Ernest M. Wolf

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Ernest M. Wolf , born as Ernst Wolf , (born January 6, 1909 in Dortmund-Husen ; † May 14, 1994 ) was an American German and Romance scholar of German origin with a focus on German and Romance studies , who had to leave Germany in 1937. He emigrated first to Sweden and then to the United States of America, where he worked as a teacher and university lecturer in San Diego after studying again.


On the website of the San Diego State University , Wolf's life, whose first name is sometimes given as Ernst, is summarized very briefly:

"Dr. Ernest Wolf was born in Germany and attended the Universities of Berlin and Munster and the Sorbonne, where he majored in Romance languages ​​and literature, German and English literature, philosophy and art history. He received his PhD summa cum laude from the University of Bonn in 1934. Dr. Wolf came to the United States in 1940, and taught from 1947 to 1976. He helped found the German Department at San Diego State University. Dr. Wolf died in 1994. "

However, this account does not mention that Wolf did not come to the USA voluntarily, but had to emigrate with his wife from Germany to Sweden, actually wanted to emigrate to Palestine , and only immigrated to the USA after these plans failed.

1909 to 1937

There is little concrete information about the childhood and youth of Wolf, who was born in Dortmund in 1909. In his epilogue to the new edition of Wolf's dissertation, Eberhard Leube quotes some information from the curriculum vitae from 1934 attached to the dissertation. This curriculum vitae began with the following sentence:

“I, Ernst Wolf, a Jew, was born on January 6th, 1909 as the son of the businessman Sally Wolf and his wife Caroline, born. Frank, born in Husen in Westphalia. "

Wolf passed his matriculation examination in Dortmund in 1927 . According to Feidel-Mertz, he was a member of the Jewish youth movement Comrades . In contrast to Leube, she does not mention a two-semester law degree after graduating from high school. Only afterwards, in the summer semester of 1928, did Wolf begin the above-mentioned studies and complete it in the winter semester of 1933/34 at the Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn , "most recently under the exception rule that allowed Jewish students to continue studying, whose fathers, like that of Wolf, who fought on the German side in World War I (Wolf's father was killed). "

After Leube, Wolf had determinedly prepared for a university career and found the full support of his doctoral supervisor, Ernst Robert Curtius . Wolf received the grade “excellent” both for the dissertation “ Guillaume Apollinaire and the Rhineland” supervised by Curtius and for the Rigorosum that took place on July 25, 1934 in the subjects Romance Philology, Spanish and Philosophy. However, he had to wait four years for his doctoral degree (see below).

Apparently, Wolf was already planning to emigrate during his doctorate, because Feidel-Mertz reports on emigration courses in English and French, but without going into detail about what this means. What is certain is that in 1935 he went as a teacher at the Jüdisches Landschulheim Herrlingen , which was run by Hugo Rosenthal , a student of Paul Geheeb . In his memories he can barely remember his work there, but all the more of the person and work of Rosenthal: “He was a fire that we all in Herrlingen could warm ourselves by in the breaking ice age. We owe him a lot: some for spiritual and some even for physical survival. ”Wolf, who admits himself to be responsible for the school group organization , had a particular influence on one group, namely the one that published the Herrlinger school newspaper Our Life ( Hayenu ). In their imprint it says: "This newspaper is published by the Chewrah Dalet in the Herrlingen Landschulheim ... Responsible publishing director: Ernst Wolf."

Wolf stayed in Herrlingen until 1937, where he met Hedy Adler, who also taught at the school, and the two married.

Hedy Adler

Hedwig Adler, called Hedy, was born on August 26, 1910 in Laupheim, the second child of the Jewish couple Jakob and Berta Adler. Her uncle was the artist Friedrich Adler , a brother of her father. Together with another brother, he ran the "very mixed [..] colonial goods mail order company to the 'Adler' coffee distillery", which they had taken over from their parents. The family was wealthy and integrated into social life: “In December 1928, Jakob Adler ran for the Laupheim city council on the list of 'joint election proposals', backed by the Center Party . The Catholic Center had drawn up an interdenominational, multi-association and social group list to 'maintain and consolidate peace and unity among the population'. Jakob Adler was elected to the municipal council with the fourth highest number of votes in this election. "

Hedy Adler attended the Laupheim Latin and Realschule from 1920 and graduated in 1926 with secondary school leaving certificate. She then attended a grammar school in Geneva , where she graduated from high school in 1929. Her father, who insisted on studying music, which Hedy Adler then took up in Berlin, denied her career aspirations to become a sports and gymnastics teacher. A year later, in 1930, she was allowed to begin training at a sports school in Stuttgart, which she completed in December 1932. Subsequent career opportunities in Germany were closed to her after January 30, 1933 . “So she went to London at the end of 1933 to learn English and then to emigrate to the USA.” Due to illness, however, she returned to Laupheim in the spring of 1934, where however no professional prospects were offered to her. A friend finally found Hedy Adler a job as a physical education teacher in the Jewish school home in Herrlingen, where she then met Ernst Wolf.

