Supplementary Appendix 128.1

Johann Heinrich Liebeskind’s account
of prisoner conditions and treatment in Königstein [*]


During the period when things began going badly for the French in Mainz, the rabble in Frankfurt am Main could find no greater amusement than to vent every conceivable act of malice on the so-called Clubbists who were being brought in. The name “Clubbist” referred to any and all persons even remotely associated with the French, and, on closer observation, even many who had no relationship with them at all. . . .

Arrest in the fortress [Königstein] was in fact intended not as punishment, but as a kind of quarantine where, as a precautionary measure, those coming from locales where the political plague had reigned, even were they themselves not infected, had to linger until they were sufficiently cleansed — lest otherwise healthy territories be infected as well.

Be that as it may, in April 1793 I saw nearly fifty Clubbists led up to the house of the Prussian commandant on the Rossmarkt square in Frankfurt. . . .


This small group of Clubbists could hardly be distinguished from the vast, raging, seething crowd of people surrounding them on all sides. Revenge, schadenfreude, and curiosity could be read in almost equal measure on every person’s face, and I found there not a few originals to those depicted in Hogarth’s works.



At the head of the Clubbists, as notabilities, stood Professor Blau from Mainz cross-tethered with a young Clubbist, Chaplain Arensberger from Kastel [1], a tutor, and a physician. These prisoners especially had to endure quite a bit at the hands of the unrestrained rabble, who showered down on them every conceivable profanity and imprecation. And where profanities and imprecations did not reach, stones certainly could, or a stinking egg or rotten apple, traces of which could be seen especially on the dark-blue overcoat of Professor Blau. Occasionally such concrete and verbal injuries coincided, as when the crowd jabbed the Clubbists in the ribs and spit in their faces. [2]

Anyone able to imagine a swarm of enraged apes, with all their strange grimaces and baring of teeth, will have an approximate picture of the Frankfurt rabble the present author had the displeasure of having observed at the time.

But were the captured Clubbists not protected by guards? Oh, there were indeed guards with them; but in part these protectors did nothing whatsoever to engage the attackers , and in part the soldiers themselves — if I be not mistaken, they were from Darmstadt — certainly exhibited no good intentions toward the Clubbists. . . .

Journey from Frankfurt to Königstein

This journey of two miles, [3] taken on a beautiful spring afternoon, will remain unforgettable for me because it was the most painful I have ever had in my entire life. . . .


The officer who escorted the 50 Clubbists mentioned above from Frankfurt to Königstein was an aristocratic enragé who, perhaps out of a sense of misunderstood patriotism, forgot not only the obligations of the office entrusted to him, but also those of humanity itself.

He often forced the fatigued prisoners to march up and down the hills in lock step. An older peasant with swollen feet received blows from the sword each time he fell behind until he was able to gather his strength again and stumble along with the others for a bit. This fellow ended his wretched life after a few days in prison.

The Frankfurt rabble, which accompanied the procession of prisoners far beyond the city gates, seemed unable to find sufficient words to express its displeasure to the so-called Clubbists. . . .

A soldier who, from the looks of his uniform, was a regular, also joined the rabble. He, too, was keen on venting his anger. “Let me give you a souvenir to take along with you,” he said with clenched teeth. No sooner had he finished his sentence before his sword was drawn and he gave three nasty blows each to Professor Blau and Chaplain Arensberger, so nasty in fact that both the men and the sword were bent . . . .

Various carriages brought up the rear behind the procession of Clubbists. I myself sat in one of these carriages in an otherwise unoccupied back seat. For a while I had the leisure to make my observations undisturbed and, alternately, to surrender myself to my various feelings at the time without drawing the attention of what I would almost call my cannibalistic accompaniment [the rabble outside the coach]. By means of a peculiar qui pro quo, [4] someone in the crowd thought he recognized in me one of the prisoners, to wit, Wedekind, who, as is well known, had made himself a hated man especially in Mainz. Much to my chagrin, this mistaken identity spread more quickly than was comfortable for me, and in a thrice a whole throng of rabble was swarming about my carriage in order to view, in me, this alleged Wedekind. There could be no thought of correcting the mistake here!

