A very best, good friend: The publisher and writer Gerhard Wolf is dead free press

A very best, good friend: The publisher and writer Gerhard Wolf is dead  free press

Christa Wolf’s husband was a writer, essayist, publisher, curator – but above all he was a selfless friend and supporter of writers and artists, who would have had a harder time without him. On the death of Gerhard Wolf.


Such a loss again. Many workrooms and studios will mourn the loss of a person whose greatest talent was recognizing talents in other people, encouraging them and supporting them.

Big Impact

The landscape of literature and art, not only in eastern Germany, would look different without him. Who knows what would have become of writers like Sarah Kirsch, Volker Braun, Adolf Endler, Jan Factor, Karl Mickel, the artist philosopher Carlfriedrich Claus, and later Bert Papenfuss-Gorek and Gabriele Stötzer, if Gerhard Wolf hadn’t been responsible for the publications and dissemination of their works? Even the career of his famous wife Christa Wolf, whose first and most critical reader he was always, could have been different.

Flak helpers in the last months of the war

Gerhard Wolf grew up in Germany’s darkest years. Born October 16, 1928 in Bad Frankenhausen, father an accountant, mother died when he was ten years old. The fascist war interrupted his schooling, in 1944/45 he was still used as an anti-aircraft helper and was taken prisoner by the Americans. After his release, he graduated from high school in 1947 and was then a new teacher in Thuringia. From 1949 to 1951 he studied German and history in Jena, later again from 1953 to 1956 in Berlin. At that time, Gerhard Wolf had already gained his first professional experience as a radio editor in Leipzig and Berlin.

Disputes with the cultural bureaucracy

From 1957 he worked as a writer, screenwriter, essayist, critic, but above all as an editor at Mitteldeutscher Verlag in Halle/Saale. He also experienced the arguments about the novel “Reflecting on Christa T.” his wife Christa – they had married in 1951 – which appeared in 1968 and was heavily attacked by East German cultural policy. In Halle, the Wolf couple also met the painter Willi Sitte, who was himself under attack at the time, and since then they have been more intensively involved with contemporary art, collecting and promoting it.

Expulsion from the SED

But like so many people who, with an honest heart, wanted to build a different, peaceful, socialist society in the Soviet-occupied part of Germany after the Second World War, Gerhard Wolf soon got to know the limits of what was possible, the SED that was increasingly moving away from the people and their everyday reality -Bureaucracy sat down. One of the low points was certainly his signature in 1976 under the resolution with which East German artists protested against Wolf Biermann’s expatriation. After that, Gerhard Wolf was expelled from the SED, to which he had belonged since 1946. State security had been watching the Wolf couple since 1969. But leaving was out of the question for him and his wife. Gerhard Wolf continued to fight in his quiet, friendly, but also persistent and consistent way that original and critical voices got their place in literature and art.

Many contacts to Karl-Marx-Stadt

Gerhard Wolf always had special connections to what was then Karl-Marx-Stadt and to Chemnitz. The Wolfs had already met Carlfriedrich Claus in 1971 – Gerhard Wolf: “That was an initial spark for me.” Later, the unique language and thinker Claus was able to publish some of his famous portfolios in Gerhard Wolf’s Janus-Press-Verlag. Through Claus, Gerhard Wolf also got to know the Clara Mosch group of artists, whom he treasured all his life. Just a few months ago, he praised Thomas Ranft as “one of the best, if not the best, etchers in the GDR” and acknowledged the development of the Clara Mosch artists, who had “launched a great liberation in all directions,” “which they did too succeeded”. Anyone who had convinced Gerhard Wolf with honesty and truthfulness was a lifelong best friend. There aren’t many people like that left – knowing and sensitive, selfless and consistent. Gerhard Wolf died in Berlin on Tuesday at the age of 94, the family announced. Many candles will burn for him in many windows.


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