Commemorative Plaque for Friedrich Froebel at Griesheim (Thuringia)
Commemorative Plaque for Friedrich Froebel at Griesheim on the Ilm (Thuringia)

Friedrich Froebel founded his first school in 1816 at Griesheim in the Principality of Schwarzburg Rudolstadt.

The education of five of his nephews was the initial purpose of this school, which he named Allgemeine deutsche Erziehungsanstalt, or Universal German Educational Institute. Friedrich’s brother, a pastor in the Thuringian village of Griesheim on the Ilm, died leaving three sons. Another brother in Osterode wanted his two sons to be educated with their three cousins.

Middendorf his comrade from the Lützow Jagers joined the little Griesheim circle.

The character of the two men is admirably described in the following passage from a letter of “the oldest pupil”:

“Both had seen much of the serious side of life, and returned from the war with the higher inspiration which is hallowed by deep religious feeling. The idea of devoting their powers with self denial and sacrifice to the service of their native land had become a fixed resolution. The youth, the young generation of their native land, were alone worthy of their efforts. They meant to train them to a harmonious development of mind and body.”

The little school moved on St. John’s Day 1817, from Griesheim to Keilhau, where a farm had been offered.

Friedrich Fröbel
begann hier sein Wirken
für deutsche Erziehung

Ihrem Gründer die Erziehungsanstalt
zu Keilhau und deren ehemalige Schüler
zum Hundertjahrtage d. 13. November 1916

Friedrich’s cherished plan for a school was described in 1807 in a letter to his brother:

“Not to be announced with trumpet tongue to the world, but to win for itself in a small circle, perhaps only among the parents whose children should be entrusted to his care, the name of a happy family institution”

One of these nephews, Julius Froebel (1805-1893) was born in Griesheim on the Ilm, where his father was a pastor. Julius was elected to the National Assembly in Frankfurt 1848. In 1873 he was appointed consul of the German Empire at Smyrna and in 1876 was transferred to Algiers.

Another nephew Theodor Froebel (1810–1893) went to Zurich in 1834 as the first university gardener.

Griesheim was one of many fortified settlements founded by the Franks on their eastern border, along the Saale and Ilm rivers. Many of these place names end with heim. The sandy soil of this settlement provides the basis for the name of this place. The lords of Griesheim were first mentioned between 1079 and 1089 as vassals of the Counts of Schwarzburg.

The “Allgemeine Deutsche Erziehungsanstalt” was established in 1816 in Griesheim, near Stadtilm, and moved in 1817 to Keilhau.

Entrance to the Fröbel School in Keilhau, 1930
Entrance to the Fröbel School in Keilhau, 1930