Benno Wolf

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Berlin memorial plaque on the Haus am Kleistpark, Grunewaldstrasse 6-7, in Berlin-Schöneberg
Stumbling block at Hornstrasse 6 in Berlin-Kreuzberg

Benno Wolf (born September 26, 1871 in Dresden ; died January 6, 1943 in the Theresienstadt ghetto ) was one of the most important European speleologists in the interwar period and held numerous functions. For years he was a member of the board of the Main Association of German Speleologists and published its magazine. He was an active member of the German Society for Mammal Studies and other scientific societies. Wolf did essential preparatory work for the creation of the Reich Nature Conservation Act .

Weimar Republic

Wolf was of Jewish descent but grew up in the Protestant faith. After studying law, he was transferred to Charlottenburg near Berlin as a judge in 1912. At the same time, he worked initially on a voluntary basis, and from 1915 as a full-time legal advisor at the State Agency for the Preservation of Natural Monuments in Prussia . His superiors were Hugo Conwentz and Walther Schoenichen , Hans Klose was his colleague. Wolf worked out the first drafts for nature conservation laws in Germany and neighboring countries. In 1920, § 34 of the Prussian Field and Forest Management Act was generally welcomed as the "Small Nature Conservation Act". Wolf also wrote the comment “The right to preserve natural monuments in Prussia” (Berlin 1920).

time of the nationalsocialism

After the National Socialist seizure of power in 1933, Wolf was released as judge and legal advisor in the state agency for the preservation of natural monuments, where he had worked legally for 21 years, by means of a forced resignation due to his Jewish descent. His superior Schoenichen ( NSDAP ) at the same time welcomed the anti-Semitic measures against Jewish administrative colleagues as “purifying the people”.

When formulating the Reich Nature Conservation Act of 1935, Klose made significant use of Wolf's preliminary work. In spite of these loans, Klose is still regarded today as the "father of the Reich Nature Conservation Act". Klose also relied on Wolf's drafts for nature conservation decrees for the "Germanized Polish areas" after 1939. Under Klose the Aryan paragraph was introduced in the Volksbund Naturschutz in 1936 . Previously important supporting members such as Wolf and Max Hilzheimer have since been excluded from there.

The Berlin factory owner Julius Riemer , an internationally known natural and ethnographic collector, was the closest friend and most active patron of Benno Wolf after his professional ban. From 1937 he took over the editing of the main association magazine; At times he was also the acting head of the main association. He tried desperately to save Wolf from deportation, but ultimately failed.

Because of his Jewish descent and especially because of his archives about caves , which had become important for the war effort , the 70-year-old Benno Wolf was deported to the Theresienstadt ghetto on July 8, 1942 on the 17th transport for the elderly . There he died on January 6, 1943 as a result of the inhumane prison conditions. His cave archive took over the ancestral inheritance of the SS and evaluated it for armaments purposes under the direction of Hans Brand .


After 1945, Benno Wolf's achievements were suppressed and forgotten by many contemporaries, probably also because his “colleagues” from before 1933 were able to seamlessly take over the West German nature conservation administrations. Today's authors praise the Field and Forest Ordinance Act of 1920 as a milestone in nature conservation, but never mentioned Wolf at any point earlier. This has only changed in the last few years and a chapter in the commemorative publication "State Nature Conservation in Germany 1906–2006" was dedicated to Wolf.

In honor of the warm relationships that existed between Benno Wolf and the Dresden cave explorers around Johannes Ruscher and in memory of his "last journey", which Wolf was forced to take to Theresienstadt below the cave through the Elbe Valley, employees of the Dresden cave exploration group on August 11, 1996 a remarkable sandstone cave of the sandstone karst of Bohemian Switzerland named after this researcher (Dr.-Benno-Wolf-Höhle) and an inscription attached.

In 2005 a stumbling block was laid in the pavement in front of his home at Hornstrasse 6 in Berlin-Kreuzberg after a private initiative had campaigned for it.