The seeming indifference and sympathetic smile with which I thought it best to respond to their vulgar invectives made one of these fools almost fall into a rage — someone who seemed to have taken it upon himself to demonstrate to Wedekind his hatred in the most severe fashion.

I had just enough time to duck behind a curtain to prevent this man, whose expression left absolutely no doubt as to what his intentions were, from casting the rock he was holding aloft, never losing sight of me. The abusive invectives continued. I had just been trying to see if it was possible to think about something else for a moment without listening to what was going on around and next to me, when suddenly I was jarred as if from sleep by the words of man who swore high and low that he “would be willing to eat no meat for a month” if he were but permitted to “plunge a knife” into my body.

One unrestrained group of people replaced the other, pursuing the prisoners with fresh rage even beyond the border [of Frankfurt and the neighboring villages on the route to Königstein]. Young and old alike streamed out of houses, from village to village, as if out of a wasp’s nest, pushing toward us to add its contingent to the sum of popular indisposition being poured out in full measure upon this prisoner transport, till they [we] finally arrived in Königstein. Because the residents of Konigstein had suffered so much under the French, the anticipated welcome at least of the Clubbists was certainly a concern. And yet these people showed themselves to be quite elevated above the Frankfurt Johann Hagel [5] as far as humane behavior was concerned. One neither heard nor saw any evidence of schadenfreude. On most of the faces one saw merely pale worry, for a feeling of one’s own misfortune invariably creates empathy with the misery of others.

Dinner in the Prison

The prisoner transport arrived in Königstein around 5:00. They were brought into one of the fortress courtyards all in a group and then parceled out into the various prison blocks.

The high, ancient walls, the dull, enclosed air shaft, the cold, damp vapors that no sun warms, the sentries whose steps echo in the corridors, the clanging of the large iron locks on the cells, and the deathly silence that otherwise was spread out over everything like black down, the pale faces of the prisoners, the timidity with which occasionally the one or other quietly uttered a few syllables, the sighs that often broke forth quite loudly: all this could not but fill each and every person with the most gloomy premonition. Unaccustomed as I was to such scenes, my blood immediately curdled, as it were, and my feelings acquired such incisiveness that they began to gnaw at my very heart. Moreover, even then I was already aware that these prisoners included wholly innocent people. [6]

A very staid man, Hofrath B . . . , who, as I know for certain, is one of the most zealous and well-meaning aristocrats with regard to his territorial sovereign and territorial constitution, must have felt something similar. He pulled me aside and squeezed my hand with the following words: “Ah! My heart bleeds thinking about the fate of these people, who in part are wholly innocent, and in part doubtless never intended any ill with the actions they took.”

And when he heard that I would be staying here for a longer period, [7] he asked that I accept three Carolins in gold that he would leave me to distribute among the prisoners at my discretion. I had never seen this upright man previously, whose humanity, as it were, reconciled me with my experiences of that day, nor did I ever see him again, as much as I might have wished such.

The senior watch officer and fortress commandant, Herr von B . . . , [8] was fortunately a gentle, educated man whose cordial, affable appearance already contributed considerably to ameliorating the prisoners’ lot, notwithstanding he never wavered in maintaining order among so many people.

This was a day rich in contrasts for me. Imagine the free imperial city Frankfurt, and the fortress Königstein, the raging lieutenant who escorted the prisoners, and the gentle senior guard officer to whom they were delivered; the officer who delivered three crude blows to Professor Blau and Chaplain Arensberger at their departure, and the Hofrath, who in the fortress at his own departure pressed three Carolins into my hand for the prisoners.

