About Heinrich von Kleist

The most famous son of Frankfurt

Heinrich von Kleist came from an old noble Pomeranian family. In accordance with tradition, he joined the Royal Prussian Infantry Regiment No. 15 (Regiment Garde) at the age of 14. After seven years of military service, he resigned "out of an inclination for the sciences" and began studies at the Brandenburg State University in his native city of Frankfurt an der Oder. In the spring of 1800, Kleist became engaged to Wilhelmine von Zenge, daughter of the city's commander, but by August 1800 he had already broken off his studies and left Frankfurt, only ever returning for a few days thereafter. He traveled to Würzburg and Paris, and spent several months in Switzerland. There his first work ‘Die Familie Schroffenstein’ was published in 1803.

“I want to feed myself now
through my dramatic works.“
Heinrich von Kleist

After voluntarily renouncing a career as a civil servant, Kleist lived as a freelance writer in Dresden, Prague and Berlin from 1807. He published an art journal and a daily newspaper; in all, Kleist left behind 8 dramas, 8 stories, 2 essays, 29 poems, 12 essays, 3 fables, 55 epigrams, 1 idyll, and 17 anecdotes. Three of his dramas were first performed during his lifetime.

On November 21, 1811, Heinrich von Kleist shot Henriette Vogel, an acquaintance from his Berlin circles, and himself. Both were buried directly at the place of death on the Kleine Wannsee near Berlin.