August 2, 2014

Karl Wolfskehl

Karl Wolfskehl (Germany/d. New Zealand)



Born, on September 17, 1869, into a German-Jewish family in Darmstadt, Germany, Karl Wolfskehl studied in Leipzig and Berlin. In 1898 he married the daughter of the Dutch Director of the Darmstadt Chamber Orchestra, Hanna de Haan, with who he had two daughters, Judith and Renate.

     After his university studies, Wolfskehl came under the influence of the noted German poetry Stefan George, with whom he collaborated in the publication of the three-volume Deutsche Dichtung (1901-1903) and  Blätter für die Kunst (1892-1919).

      From 1899 to 1932, in Wolfskehl’s Munich home, the George-Kreis (George Circle) met, Wolfskehl being their only Jewish member. There was of often a powerful mystic element in Wolfskehl’s poetry, and, accordingly, he was also linked to the Munich Cosmic Circle, centered around Alfred Schuler. In 1904 that group disbanded, in part due to a spit between Stefan George and Schuler and their respective acolytes, Wolfskehl and Ludwig Lages.

     Wolfskehl’s early collections, Gesammelte Dichtungen (1903) and Der Umkreis (1927), followed George’s standards of neoclassicism. Wolfskehl’s own three traditions included German writing, Greco-Roman contributions, and biblical texts.

     In 1933, with the rise of the German Nazi party, Wolfskehl emigrated to Switerzland and then to Italy, eventually joining his new female partner, Margot Ruben in New Zealand.

     It was in New Zealand where Wolfskehl wrote much of his most noted works, including Die Stimme spricht (1934), Hiob (1950), and Sang aus dem Exil (1958).

     More recently, it has been revealed that Wolfskehl had close ties to Alexander von Stauffenberg, who wrote him in New Zealand shortly before he, in collaboration with his brothers, attempted to kill Hitler.

     Wolfskehl’s complete works were published in 1960, and a recent bilingual collection, Under New Stars: Poems of the New Zealand Exile, edited by Friedrich Voit of the University of Auckland, was published by The Holloway Press in 2012.


Gesammelte Dichtungen (1903); Saul (Berlin: Die Blätter für der Kunst, 1905); Die Stimme spricht (Berlin: Schocken Verlag, 1906/1934); Der Umkreis (1927); Hoib, oder, die vier Spiegel (Hamburg: Classen, 1950); Sang aus dem Exil (Heidelberg: L Schneider, 1959); Gesammelte Werke (Hamburg: Claussen, 1960); Gedicte, Essays, Briefe (Frankfurt am Main: Jüdischer Verlag, 1999)




1933, a poem sequence (New York: Schocken Books, 1947); Under New Stars: Poems of the New Zealand Exile, ed. by Friedrich Voit (Auckland, New Zealand: The Holloway Press, 2012); An Die Deutschen / To the Germans, trans. by Friedrich Voit and Andrew Paul Wood (New Zealand: Cold Hub Press, 2013)

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