I had good reason for asking the commandant to allow me to stay in the fortress and for voluntarily renouncing my own freedom for several days. [9] He was kind enough to allow me such with the appropriate restrictions. Now, quite by chance it happened that the watch lieutenant, to whom the commandant had handed over the guard detail, took me for a real prisoner despite my protestations, and because, as he said, he no longer had time to speak with the commandant about it, also shut me up in one of the cells with double doors. My cellmates were Professor Blau, Chaplain Arensberger, Scheyer, and a tutor, who malgré bongré had had to deliver the speech at the dedication of the freedom tree in Kastel. [10]


Blau and Scheyer were locked up together and still had to endure hand and foot chains at least for that day. “Tomorrow they will be removed,” the watch lieutenant said, “but if you are unruly, you will see what happens!” on which final words he emphatically raised his rod. The two prisoners “lit this devil a candle,” as the saying goes, and promised quite politely not to cause him the slightest inconvenience, whereupon the demon departed.

Now, however, my cellmates were greatly concerned at not knowing quite what they were to make of me, not least because at least for the time being they had to assume I was certainly a Clubbist imprisoned for his faith, though they had not yet heard anything about my alleged deeds.

I knew Professor Blau by reputation as a learned, philosophically inclined mind. This was not the place, however, to pay each other much in the way of mutual compliments about having the “honor and pleasure of making one’s personal acquaintance.” Our common lot abbreviated such niceties not inconsiderably.

Following a short discussion during which they came to trust me a bit, some of them asked me whether I thought they would be paying with their heads or be sentenced to life, both of which fates they had apparently been anticipating. For now, however, they were giving thanks to God for being safely removed from the persecution of the rabble, and Blau remarked that if he but had books, being sentenced to life in prison here would not make him particularly unhappy at all. . . .

The meal, a dish of potatoes prepared as vegetables, appeared to the great joy of all who were hungry, though, alas! without knives, spoons, or forks, since, as the enlisted soldier remarked, no more were to be had.

Finally a bottle of beer was also brought, but without glasses. . . .

When we had finished eating, the guard also took away our candles.

The bed frames were stuffed with straw and lacked mattresses, pillows, and covers. That is, the prisoners’ physical circumstances were also quite bad and wholly commensurate with the overall atmosphere. Professor Blau was doing particularly poorly because the three blows the officer had rained down on him with his sword had made his back bleed, and because, being locked up with another prisoner, he was unable to get even the slightest relief from his pain on the hard straw.

Various anecdotes they related to me demonstrated sufficiently how they nonetheless had reason enough to be satisfied with their current conditions.

Blau and Scheyer had already been led through one particular locale tethered together where they had to pause for a while. It goes without saying that all the residents swarmed around them like small birds around an owl. Among them, one man especially stood out. He initially approached them with an exaggerated, derisive politeness, and then suddenly fell upon them with both hands, like a bird of prey, gouging their cheeks, spitting, and swinging like an insane person, stamping their feet with his such that their buckles flew off, and all of it amid a torrent of the most abominable invectives and the most repugnant imprecations.

Although it would be difficult not to suspect that this man was indeed insane, nothing could be further from the truth. He is a man occupying a high office and in total possession of his senses. During the hearing, Blau recounted this episode and the man’s name for protocol. . . .

The next morning I left these four prisoners from whom I had heard so many interesting things.

The commandant was courteous enough to beg my pardon for the misunderstanding that had resulted in my having to spend an entire night among criminals. . . .

In one of the prison blocks, the prisoners had long complained of a foul odor, though no one paid much attention. When, however, one of the guards also finally found the stench intolerable, an investigation was launched to discover the cause. The room was thoroughly cleansed of dung and filth, an expression the reader will not find excessive when I relate that during this operation they found beneath all the filth the corpse of a Frenchman who had presumably died in the fortress during the siege. . . .

Living Conditions and Treatment
of the Prisoners in the Königstein Fortress

The circumstances of the prisoners in Königstein varied, notwithstanding the fact that not much consideration was given to either estate or status. On various occasions I observed people in the most peculiar mix crossing paths in one of the fortress courtyards, such as canons and dragoons, preachers and Jews, cobblers and professors, carpenters and opticians, students and innkeepers, boatmen and coachmen.