In emigration in Sweden

Before working in Herrlingen in 1935, Wolf had "lost his position as a lecturer in French at the University of Education in Bonn". It is not known when he and Hedy started thinking about emigrating. According to Feidel-Mertz, the fact that this could happen in 1937 can be traced back to Hugo Rosenthal, who recommended the Wolf couple to the Posener couple, who founded the Jewish rural school boarding school Kristinehov in southern Sweden in 1934 . Ernst Wolf worked there first as a teacher, and then, after the Poseners had the opportunity to emigrate to Palestine with their two children, as an “academic” headmaster, while the “Christian” wife of a Jewish teacher, Berthold Levi, was responsible for administration had become responsible.

It is not known whether Hedy Wolf also taught in Kristinehov . She is said to have suffered a miscarriage in Sweden due to enormous psychological stress.

In Sweden, however, Wolf's doctoral procedure was only just completed, because the delivery of the deposit copies or proof of the printing of the dissertation was required for the issuance of the doctoral certificate.

“The deposit copies were delivered on March 10, 1938, the date of the doctorate was set on March 12, 1938. What the files fail to capture are the dramatic circumstances of this final phase of the doctorate. Wolf had already emigrated to Sweden with his wife in 1937, but had to and was able to “remote-control” the printing of the dissertation from there, as he himself writes, and thus obtain his doctoral degree in 1938. "

Although there had already been a circular issued by the Reich Minister for Science, Education and Public Education on April 15, 1937, which stipulated that Jews of German nationality could no longer be admitted to doctoral studies, this decree included the handing over of the doctoral diploma to Jews, which set the conditions for the doctorate had already met, not out. This benefited Wolf, because at that time he and his wife still had valid German passports and were therefore still considered Germans. Unfortunately, Leube does not report who helped Wolf in Germany with this complicated procedure.

New start in the USA

As already stated, from 1937 Wolf formed the management team of the Kristinehov boarding school together with the wife of a colleague . The facility suffered increasing financial problems and was repeatedly threatened with closure. It is not known whether it was for these or other reasons, but Rudberg reports that there were disputes between two school leaders and that the Stockholm Jewish Community decided in early 1940 that “one of them, Dr. Wolff, should leave his position ". With this “Dr. Wolff “was meant by Ernest M. Wolf.

It is not known whether the USA was the dream destination of the Wolf couple, or whether they traveled there because there was hardly any other escape route available if one wanted to leave Sweden. After Wolf's resignation, they traveled to Los Angeles via Russia and Japan .

The new start in California was not easy. Feidel-Mertz reports that Wolf initially worked as a gardener and private teacher; according to Leube, he also worked as a plumber's assistant. At the same time he studied again and acquired the license to teach high schools in California. In 1947 he began teaching at San Diego State College (later San Diego State University ). He taught in a wide range of subjects, and he retired from this university in 1976.

“After the 'family break' from 1951 to 1982, Hedy Wolf was able to work as a gymnastics teacher at La Mesa Adult Education Center. The couple's only daughter was born in 1946. "


For Leube, there is no question that Wolf's research work leading to his dissertation provided decisive impetus for the German and French reception of Apollinaire and that, thanks to his intensive research, he was able to track down documents, some of which can no longer be found today. In the same way, Wolf had rendered outstanding services to uncovering Apollinaire's biographical traces and was the first to be able to prove that he had also worked as a tutor in Germany. Leube sums up Wolf's importance for Apollinaire research as follows:

“As an early and at least in Germany by far the first scientific monograph on Apollinaire, it initially expanded and stabilized the documentary fund of life and work in a central area and thus made a significant contribution to establishing the prerequisites for an adequate understanding of Apollinaire's work create. Nevertheless, the biographical approach never led Wolf to argue emotionally - on the contrary: his investigation is a pattern of strictly text-based analysis that takes place against the background of constant reflection on the inherent laws of the literary work, to which every process of reception must be subordinate. Such a methodological pre-understanding, to which many today take for granted something, was in the thirties, to put it in the words of a contemporary French critic: “le plus audacieux et le plus original”; Coherent scientific research only got under way in France after the Second World War. "

For Wolf himself, his preoccupation with Apollinaire was as good as finished with his emigration. Other topics came to the fore, and so it is not difficult today to follow in the footsteps of Ernest M. Wolf's literary work on the Internet. Feidel-Mertz points out, however, that the research on which this is based came into being after his retirement in 1976. This includes the work on Rilke and Thomas Mann . In adult education he was involved with a focus on European cultural history.

