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The history of the Kleist Museum
and its house at Faberstraße 7, Frankfurt (Oder)

The first Kleist Museum in Frankfurt (Oder) was established on the initiative of the Kleist Society on the ground floor of Heinrich von Kleist’s house of birth, now no longer standing, in 1922-1923. It remained until the museum for Heinrich and Ewald Christian von Kleist found a new domicile in the Oderland Museum (Lienau house) in 1937. Here, the collection occupied two exhibition rooms. Both the Kleist family house and the Lienau house were destroyed by fire in April 1945. After the end of the war, the saved Ottomar Bachmann collection and acquisitions made by the Kleist Society were re-constructed in the rooms of the City Library of Frankfurt (Oder). To mark the 700th anniversary of Heinrich von Kleist’s city of birth, a Kleist memorial site was then opened in July 1953. Until 1963, this was administrated by the Municipal Museum, and from then onwards as an independent institution devoted to the collection and preservation of Heinrich von Kleist’s legacy in Frankfurt (Oder). The collection was able to move into the house at Faberstraße 7 in 1969. 

The building of today’s Kleist Museum was planned as a garrison school on the initiative of Prince Leopold of Brunswick-Wolfenbüttel (1752 - 1785) in 1777. It was constructed at a cost of 3,000 thalers by Frankfurt’s supervisor of building, Friedrich Martin Knoblauch (1714 - 1791), and opened on 26th January 1778. Stylistically, the house with the low base and colossal pilasters over two floors can be attributed to the concluding period of the Late Baroque, the so-called Zopfstil. The children of soldiers stationed in the city were taught in the former free school according to the model of a country school in Reckahn established by philanthropist Eberhard von Rochow. The school was closed in the 1920s. 

A range of uses preceded the house’s conversion into the Kleist Museum in 1968/69. Following fundamental restoration and conversion of the interior to adapt it for museum purposes, the former garrison school, officially opened as the “Kleist Memorial and Research Centre” on 20th September 1969, offered space for 50 visitors. 

Since summer 2002, the specialist and research library with permanent loans from the “Foundation Central and Regional Library Berlin”, the art and theatre collection, and our staff and study rooms have been located in the building Große Oderstraße 26. This residential block dates from the 1950s and stands where Heinrich von Kleist’s house of birth once stood. 

The realisation of the Kleist Museum’s planned extension on the adjacent plot – to the south – on Faberstraße will mean that the working areas and collections still divided at present can be brought together under one roof while maintaining our high conservational standards.

The museum garden contains sculptures demonstrating the influence of Heinrich von Kleist’s works on the ideas of important sculptors such as Wieland Förster or Werner Stötzer. Besides a copy of Heinrich von Kleist’s gravestone – the original can be found in the Foundation City Museum Berlin – a reproduction (made circa 1977) of the cross on the grave of Ulrike von Kleist (1774 - 1849) and the gravestone of Christian Ernst Martini (1762 - 1833) have also been erected in the garden.