Some of them had tolerable cells insofar as the windows of the rooms in which they were locked up opened up to the outside; things were a bit worse for those able to look out only into one of the fortress courtyards, and who lived in the upper stories of the fortress; the worst off were those who were being kept in the cold, stale chambers in the lowest stories, where daylight, but no sunlight could penetrate.


Each room generally housed four and sometimes more prisoners, and one of the halls had probably forty persons or so locked up in it. Such company could not but become onerous to some prisoners, especially since the lack of cleanliness, as might be expected, often reached an unpleasant, indeed extremely high degree. Some prisoners, if not the majority, did not even have a change of clothes with them, having been seized wherever they happened to be going or standing. Afterward some prisoners were given shirts, for which, as expected, they had to pay upon their release. That notwithstanding, certain kinds of vermin did get out of control. Amid this general distress, I once saw Canon Winkelmann perform cleansing operations on one of his fellow prisoners. . . .

When on occasion one or the other prisoner requested a transfer to a cell with more orderly, cleaner cellmates, the lieutenant guard responded with a stale joke, “Aye! And what have we here? What now about ‘freedom and equality’?” with a smile so malicious and gleeful that no one could mistake the coarsened, unfeeling jail-keeper behind it.

Every individual cell had a tub of water intended for both washing and drinking; mugs were later also provided. Although fresh straw was to be distributed weekly, such was not really conscientiously done, either out of simple neglect or because of the guards’ all-too-attentive concern for their own interests; almost daily I heard incessant complaints about how rarely fresh straw was provided. And even then, when prisoners were released from arrest, they had to pay for all the straw that had been provided them. The prince elector made no profit from these payments. The prisoners also had to pay for all the provisioning and heating that had had to be continued even into June because of the cold air inside the fortress. And those who did not make daily or weekly payments to the guards — all of whom were constantly asking for handouts — had to pay in various ways; they were provisioned more poorly, never received things they had paid to have brought in from the outside, or received cold food, and received it later than the others. And even a cordial glance, which, after all, is also part of human happiness, could be had here only for a cash payment. Those who had it best were those able to engage either a soldier or some woman inside the fortress in their service; otherwise prisoners were subject to constant chaffing.

Ink, paper, and quills were prohibited, and arriving letters were first opened by the commandant and, depending on his assessment, either passed on to their recipients or withheld entirely. Those in the fortress who wanted to write to someone on the outside first had to obtain special permission from the commandant and afterward also give him the open letter to read and seal.

Prisoners were allowed to spend an hour each day in groups out in an open space within the fortress, an extremely humane provision and a genuine act of charity for them. Here they could breathe in pure fresh air, enjoy a view of the beautiful surrounding area, converse, and get the exercise necessary for maintaining their health. When one group’s time was up, the next group came. The signal to leave was always given with several strikes against the wall. . . .

During the initial four weeks prisoners were neither interrogated nor even allowed out of their cells for fresh air, an extremely harsh and unpolitical restriction. Any prisoner who was not yet a democrat could not but become one through such treatment. How I wished my fatherland had a habeas corpus law at the time! . . . Just imagine this very real situation, namely, that among all these prisoners, whose numbers quickly were pushing one hundred, there were also several who were wholly innocent and who nonetheless had to endure this most disgraceful prison for four weeks and longer without ever having a hearing:


How can a government that otherwise has such excellent men at the top ever allow itself to demonstrate such little respect and such enormous indifference toward the well-being of individual persons and indeed entire families?

Among other prisoners, I also became acquainted with a medical doctor in Königstein who had studied in Mainz and indeed lodged in Professor Wedekind’s house. He arrived in Frankfurt in April with the intention of continuing on to Göttingen. But since he was traveling with Wedekind’s wife, who similarly wanted to travel on with her two small children to her relatives in Hannoverian territory, he was stopped and interrogated as a suspicious person. Notwithstanding his responses gave no reason for suspicion and he had completely demonstrated his legitimacy, he was nonetheless brought to Königstein, where he was kept under arrest for four months. [11]

Now, I know from various extremely credible sources, and could conclude as much from other circumstances, that this man, in an almost unpardonable fashion, could not have taken even the least part in what happened during his stay in Mainz. Indeed, he was not even interested enough in the events involving the French in Mainz to attend even a single Club meeting, which almost everyone in Mainz at the time should have attended at least once, just as one would a farce or burlesque, pour la rarité du fait. [12] He was not even wont to read the newspapers, and yet he was treated like a convicted and proven Jacobin.

