Ein Land, das seine Fremden nicht beschützt, geht bald unter (Goethe)

This morning on my way to work I saw this huge banner on a building in the Leipzig city center and it reads " Das Land das die Fremden nicht beschützt geht bald unter." which is a quote by Goethe. These are the litte things I love my country and my city for…

Here is the English translation of Goethe’s quote: The country that does not protect the strangers will soon perish.


Hi Torsten,
Thanks for sharing this quote with us.
I’m wondering what Goethe meant by ‘Fremden’ (strangers)? Did he mean foreigners?

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That’s a good question. When Goethe lived, there were no nation states and no citizenship, so the concept of the “foreigner” was different than it is today.


It might lose something in translation, especially considering that the words might now be archaic in both languages.

As a freethinker, ‘stranger’ might mean a person whose beliefs are outside the accepted norm. It might be something similar to a non-conformist, unconventional, uninitiated, or unconditioned.

Of course it could also mean exactly what it means today.