hardenberg

Carl-Hans von Hardenberg was born on 22 October 1891 in Glogau, and died on 24 October 1958 in Frankfurt am Main. He was the great-great-grandnephew of the Prussian state chancellor Karl August von Hardenberg, and the last member of the aristocratic family to live at Neuhardenberg. Carl-Hans von Hardenberg studied agriculture, forestry and banking and was severely wounded in World War I. He left the army and inherited the estate from his uncle Cuno in 1921.

During the global farm crisis of the 1920s, Hardenberg and his wife Renate, née countess Gräfin von der Schulenburg-Lieberose (1888-1959), managed to avoid the bankruptcy that befell many other estates. As befitted his station, Hardenberg was a patriot and became successfully involved in local politics. Hardenberg objected to the alliance the Nazis sought to establish with the aristocracy very early on, and resigned from all of his public offices as soon as Adolf Hitler came to power so he would not be forced to join the Nazi party.

He was called up at the beginning of World War II, and in the autumn of 1940, he became personal adjutant to field marshal General Fedor von Bock. After Bock was relieved of his command of Army Group Centre, Hardenberg returned to his family estate in the summer of 1942. He soon started to discuss the idea of a coup against Hitler with Henning von Tresckow, Bock’s nephew; and Schloss Neuhardenberg subsequently became a meeting place for the leaders of the military opposition, including Claus von Stauffenberg, Werner von Haeften and Ludwig Beck. The group’s plans for a post-Hitler Germany included installing Carl-Hans von Hardenberg as the governor of Berlin and Brandenburg.

On 20 July 1944, the day of the assassination attempt, Hardenberg was in the Bendlerblock building in Berlin, the resistance movement’s city headquarters. He was arrested by the Gestapo in dramatic circumstances in the Garden Room of Schloss Neuhardenberg, albeit not until four days later, together with his daughter Reinhild. He attempted to commit suicide, but failed, and was sent to Sachsenhausen concentration camp, where he survived thanks only to the ministrations of one of his fellow prisoners, the communist Paul Hofmann.

Hardenberg was one of the inmates freed when Soviet troops liberated the camp on 22 April 1945. Following the Soviet land reform, which de facto reinstated the Nazi expropriation of the Neuhardenberg estate, he left the Soviet-occupied zone for his old family seat Nörten-Hardenberg near Göttingen, where he dedicated himself to managing the Hohenzollern fortune for the rest of his life whilst his wife presided over the ‘Stiftung Hilfswerk 20 Juli’, a charity set up in memory of the spirit of that fateful 20 July 1944.

In 1991, on the 100th anniversary of Carl-Hans von Hardenberg’s birth, his urn and that of his wife were brought to Neuhardenberg and buried on the east side of the church.

In memory of her father, Astrid Gräfin von Hardenberg established the Carl-Hans Graf von Hardenberg-Stiftung foundation in 1997. The foundation is dedicated to the education and training of young people in the Märkisch-Oderland district and other areas nearby, also across the border in Poland.