The prisoners in Königstein also included persons of the opposite sex.


After spending several weeks, without a hearing, under halfway tolerable cell conditions, they were finally told they would have to remain here as hostages for the Mainz hostages whom their relatives had sent to Bedfort. [13] Even now [1795] I absolutely cannot comprehend how it was possible to consider them thus from this perspective. The Germans illegally imprison German women, who have been neither convicted of participation in those French matters nor even accused of such, as hostages in this fortress in order to exchange them — to exchange German women! — for Mainz citizens whom the French sent to France as hostages. I entreat every reader to read this paragraph once more and to be assured that it strictly coincides with the historical truth.

After having been imprisoned for four months for being neither for nor against anything, they were finally set free. The brother of one of these women turned to the king of Prussia and received the following missive from the headquarters at Marienborn in July 1793:

Learned Sir, especially dear Sir:

It is in no way My will that innocent persons share the deserved fate of criminals who have incurred imprisonment at Königstein. Since I now give complete credence to Your assurance that Your sister currently there, viz. the widow X**, [14] has in fact incurred no guilt in the matter, I have therefore ordered Major von Lucadow to release said woman along with her child. I am alerting You to such in response to Your missive of the 1st of this month and am Your gracious, [15]

Friedrich Wilhelm

Although protests were lodged by the authorities in Mainz, the humane king’s will was done. [16]

There were, however, several other innocent sufferers who fell under suspicion solely through a convergence of various circumstances into which they could not help falling when their territory was occupied by the French, or who were falsely denounced as Jacobins by malicious people and then seized and brought to Königstein. It was an extraordinarily sad scene when wives with children occasionally visited their imprisoned husbands, whose eyes filled with tears both when greeting and when saying goodbye, and when the children wanted to stay behind with their father, or implored him to go with them.


Earning ceased, business came to a standstill; the husband in the fortress and the wife with her children at home kept up a double household; whatever they had saved was spent. Worry, anxiety, apprehension, and despair were often all-too-clearly etched into the faces of these people. Their chagrin increased all the more insofar as they were not even given a hearing, or heard nothing more after such a hearing and thus could not anticipate when their miserable predicament would come to an end. Their state of mind, it might be pointed out, came to expression in extremely varied ways. Some spent hours kneeling in prayer, others fumed with a grim look on their faces, leaning their heads on their hands, smoking their pipes; still others threw themselves onto their straw and groaned, while others paced to and fro in their hall with vacant looks and silent pain; others sat in a corner, lost in dull brooding, others bellowed the ça ira or the Marseillaise with forced gaiety, [17] and still others swore that as soon as they were released, they would not spend a single moment longer than absolutely necessary on German soil, having been abandoned even by their own territorial sovereign, whose protection they had petitioned. But most said this only out of excessive pain, for as I have heard, of all the prisoners considered to be die-hard Republicans, hardly even three or four genuinely decided to go over to the new France after their release. . . .


[*] Rükerinnerungen von einer Reise durch einen Theil von Teutschland, Preussen, Kurland und Liefland, während des Aufenthalts der Franzosen in Mainz und der Unruhen in Polen (Strasbourg 1795), 27–88.

