A Brief History of the Goethe Society Wellington Inc.

Many German-speaking Jewish refugees came to New Zealand from Central European countries in the 1930s to escape the Nazi presence. New Zealand gained hugely from their influence in almost every sphere of the arts, from their intellectual breadth of vision and literary and cultural sensibility. For many of them, Goethe, the great 18th-century German philosopher, scientist and literary giant, epitomised all that was good in German culture and thought.

A Goethe Society was founded in Auckland in 1948 to sustain that tradition. The Wellington Goethe Society was similarly founded in 1960 by Dr Paul Hoffmann of Victoria University’s German Department (its first Professor from 1964) with co-founders Lisl Hilton and Douglas Fraser.

In the 60+ years since then, the society has evolved from its original strong literary focus to reflect modern interests. We aim to promote the German language and culture in the broadest sense, providing a place to meet for those who enjoy speaking German and are interested in contemporary German literature, music, art, theatre, film and current events. In addition, we continue to encourage the study of the German language and the cultures of German-speaking countries. An ongoing highlight of each year’s programme is our German language competition for secondary school students in the wider Wellington region, which is held in conjunction with what is now called Te Herenga Waka—Victoria University of Wellington.

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