Tucholsky, Kurt

(1890-1935)
   journalist and satirist; brilliant contrib-utor to Die Weltbuhne.* He was born in Berlin* to the family of a Jewish businessman and banker (he later converted to Lutheranism). His father's death in 1905 led him to quit Gymnasium; he completed his Abitur in 1909 as an external student. Although journalistic interests competed with legal studies, he took a doctorate in 1915. But it was his erotic short novel of 1912, Rheinsberg, that attracted the attention of Siegfried Jacobsohn,* editor of Schaubuhne; his first article for the weekly appeared in January 1913.
   Tucholsky was not overcome by giddy patriotism in August 1914. Upon com-pleting his studies, he was inducted in April 1915 and sent to the Baltic prov-inces* to manage a materiel warehouse. Continuing his writing (he refused to send much of his work to the censor), he likened the war in the East to an ox repeatedly running its head against a thick wall; while the performance was magnificent, the beast failed to ask if it had any purpose. By 1917-1918 he despaired that the barbaric future might make the prewar era seem a paradise of tranquility.
   After the Armistice* Tucholsky returned to Berlin and wrote briefly for Vor-warts,* but shaken by the brutality of the Freikorps,* he rejected the reformist course set by the SPD and joined the USPD. During 1918-1920 he edited Ulk, the Berliner Tageblatts literary supplement, while writing for several other newspapers.* But it was Weltbuhne, Jacobsohn's renamed weekly, that became his primary forum. Writing social commentary and scores of feuilletons, he was so prodigious that in addition to his given name he used four pseudonyms with distinct personalities: Kaspar Hauser, Peter Panter, Theobald Tiger, and Ignaz Wrobel. His collected work totaled over five thousand pages, yet he never wrote a major book. Although his irreverence was unmatched in both quality and fervor (making him one of Germany s most hated individuals), to most Berliners he was the author of trenchant cabaret* chansons, written for popular singers at Max Reinhardt s* Schall und Rauch or other famous night spots. Nevertheless, despairing of Germany and faced with threats on his life, he left Berlin in 1924 and lived first in Paris and from 1929 in Sweden. When Jacobsohn died in 1926, he reluctantly returned for ten months to edit Weltbuhne (Carl von Ossietzky* replaced him in October 1927), but he never saw Germany after 1929.
   Republicans rebuked Tucholsky for being insufficiently constructive. He cas-tigated aristocrats, officers, capitalists, policemen, bureaucrats, clergymen, stu-dents, peasants, judges, and all Bavarians; few Germans earned his praise. But while he mocked bourgeois society, he earned a sizable sum in Paris as literary correspondent for the Vossische Zeitung. To be fair, it should be noted that his work after 1923 was less caustic and was marked by frequent humor. He was, moreover, uncommonly kind to personal friends.
   In 1932, with Walter Hasenclever,* Tucholsky wrote the comedy Christoph Columbus; it was among his last works. He had once argued that the Germans deserved a tyranny as a reward for the morass they had produced; he surmised, moreover, that Germany's working class would not rise against Hitler.* In 1933 his books were burned and he was deprived of his citizenship. An ailing refugee in Sweden, he committed suicide when his application for citizenship was re-jected.
   REFERENCES:Deak, Weimar Germany's Left-Wing Intellectuals; Poor, Kurt Tucholsky.

A Historical dictionary of Germany's Weimar Republic, 1918-1933. .

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