Stein of the Month: January 2005
~ A Student Association Stein ~
by Ronald E. Gray

The enameled inscription reads:
Fritz Sebening Z! Z!
s/l Lbb.
Ernst Huhn Z! Z!
z. fr. Erg.
Weihn. 19 GA 11.
where Z! is a stand-in for the Zirkels following each name (see below).

This month's stein commemorates a student's membership in a student association. The song you hear is Gaudeamus igitur juvenes dum sumus. Put away your German dictionary, it is Latin, the language of scholars. The translation is "Let us rejoice therefore while we are young," which seems appropriate to start the New Year. This was a favorite drinking song of the German students. The words for this song, including the English translation, can be found in reference 1.

This month's stein belonged to a member of Landsmannschaft Verdensia at Göttingen University. This ½ liter faceted, blown glass stein has seven columns in the front that alternate between frosted and clear glass. The coat-of-arms of the association is hand painted in enamel. The thumb lift is a winged helmet. A star is cut into the bottom of the stein. As with most glass steins, there is no indication of the maker. The colors of the student association are black, white and black, as shown in the plumes on the helmet. The four quadrants in the shield tell us a little something about this student association. The first quadrant shows the Zirkel (symbol) of the association. Members would put this symbol at the end of the names denoting their membership in the association. The second quadrant shows the black cross of the Verdener Stadtwappen, or city coat-of-arms of Verden. As a matter of fact, it was founded by four graduates of a catholic high school in Göttingen. The third quadrant again shows the colors of the association. The fourth quadrant tells us that the association was founded on March 8, 1860 (remember the European form for dating shows the day first, followed by the month and year). The crossed swords indicate the association participated in duels. The rear of the stein under the handle has an inscription in enamel showing the stein was given by Fritz Sebening to Ernst Huhn. Due to the difficulty in recognizing the script letters, the last names are subject to further interpretation. The "s/l Lbb." is an abbreviation for "seinem lieben Leibbursch," which means "my dearest mentor (a senior member of the association, Ernst in this instance). The abbreviation "z. fr. Erg." stands for "zur freundlichen Erinnerung," which translates to "in friendly remembrance." "Weihn." is an abbreviation for "Weihnachten," which means Christmas. Thus, the stein was given for Christmas in 1911. The year is separated by the initials of the founder of and the first two names of the university, Georg August. Both names have two Zirkels after the name, the second one being that of Verdensia. I believe the first Zirkel for Ernst is that of Landsmannschaft Hasso-Borussia at Marburg, which is part of the Silver Trust of which Verdensia is a member, and that for Fritz may be L! Teutonia Munich, a friendship federation to Verdensia. L! is an abbreviation for Landsmannschaft. These Zirkels were previously seen at the Verdensia web site. It is wise to save interesting web pages because they do change over time. Thanks to Walt Vogdes for help in the translation.

The web site for this association is shown in reference 2. The photo gallery at that site shows the association's crest with Verdensia sei's Panier! (Verdensia is our banner!) above it and the Latin words Forti Animo Atque Prutenti below it. I presume the four Latin words are their motto, but I was unable to get a good translation.

The official name of the university is Georg-August Universität zu Göttingen. It was named after the founder, King George II of England and Elector of Hanover. The King's privy counselor and prime minister, Gerlach Adolph von Münchausen, helped lay the foundation for the university's success. A Münchausen stein question appeared on SteinTalk a couple of years ago. Perhaps this person was from the same family. That was an interesting stein and if I have a decent photo I will do a Stein of the Month on it. The university's web site is shown in reference 3.

Unlike fraternities in the United States which are national organizations with local chapters at various universities, German student associations were local even though they might share the same name, colors, Zirkel or belong to the same student organization or connection. These corporations or connections can be confusing and complicated. Thus, this discussion should be considered as a general overview. Studentenverbindung, a general term for the associations or fraternities, belonged to various organizations or connections that espoused common ideals, roots or interests and includes the following: Corps, Burschenschaft, Catholic corporation (with Couleur) CV, Catholic Corporation (without Couleur) KV, Landsmannschaft, Sängerschaft (singing) and Turnerschaft (gymnastics). Further complicating the discussion, associations in other countries could also belong to a Burschenschaft (students with nationalistic and political views) or Landsmannschaft (homeland associations). Therefore you will find Deutsch Burschenschaft and Deutsch Landsmannschaft. Not confused yet? Some corporations were combined under convents (conventions), such as the Coburger Convent which was the union of the Deutsche Landsmannschaft and the Turnerschaften in 1951. See reference 4 for a discussion of these various organizations. The web site for the Deutsch Burschenschaft is listed in reference 5. While there are a multitude of web sites available on studentica, most are in German. However, you can still garner some information from these sites using a German translator, although it is a rough translation at best. If you have Internet Explorer, just right click to get a menu that includes an English translator near the bottom of the menu. I do recommend visiting the Deutsche Burschenschaft site to see the videofilme giving you a portrait of the German Burschenshaft. It features a ceremony at the Burschenschaft war memorial in Eisenach, Thuringia. The occasion may have been the memorial's 100th anniversary in 2002. There also is one page in English giving you an overview of the Burschenschaft and other pages showing various coats-of-arms. Another interesting site, see reference 6, has several articles by Dr. Peter Hauser. One article deals with the famous paragraph 11 of the Bier Comment - thou shalt continue drinking. Links to several sites showing Korporation coats-of-arms is shown in reference 7. As an indication of the number of sites available for research, I have noted the hits for searches using the following German terms: studentica (25,300), Burschenschaft (102,000), Landsmannschaft (125,000) and Studentenverbindung (48,400). The web site for Frankonia Heidelberg, see reference 8, has an English version. The web site in reference 9 has a dictionary with English translations. If anyone finds more of these sites in English, please share it with us.

