Vagabond Congress, 1929, Stutttgart
Exhibition in the course of the Vagabond Congress, 1929, Stutttgart
Call for a general strike during the Vagabond Congress, 1929, Stutttgart
Cover of the exhibition catalogue "Wohnsitz: Nirgendwo. Vom Leben und vom Überleben auf der Straße" (Residence: Nowhere. About life and survival on the street), edited by Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin 1982
Poster, Vagabond Congress, Theater Rampe, Stuttgart, 2014
Der Kunde. Zeit– und Streitschrift der Vagabunden, 1929, Cover
Hans Tombrock, "Vagabunden" (Vagabonds), 1928, folder with 15 drawings, Verlag der Vagabunden, Stuttgart-Degerloch, Courtesy: Private collection

Actually, the Dead Are Not Dead: Una forma de ser

May 21-23, 1929, Freidenker-Jugendgarten, Killesberg

At Whitsun 1929, the first international Vagabond Congress, a political gathering of the homeless and unemployed, took place on the Killesberg in Stuttgart, very close to the Weißenhofsiedlung, the flagship of "new construction" built two years earlier. It was called for by Gregor Gog, who had already spoken out in various speeches and articles in favor of politicizing the people living on the streets, founded the Brotherhood of Vagabonds in 1928, and in the same year had taken over the editorship of the magazine Der Kunde (The Customer). Der Kunde was a self-designation of wandering homeless people living on the streets at the time.

Both the magazine Der Kunde (The Customer) and the Stuttgart Vagabond Congress, which was accompanied by a radio broadcast and an art exhibition, were intended to publicize the ideas and demands of the Brotherhood of Vagabonds and decisively expand their network.

The target group consisted of people who lived on the streets for very different reasons: in addition to the unemployed, migrant workers, war invalids and people from various marginalized groups, there were also youth movements, itinerant preachers, life reformers, anarchists, academically educated refuseniks of bourgeois society and artists. They were representatives of the class that Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels contemptuously called the lumpenproletariat and which they accused of being work-shy, unreliable and reactionary. "The lumpenproletariat, this abhub of the degenerate subjects of all classes ... is of all possible confederates the worst," Engels wrote in The German Peasant War (1870). "This rabble is absolutely venal ...".

In contrast, Gog and his followers called for consciously refusing wage labor and preferring the street to the factory in order to effectively resist and bring down the exploitative system of capitalism. "General strike for life!" was the motto of the Vagabond Congress.

While the Stuttgart authorities did their utmost to keep the external impact of the congress as low as possible - it is even said that they spread the false news in advance that the congress had been cancelled - more than 500 clients followed the call as well as numerous representatives of the press from Germany and abroad.

The speeches, poems and songs heard at the meeting called for a better understanding and recognition of the clients. Their plight was a theme, as was the euphoric call to form a mass movement of refuseniks. Vagabondage as a principle of life.

Even if the Stuttgart Vagabond Congress had no direct influence on party politics, it strengthened the cohesion and politicization of some clients.

In 1982, Michael Haerdter conceived the exhibition Wohnsitz: Nirgendwo. Vom Leben und vom Überleben auf der Straße (Residence: Nowhere. About Life and Survival on the Street) in Künstlerhaus Bethanien in Berlin, which dealt with homelessness in Germany since the 19th century. The Stuttgart Vagabond Congress of 1929 and the Brotherhood of Vagabonds, founded by Gregor Gog, were covered in detail.
After Berlin, the exhibition traveled to the Württembergischer Kunstverein Stuttgart, Amsterdam (deMeervaart), Dortmund (Museum am Ostwall), Bielefeld (Kulturamt im Assapheum Bethel) and Düsseldorf (Landesmuseum Volk und Wirtschaft).
In 2014, Stuttgart's Theater Rampe staged a reenactment of Vagabond Congress.

Der Kunde. Zeit- und Streitschrift der Vagabunden, 1929.
Europe's first street newspaper, Der Kunde, was founded in 1927 by the writer and vagrant Gustav Brügel. Even the first issue was confiscated because it contained a story about homosexual love. Brügel then left Germany. Beginning in 1928, Gregor Gog took over the publication of the Vagabunden magazine, which would appear until 1931. Each issue contained a mixture of poems, drawings, political essays, and literary texts.
While at the 1929 Vagabond Congress in Stuttgart Gog, still an anarchist, warned against any appropriation of the Brotherhood of Vagabonds by the Communist Party, after a stay in the Soviet Union in 1930 he returned as a convinced Communist, joined the CP, and from then on placed his commitment to the Vagabonds in the service of the Communist struggle. This is also reflected in the magazine, which he renames Der Vagabund (in distinction from the traditional customer) in 1931. The cover is redesigned according to the principles of avant-garde photo collage. Gog's stated goal is to "transform the vagabonds into a reserve army of the proletariat." An example of this is the reprint of Maxim Gorky's appeal To the Vagabonds of Germany and the Other Countries in issue 3 of 1931.

Generalstreik das Leben lang! Lebenslänglich Generalstreik!
(General strike for life! Life-long general strike!)
Appeal Congress of Vagabonds 1929 Stuttgart

"Society, represented by its authorities, speaks of its care. The law cares for itself, for society, for the satiated, so that the victims of their tyranny do not come close to them. Their 'care' is police humanity! Is 'precaution'! They drive 'care', i.e. take precaution that their towers do not fly around, by which they make of the earthly world one big barracks. The virtuous philistines speak of the vagabonds as a work-shy rabble. What does this society know of the way and the goal of the highway?
At the beginning of every essential work is the knowledge of things. But it is the customer, the vagabond, who goes out to bring them! His task in this world is not the bourgeois work. This work would be assistance to the further enslavement, would be work on the bourgeois hell! Slave service for the protection and preservation of the oppressors! The customer, more revolutionary than fighter, has made the full decision:
General strike for life! General strike for life!
Only through such a general strike is it possible to bring the capitalist, 'Christian' dungeon-building society to totter, to totter, to fall!"

Jo Mihàly
(1902, Schneidemühl, Poland - 1989, Seeshaupt, Germany)

Dancer, actress, poet and author Jo Mihàly was one of the few active women of the Brotherhood of Vagabonds. After appearing in vaudeville and circus performances and engagements at various theaters, including the Volksbühne Berlin, she lived on the streets for some time in the 1920s. She met Gregor Gog in 1927, wrote various texts and poems for the magazine Der Kunde, and published Ballade vom Elend (Ballad of Misery) in Gog's Verlag der Vagabunden in 1929. Mihàly was particularly committed to the rights of the Sinti*zze and Rom*nja, and published various texts and poems on this subject, as well as the novel Hüter des Bruders (1942, later under the title Gesucht: Stepan Varesku) and the children's book Michael Arpad und sein Kind. Kinderschicksal auf der Landstraße (Michael Arpad und his Child. Child's Fate on the Country Road) (1930), which features Mihàly's own drawings. For all his good intentions, Mihàly reproduces a number of Sinti*zze and Rom*nja clichés.

Hans Tombrock

Born 1895 in Dortmund, Germany, died 1966, Stuttgart, Germany.

The self-taught painter and draftsman Hans Tombrock lived on the streets for several years from 1924 after a lengthy prison sentence and an already troubled life. In 1928 he met Gregor Gog and soon belonged to his inner circle. Among other things, he drew for the magazine Der Kunde, was one of the speakers at the Stuttgart Vagabond Congress, and participated in the parallel exhibition.
In 1928 Gog's Verlag der Vagabunden published a portfolio of 15 drawings by the artist. In 1939 Tombrock met Bertolt Brecht, with whom he collaborated on various projects.

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