An older work is his book Blick auf Deutschland , published in 1966 . Small sketches on German cultural studies , which were designed for use at middle and upper school levels and, which was not common at the time, contained a chapter on the German resistance and the Scholl siblings .

Communicating European and German culture was also important to Wolf in his own teaching. For this purpose he organized and supervised trips for his students from an early age.

A hobby that Wolf used was collecting postage stamps ; he put together the "Ernest M. Wolf stamp collection". "This collection consists of Ernest M. Wolf's personal stamp collection. It includes stamps from around the world, dating from the 17th-20th centuries. "


  • Guillaume Apollinaire and the Rhineland , with a preface by Michel Décaudin, edited by Eberhard Leube , Lang, Frankfurt am Main / Bern / New York / Paris, 1988, ISBN 978-3-8204-1408-0 .
  • Apollinaire and the "Lore-Lay" Brentanos. In: Revue de litterature comparée. October / December 1951
  • The German Equivalents of English to like. In: The German Quarterly. Volume 33, 1960, pp. 49-53
  • German Pocket Book Series. In: The German Quarterly. Volume 36, 1963, pp. 171-179
  • View of Germany. Small sketches on German cultural studies , New York 1966
  • Stone into poetry. The cathedral cycle in Rainer Maria Rilke's Neue Gedichte , Bonn 1978 (studies in German, English and comparative literature; Volume 61)
  • Magnum Opus. Studies in the Narrative Fiction of Thomas Mann. New York, Bern, Frankfurt a. M., Paris 1989


Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Short biography Ernest M. Wolf on the website of the San Diego State University
  2. a b Eberhard Leube: Afterword by the editor , in: Ernst Wolf: Guillaume Apollinaire and the Rhineland , p. 191
  3. Short biography in: Hildegard Feidel-Mertz (ed.): Schools in Exile , pp. 252–253
  4. In the DNB catalog, the book, which was reissued in 1988, is listed under the author Ernst Wolf, which is why - unlike in WorldCat - it is not assigned to Ernest M. Wolf. Of the other 16 publications that are assigned to Ernst Wolf and GND 100706398, none of them can be assigned to Ernest M. Wolf.
  5. a b c d Eberhard Leube: Afterword by the editor , in: Ernst Wolf: Guillaume Apollinaire and the Rhineland , p. 192
  6. For more information on Rosenthal and the Landschulheim, see: Herrlingen: On the history of Jewish institutions in the 20th century , but above all: Lucie Schachne: Education for resistance .
  7. Ernest M. Wolf: Hugo Rosenthal - Tribute and ablation of thanks , in Lucie Schachne: Education for Resistance , pp. 95-96
  8. Some issues of the school newspaper can be viewed in the archive of the Leo Baeck Institute : Our life in the LBI archive
  9. For more family details see: Dr. Antje Köhlerschmidt and Karl Neidlinger (editing and publishing): The Jewish community of Laupheim and its destruction , pp. 31–38. All details about Hedy Adler are based on this source unless otherwise stated.
  10. a b c d e Dr. Antje Köhlerschmidt and Karl Neidlinger (editing and publishing): The Jewish community of Laupheim and its destruction
  11. Hildegard Feidel-Mertz (ed.): Schools in Exile , p. 104
  12. ^ Pontus Rudberg: The Swedish Jews and the victims of Nazi terror, 1933-1945 , p. 230
  13. Short biography in: Hildegard Feidel-Mertz (ed.): Schools in Exile , pp. 252–253
  14. Eberhard Leube: Afterword by the editor , in: Ernst Wolf: Guillaume Apollinaire and the Rhineland , pp. 199-200. The translation of the French quote is: the boldest and most original [methodological pre-understanding].
  15. ^ Sue Earnest in the introduction to a paper that Wolf gave on the occasion of the acquisition of the "Amelang Collection" by the library of San Diego State University. Dr. Ernest Wolf discussing the Amelang Collection (12/2/1977) . Wolf's contribution can also be heard there (in English).
  16. Reference to the "Ernest M. Wolf stamp collection" in WorldCat .