The Zirkels are interesting symbols that may help identify your stein's association. The Zirkel sometimes incorporated either the first letter of the association or those of the university. The Zirkel also incorporates the letters c, v and f, which stand for the Latin words crescat, vivat and floreat (grow, live and flourish). I wonder if that is where Star Trek's Spock got his Vulcan greeting, "Live long and prosper." Maybe the "v" formed by four fingers of his right hand did not stand for Vulcan, but rather the Latin word vivat (live). The Lexikon shown in reference 10 has the illustration shown below to illustrate how these Latin words are incorporated in the Zirkels for Arion and Altpreussen.

Visit the site in reference 11 to see a Zirkel being drawn. Obviously this takes a little practice to duplicate, just try it yourself.

There were several thousand student associations at the turn of the century in 1900. While time has taken its toll on these associations, particularly during the 1930s when Hitler forced all of them to cease, there are still quite a few associations active today. You are probably wondering how I was able to find out so much information about my stein. I was fortunate to be aware of a German book entitled Das Akademische Deutschland which lists approximately 1,600 student coats-of-arms. One was available at the auction at the 2003 SCI convention, but unfortunately was repatriated to Germany with a bid of $2,070! The estimate listed in the catalog was $400 to $600. But this is when it pays to belong to SCI and attend the conventions. Our web master, Walt Vogdes, was at the convention and tipped me off to a hard bound copy of a German auction catalog which reprinted the coats-of-arms, names and locations of the associations listed in that expensive book. While the auction catalog may be hard to find, it is a lot more reasonably priced. Having purchased one before the auction, I was not tempted to bid on the original. As soon as I acquired my copy I began reviewing the coats-of-arms page by page. And there it was on plate XX, the coat-of-arms that appears on my stein! You still might be able to identify your association's coat-of-arms if you know the association name or university. My search on Verdensia got 221 hits, so I was able to get their web site rather quickly and learn about the association. Most universities have web pages that also list the various student associations. The list for Göttingen University, however, did not list Verdensia. That is not all that surprising though. They got in trouble with university once and had to cease operations from 1888 until 1902. If your student association is inactive, all is not lost. A search on Verdensia sei's Panier got four hits, one of which told me it was from Göttingen University.

Collecting student association steins makes for an interesting specialization. Much like regimental steins, these steins were personal in nature and provide a bit of history for that period. If you are lucky, your stein might even have a famous name that can be searched on the Internet. I got quite a few hits for the names on my stein, but I have not been successful in linking them to my stein yet. If you are interested in learning more, the Library section of this site has several articles on student associations. One article lists several reference books available on studentica. The web site in reference 12 provides a glimpse of the life of a German student around 1900.

The indispensible Kommersbuch or student songbook, above and below.
Students had a multitude of articles they could purchase with their association's coat-of-arms. They range all the way from "A," as in ashtray, to "Z," as in Zipfelhalter, a metal attachment for a fob. Of course, the first "go with" you might want to acquire is a Commersbuch. Being a business college graduate, I naturally assumed this was a commerce book for a business student. But it is more important than that for a student. It is the songbook they carry with them so they can sing their favorite songs in the bars. My Kommersbuch (Germany was transitioning from "c" to the "k" around 1900, for instance the Ernst Bohne skull stein uses a "c" whereas I have seen a song book dated 1897 that uses the "k") is shown in the attached photos. In addition to the songs, it contains several illustrations of student life and has the prerequisite beer nails. Beer nails? Surely you remember back to your college days how sloppy the table would get as the night progressed. The beer nails help keep the cover of the book from getting soaked in beer.

Two mores sites which you might find interesting in your pursuit of studentica are given in references 13 and 14. The first of these sites has 25,000 post cards for student organizations organized by association, location and national affiliate (for lack of a better word, they are abbreviated so DB is Deutsche Burschenshaft). The second is dedicated to the history of the German students.

Now that your interest in student associations has been aroused, you might want to join the studentica discussion group on Yahoo shown in reference 15. By the way, the explanation point at the end of the Zirkel represents the Latin aeternum (eternity), indicating membership was for a lifetime. And that is what we hope, that you will be a lifetime stein collector. Happy Studentica Collecting!

  1. Words for Guadeamus igitur:
  2. Verdensia web site:
  3. Georg-August Universität zu Göttingen:
  4. Studentenverbindung :
  5. Deutsche Burschenschaft:
  6. Dr. Peter Hauser:
  7. Korporations in Munich:
  8. Frankonia Heidelberg:
  9. Dictionary with English translations:
  10. Lexikon of studentica terms:
  11. Drawing of a Zirkel:
  12. Student life at a German university:
  13. Student postcards:
  14. History of German student groups:
  15. Studentica discussion group:

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