Dr. Benno Wolf Prize

The Association of German Cave and Karst Researchers (VdHK) donated the “Dr. Benno Wolf Prize”, which has been awarded at irregular intervals since 1996. The prize is intended to honor special achievements in cave protection and cave research and to set an example against intolerance and lack of freedom in scientific research. Previous winners are:

  • 1996: Hubert Trimmel (Vienna)
  • 1997: Petra Boldt (Schelklingen-Schmiechen) and Karl Hager (Nuremberg)
  • 1999: Geological State Office North Rhine-Westphalia (Krefeld)
  • 2000: Bodo Schillat (Rinteln-Steinbergen)
  • 2002: Herbert W. Franke (Puppling near Munich)
  • 2003: Wolfgang Dreybrodt (Bremen)
  • 2004: Stefan Zaenker (Fulda)
  • 2006: Klaus Dobat (Tübingen)
  • 2007: Jörg Obendorf (Munich)
  • 2008: Dieter Stoffels (Mülheim)
  • 2009: Michael Laumanns (Berlin)
  • 2010: Friedhart Knolle (Goslar)
  • 2011: Karl-Heinz Pfeffer (Tübingen)
  • 2012: State Association for Cave and Karst Research Hessen
  • 2013: Ralph Müller (Schrozberg) and Rainer Fohlert (Wutha-Farnroda)
  • 2015: Michael Krause (Stuttgart)
  • 2017: Wolfgang Ufrecht (Stuttgart)
  • 2018: Stefan Voigt (Ennepetal)
  • 2019: Jochen Duckeck (Nuremberg)

Individual evidence

  1. Bernd Schütze: (Erb) -Last für die Demokratie. The politics of remembrance of nature conservation since 1945. In: Gert Gröning, Joachim Wolschke-Buhlmahn (Ed.): Naturschutz un Demokratie? Munich 2006, ISBN 3-89975-077-2 , p. 84 f.
  2. Nils Seethaler has researched Julius Riemer. In: Wittenberger Sonntag / Freizeit Magazin. May 10, 2019, accessed August 12, 2019 .
  3. ^ Burkhard Hawemann: From the Yorckschlösschen to the Kreuzberg town hall. In: Stolpersteine ​​in Berlin. 12 walks in the neighborhood. Active Museum Fascism and Resistance in Berlin e. V., Coordination Office Stolpersteine ​​Berlin, Kulturprojekte Berlin GmbH, Berlin 2013, pp. 60–61.
  5. ^ VdHK: Benno Wolf Prize , accessed on May 14, 2018.


  • RG Spöcker : Ahasver Spelaeus. Memories of Dr. Benno Wolf. Edited and annotated by F. Reinboth and F. Knolle. In: Communications Association of German cave and karst researchers. Volume 32, No. 1, 1986, pp. 4-8.
  • A. Wagner: Memories of District Judge Dr. Benno Wolf. In: Mitt.-Bl. Dept. Karst and Cave thinker. Naturhist. Ges. Nuremberg. Volume 14, No. 1/2, 1981, No. 24, pp. 8-16.
  • Dieter Stoffels:
    • Dr. Benno Wolf's work in Rhineland-Westphalia. In: Communications and reports Speleogroup Letmathe. No. 2, Iserlohn 1987, pp. 10-20.
    • Dr. Benno Wolf - a pioneer of caving in Germany. In: Speleological Yearbook 1994. Association f. Höhlenkunde in Westfalen, Iserlohn 1995, pp. 78–83.
    • Dr. Benno Wolf and the dark chapter of German cave exploration. In: The cave explorer. Volume 27, Issue 2, pp. 35–43, Dresden 1995.
    • Dr. Benno Wolf's date of death determined. In: Communications Association of German cave and karst researchers. Volume 41, No. 4, Munich 1995, p. 55.
  • Bernd Schütze: Jews in the history of nature conservation? Questions from a reading conservationist. In: Uwe Schneider, Joachim Wolschke-Bulmahn: Against the current. Gert Gröning on his 60th birthday. (= Contributions to spatial planning. Volume 76). Faculty of Landscape Architecture and Environmental Development at the University of Hannover, Hannover 2004, pp. 267–293.
  • F. Knolle, H. Bergemann, MK Brust, RH Winkelhöfer: Dr. Benno Wolf from Dresden in memory. In: The cave explorer. 42nd volume, issue 2, Dresden 2010, pp. 36–53.
  • F. Knolle, D. Stoffels, T. Oldham: Who was BSA Honorary Member Dr. Benno Wolf (1871–1943)? A retrospective look at European caving and Nazi history. In: The British Caver. Volume 129, 2007, pp. 21–26, Cardigan, UK [similar in]

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