Director of the Thuringian Home for Girls

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In 1925, Werner Sylten became the pastor and director of the Thuringian women’s shelter in Bad Köstritz, a welfare organization for socially disadvantaged, underage girls. That same year, he married the teacher and educator Hildegard Witting. Their first son Reinhard was born in 1926, their second son Walter in 1930. Werner Sylten undertook extensive reforms at the Thuringian women’s shelter. Instead of authoritarian institutional education, he began to implement progressive educational concepts, had the women’s shelter renamed the “Thuringian Home for Girls” and renovated the facility.

The home was intended to provide the girls a family-like home grounded in Christian house rules. To this end, the girls were placed in family groups, each with a “family mother”, and separate living and sleeping areas. The vocational training given the home’s residents was a novelty in those days. Werner Sylten built up a female staff of around twenty qualified educators and teachers to look after the girls fully. He launched the monthly newsletter “Greetings from the Thuringian Home for Girls” in order to maintain contact with former residents.

When the Great Depression began in 1929, Werner Sylten supported people who were out of work and in need without making his aid contingent on their religious or political views. He attended religious socialist events and gave lectures on, among other things, Marxism from the Christian perspective and Rosa Luxemburg’s letters. Unlike the mainstream anti-republican clergy, he did not fly the imperial flag on official occasions. Instead, he declared his republican beliefs with the black-red-gold flag.

Source / title

  • © Private collection of Walter Sylten, Berlin