Wolff, Theodor

(1868-1943)
   journalist; editor-in-chief of the Berliner Tageblatt (BT). Born to a textile wholesaler in Berlin,* he was drawn to theater* and was active in his youth in the Naturalist Freie Buhne movement; two of his plays were produced by Max Reinhardt.* For twelve years (1894-1906) he was Paris correspondent for BT, a liberal newspaper* owned and published by his cousin, Rudolf Mosse.* His superb coverage of the Dreyfus affair won him accolades in Berlin and helped secure his appointment as editor in 1906. With his democratic convictions, he transformed BT into the foremost mouthpiece of a coherent progressive liberalism. He also championed a free-trade, antiagrarian perspective that appealed to a Jewish economic elite. Not surprisingly, anti-Semites* labeled the newspaper the Judenblatt—the organ of the "golden (Jew-ish) International." He also advocated Anglo-German understanding and, heeding his country's drift toward war, became a severe critic of the naval policies of Alfred von Tirpitz.*
   Soon after Germany entered World War I, Wolff joined the new Bund Neues Vaterland (a circle of internationalists) and turned BT into a mouthpiece for a sane foreign policy, attacking German annexations and condemning submarine warfare. Among his targets was Gustav Stresemann*—a matter of importance for the postwar era. On several occasions BT was banned and Wolff was for-bidden to write, but he never compromised his ideals and made BT available to antiannexationists attached to the Progressive Party. Not surprisingly, he was berated during the Weimar era as a preeminent November Criminal.*
   Wolff was already crusading for parliamentary democracy when, faced with German defeat, he convened a meeting of left-wing liberals on 10 November at the BT offices; it proved to be an organizational session for the DDP. Unfor-tunately, the war-induced antipathy to Stresemann prevented liberal unity—a misfortune for the Republic. Friendly with the DDP's Hugo Preuss,* Wolff linked BT with his friend's constitutional proposals, but when he failed to per-suade the DDP to validate a left-liberal course, he quit the Party's Hauptvorstand in April 1919. Thereafter, while he remained a brilliant voice for the Republic, his impact on public affairs was negligible. Although he was an inveterate Fran-cophile, he opposed the Versailles Treaty*; however, once it was signed, he pleaded that its terms be observed while backing moderate efforts at treaty re-vision. Indeed, with a large readership in the lost territories of West Prussia,* Posen, and Upper Silesia*, he was an implacable foe of the new Polish state. Horrified when three DDP deputies sponsored the Law for the Protection of Youth against Trash and Filth* (limiting the sale of pornography), he resigned from the Party in December 1926. Despite mutual hostility, there was a rap-prochement with Stresemann from 1923, with Wolff increasingly supportive of the Foreign Minister's policies. In May 1928 he introduced the concept of a new liberal party led by Stresemann and Joseph Wirth.* Although he was in-effective, he continued to sponsor the idea after Stresemann's death. As a matter of expediency, he pledged support to the new DStP in 1930.
   Attacks on Weimar culture and politics often referenced Wolff. A powerful intellect who retained ties with the theater, he became the subject of rumors that he was to be replaced at BT. But while he feuded regularly with Hans Lach-mann-Mosse (Rudolf's son-in-law and owner of BT after 1920), it took the NSDAP to engineer his dismissal in March 1933. A republican and of Jewish ancestry, he had no illusions about the impact of a Hitler* Chancellorship. Soon after the Reichstag* fire he settled in Nice. Italian occupation police arrested him in May 1943 and delivered him to the Gestapo. After a painful prison ordeal he died in a Jewish hospital in Berlin.
   REFERENCES:Eksteins, Limits of Reason;Kohler, Chef-Redakteur Theodor Wolff; Wer-ner Mosse, German-Jewish Economic Elite and "Rudolf Mosse"; Gotthart Schwarz, Theodor Wolff; Wolff, Through Two Decades.

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

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