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Tucholsky, Kurt


TUCHOLSKY, KURT (1890–1935), German satirist and journalist. Born in Berlin, Tucholsky was conscripted immediately after his graduation from law school in 1915. He spent most of World War i at the front and his experiences made him an ardent pacifist and socialist. In 1912 he had published Rheinsberg, a remarkably mature novella (which had its 100th edition in 1932). From 1913 he was encouraged by Siegfried *Jacobsohn to write for his periodical Die Schaubuehne (later called the Weltbuehne), one of the most aggressive and effective magazines of its time. His articles appeared under various pseudonyms (e.g., Peter Panter and Theobald Tiger), often side by side. He also wrote for many other newspapers and periodicals, publishing essays, stories, poems, and cabaret songs. Disillusioned with the Weimar Republic, Tucholsky moved to Paris in 1924, and worked as a foreign correspondent for the Weltbuehne and other publications. For six months after the death of Siegfried Jacobsohn he was the interim editor of Weltbuehne (1926–27). Tucholsky traveled throughout Europe and in 1929 settled in Sweden. Although he was drawn toward Communism, its excesses repelled him and the triumph of Nazism made him despair of Germany's future. He finally committed suicide in Hindas, Sweden. Tucholsky is considered one of the greatest German-Jewish satirists after *Heine, with whom in his apostasy and his ability to be witty and subtle in the German language he has often been compared. He was a man of the left, an ardent European, and an antinationalist. Tucholsky's satire was aimed at militarism, injustice, entrenched privilege, deep-rooted flaws in the German national character, stupidity, and greed.

His prose satire was collected in Mit 5 ps (1928), Das Laecheln der Mona Lisa (1929), and Lerne lachen, ohne zuweinen (1931). An early volume of cheeky poems, Fromme Gesaenge (1920), was followed by light satirical verse, often using the Berlin dialect in which Tucholsky excelled. Other works include Ein Pyrenaeenbuch (1927); the controversial Deutschland, Deutschland ueber alles (1929), a volume of photos and photomontages containing his prose and poetry, which mercilessly pilloried the Germany of the Weimar Republic; and Schloss Gripsholm (1931). Having abandoned Judaism in 1911, Tucholsky presented in the figure of Herr Wendriner an assimilated, opportunistic, spiritually empty German Jew. After World War ii his works were frequently reprinted in both East and West Germany. Two which appeared posthumously were Politische Briefe (1969) and Briefe an eine Katholikin (1970).


H. Zohn (ed.), The World is a Comedy; A Tucholsky Anthology (1957); H. Prescher, Kurt Tucholsky (Ger., 1959); F.J. Raddatz, Tucholsky. Eine Bildbiographie (1961); E. Pawel, in: Commentary, 46 (1968), 100–6; H.L. Poor, Kurt Tucholsky and the Ordeal of Germany, 1914–1935 (1968; incl. bibl.); H. Zohn and K. Ross (eds.), Kurt Tucholsky: What if…? (1968); I. Deak, Weimar Germany's Left-Wing Intellectuals: A Political History of the Weltbuehne and Its Circle (1969); F. Gotfurt, in: ajr Information, 25:2 (Feb. 1970), 6.

[Harry Zohn]

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