Illustrations in order:

  • Wilhelm Girshausen, Die Festung Königstein am Taunus: Historisch bearbeitet (Idstein 1862);
  • Georg Daniel Haumann, after a drawing by Salomon Kleiner, Der Rossmarkt mit Hauptwache und Katharinenkirch (1738);
  • two representative selections from William Hogarth: excerpt from Chairing the Member (1755) and Pit Ticket (1759);
  • Post Karte Durch ganz Deutschland, ed. J. Walch (Augsburg 1795);
  • anonymous, Die Gefangenen [ca. 1612–67]; Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur CdWael AB 3.18;
  • (Double illustration) left: C. Kinzl, Mann im Kerker (angeschmiedet) (ca. 1776–1825); Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Graph.A1:1291a; and
  • (Double illustration) right: Daniel Nikolaus Chodowiecki, “Er holte einen tiefen Seufzer” (1783), from Laurence Sterne’s A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Uh 4° 47 (309);
  • Taschenbuch für das Jahr 1821: Der Liebe und Freundschaft gewidmet; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung;
  • François Marie Isidore Quéverdo, Gespräch zwischen Louise und dem Gefängniswärter (ca. 1768–1802); Herzog Anton Ulrich-Museum; Museums./Signatur Queverdo nach AB 3.4;
  • Meno Haas, Besuch im Gefängnis (1802); Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Graph.A1:897). Back.

[1] Blau and Arensberger appear in the play The Mainz Clubbists in Königstein. Back.

[2] See Samuel Thomas von Sömmerring on 6 April 1793 in a letter from Frankfurt to Christian Gottlob Heyne in Göttingen (Forster’s Briefwechsel mit Sömmerring, 615 [letter 121d]): “Today Professor Blau, Scheurer, and the Chaplain of Castel, all of them tied up, were brought here along with other captured Frenchmen by the Saxons, and right after arriving allegedly received 50 lashes, something they are to receive yet again today.” Back.

[3] German miles, ca. 15 km. Back.

[4] Latin, “make a blunder, mistake one person for another,” here: because Liebeskind was traveling not only with Meta Forkel and her mother, but also with Wilhelmine Wedekind. Back.

[5] Nickname for the mob in Frankfurt (Germ. Hagel, “hail”). Back.

[6] Including, among others, Meta Forkel and her companions, including Caroline. Back.

[7] Because of Meta Forkel’s presence. Back.

[8] Presumably Blavière, whom Luise Michaelis mentions in her letter to Wilhelm Schlegel on 7 May 1793 (letter 125a). Back.

[9] Namely, Meta Forkel (?) (Schnorr, Mann trefft seine verhaftete Geliebte [1794]; Herzog August Bibliothek; Museums./Signatur Graph. A1: 451):



[10] Fr., “willy nilly, whether one will or no.” Illustration: anonymous. Back.

[11] Wilhelmine Wedekind had been arrested in Frankfurt on 14 April 1793 and brought to Königstein on 15 April. The reference may be to the otherwise unidentified “Dr. Köhler” mentioned by Samuel Thomas von Sömmerring in letters to Christian Gottlob Heyne on 8, 13 April 1793 (letters 121e, 121f). Back.

[12] Fr., “for the singularity of the thing.” Back.

[13] The prisoners of the “opposite sex,” of course, include Meta Forkel, her mother, Madam Wedekind, and Caroline, and this hostage situation is the same as that to which Caroline and others refer in letters during this entire period. Back.

[14] Erich Schmidt (1913), 1:702, reads: “[widow] of the mining physician Boehmer.” Back.

[15] Erich Schmidt (1913), 1:702, adds the dateline: “Currently encamped at Marienborn, 4 July 1793.” Back.

[16] See Luise Wiedemann’s account of Philipp part in Caroline’s release in her biography of Caroline in her Erinnerungen, pp. 81–82. Back.

[17] Ah! ça ira!, from 1790 one of the popular songs associated with the French Revolution (Tempel der Musen und Grazien: Ein Taschenbuch zur Bildung und Unterhaltung für 1796; Inhaltsverzeichnis deutscher Almanache, Theodor Springmann Stiftung):


Here the original version of Ah! ça ira! (1786):


La Marseillaise, composed in 1792, from 1795 France’s national anthem. Here the Marseillaise (Le Roy de Sainte-CroixLe Chant de guerre pour l’armée du Rhin ou la Marseillaise: Paroles et Musique de la Marseillaise, son Histoire, Contestation à propos de son auteur etc., Grand collection alsacienne [Strasbourg 1880], first musical selection):



Translation © 2011 Doug Stott