Wolff, Theodor

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WOLFF, THEODOR (1868–1943), German journalist, politician, and editor-in-chief of the Berliner Tageblatt (est. 1872). Born in Berlin, the son of a wholesale dealer, Wolff joined the publishing house of his uncle Rudolf *Mosse in 1887. There he trained as a clerk and started writing for the Berliner Tageblatt. In 1889, together with Maximilian *Harden, he was among the founders of the Freie Buehne, an independent theater modeled after the Théatre-Libre in Paris. He was appointed chief Paris correspondent in 1894 and reported the *Dreyfus trial, side by side with his colleague Theodor *Herzl from Vienna. In 1906, he was called back to Berlin as editor-in-chief of the Berliner Tageblatt, which he made a leading liberal paper in and outside Germany until 1933. In his widely read Monday evening editorials, signed "tw," Wolff followed a policy of Franco-German understanding and Anglo-German rapprochement. At the outbreak of World War i he opposed extreme nationalist tendencies and annexationist demands. Often in difficulties with the censor, he was for some time forbidden to write. In 1918, together with E. *Feder and others, Wolff was among the founders of the German Democratic Party (ddp) but resigned in 1927 largely because of its rather right-wing Kulturpolitik. Until 1932, he served as a political advisor to Gustav Stresemann (1878–1929) and Heinrich Bruening (1885–1970).

After the rise of Hitler, Wolff, regarded as a leading representative of the Weimar system, was forced to flee Germany and left Berlin on the night of the Reichstag fire (February 27, 1933). Via Munich and Austria, he first went to Zurich and, in 1934, on to Nice. In 1937, he was officially expatriated. He continued his literary and journalistic work, contributing to papers such as the Pariser Tageblatt of G. *Bernhard and the Aufbau in New York. In autumn 1941, his visa to the U.S. expired before he was able to use it. In May 1943 he was arrested in Nice by the Italian army, handed over to the Gestapo and sent to Germany, where he was detained at several concentration camps, including Sachsenhausen and Oranienburg. In August 1943, he was taken to the Jewish hospital in Berlin-Moabit, where he died the following month.

Besides novels and plays, Wolff published various volumes of political surveys and memoirs, including Der Heide (1891), Der Untergang (1892), Die Suender (1894), Die stille Insel (1894), Niemand weiß es (1895), Die Koenigin (1898), Pariser Tagebuch (1908), Spaziergänge (1909), Vollendete Tatsachen, 19141917 (1918), Das Vorspiel (1924), and Anatole France (1924). After 1933 there appeared Der Krieg des Pontius Pilatus (1934), Der Marsch durch zwei Jahrzehnte (1936; reprinted in 1989 as Die Wilhelminische Epoche), and Die Schwimmerin (1937); posthumously published was "Die Juden." Ein Dokument aus dem Exil 1942/43 (1984).

In 1961, the foundation of the Hamburg paper Die Welt established the Theodor-Wolff-Preis for outstanding journalistic achievements.

add. bibliography:

Wininger 6 (1931), 316; W.E. Mosse, in: lbiyb, 4 (1959), 237–59; G. Schwarz, Theodor Wolff und das "Berliner Tageblatt" (1968); E. Feder, Heute sprach ich mit … (1971), index; W. Becker, Demokratie des sozialen Rechts (1971); B.B. Frye, in: lbiyb, 21 (1976), 143–72; W. Koehler, Der Chefredakteur Theodor Wolff (1978); bhdE, 1 (1980), 834; E. Kraus, Die Familie Mosse (1999), index; B. Soesemann, Theodor Wolff. Ein Leben mit der Zeitung (2000); C. Goldbach, Distanzierte Beobachtung. Theodor Wolff und das Judentum (2002); D. Fabisch, Der Publizist Theodor Wolff (2004). Edited works: B. Sösemann (ed.), Theodor Wolff. Tagebücher. 19141919 (2 vols., 1984); idem (ed.), Theodor Wolff … (3 vols., 1993–97); M. Broehan (ed.), Theodor Wolff … (1992).

[Erich Gottgetreu /

Johannes Valentin Schwarz (2nd ed.)]