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Saturday, August 28, 1999 Published at 21:49 GMT 22:49 UK

World: Europe

Germans celebrate Goethe festival

Many of the celebrations took place outside Frankfurt's opera house

Thousands of Germans, including Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, have celebrated the 250th anniversary of the birth of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe - Germany's most renowned poet.

Visitors poured into Frankfurt, Goethe's hometown, and Weimar, the East German city where the poet died in 1832, at the age of 82.

In Frankfurt, thousands gathered in the city centre, with many dressed in period clothes.

[ image: The Goethe-Schiller memorial in Weimer]
The Goethe-Schiller memorial in Weimer
At the Alte Oper, Frankfurt's opera house, Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder presented the Goethe prize to 73-year old German author Siegfried Lenz.

Mr Lenz was praised for his well known work on everyday life under the Nazis, German Lesson, published in 1968.

Past recipients of the prize include Albert Schweitzer, Thomas Mann and Sigmund Freud.


The celebrations started at midday, believed to be the time of Goethe's birth.

[ image: The decorated Goethe National Museum in Weimer]
The decorated Goethe National Museum in Weimer
Many of the performances took place on a large stage set up outside the neo-classical opera house, including a contemporary interpretation of his poem, The Sorcerer's Apprentice, performed by a dance troupe from Zurich.

Some 550 artistes took part in various performances on open-air stages throughout the city.

A screening of Friedrich Wilhelm's 1926 silent film Faust - based on the epic play about a scholar who makes a pact with the devil - was also shown.

Special concert

In Weimar, where Goethe lived from 1775 until his death, celebrations included readings, period music and a street festival.

On Sunday, the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra will perform a joint concert with German musicians in a Weimer park where the poet once gathered with other intellectuals.

The event is seen as an effort towards remembrance and reconciliation, after the horrors of the holocaust.

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