Who are the best political satirists in the world

Shrewd satirist: Kurt Tucholsky

The writer and publicist Kurt Tucholsky quickly made a name for himself as a "hot dog" in the Weimar Republic. The pacifist and leftist democrat, as he calls himself, writes articles, essays, reports - occasionally also novels and well-tended poetry and preferably polished political satires. The "world stage" is his favorite organ. "He was one of the best-paid journalists of the Weimar period," says Rolf Hosfeld, who wrote a remarkable biography about the militant intellectual. "He wrote a lot. And he was someone who was in a lot of media. He was a star in his day, if you will."

A life as an outsider

Kurt Tucholsky with his girlfriend in exile in Sweden (1929)

Kurt Tucholsky's life as a critical contemporary shows terrifying parallels to the current events in Paris. Insults and massive hostility were also part of his life as a journalist: "He was threatened, above all because of his essay" The surrounded theater of war ", in which the well-known sentence occurs:" Soldiers are murderers, "reports Hosfeld." He was in Sweden at the time and has preferred not to return to Germany because he feared that he would be shot on the street or something else might happen to him. "Kurt Tucholsky had his role models mainly in France, says his biographer." It was the anti-war satires, it was also, in a way, the cheeky French chanson. This French tradition of humor, irony and satire was very style-forming for him. "

Kurt Tucholsky was born on January 9, 1890 in a Jewish family in Berlin-Moabit. His father is a bank director and values ​​a sophisticated education. The young Tucholsky's first attempts at writing appeared in 1907 in "Ulk", the satirical supplement to the "Berliner Tageblatt". The talented writer tries to study law and at the same time begins to write his first journalistic articles for the social democratic "Vorwärts".

Steep career in the Weimar Republic

The talented Mr. Tucholsky - at a young age

"He had an extremely constructive relationship with Weimar democracy, even if you don't always notice that in his articles. They are sharp, but he was always very clear on the matter," says biographer Hosfeld. In his time, Tucholsky would have wished that Germany would develop more in the direction of England and France, whose democratic culture he greatly admired. In Berlin he attends a French grammar school and is fluent in the language. He got to know the appropriate way of life, the "savoir vivre", from his aunt, who is a French teacher and lives in Paris.

Kurt Tucholsky became known as a writer in 1912 with his first novel "Rheinsberg. A picture book for lovers". The book became the best-selling bestseller in the early 1930s. "He was also a great travel writer. You don't know what would have become of him if it hadn't been for World War I," said Hosfeld. Tucholsky was deeply shocked by his experiences as a soldier on the Eastern Front. "The collapse of civilization was traumatic for him. And above all the inability, especially in Germany, to come to terms with this war. So to turn to dialogue instead of fighting each other, which he always called militarism in people's minds. "

Jewish cultural roots

After an interim episode with the Political Police in Bucharest, Tucholsky returned to Berlin in 1918, with a war-damaged head and poor health. He resigned from the Jewish community before World War I and was baptized as a Protestant in Berlin. The Independent Social Democratic Party, the forerunner of today's SPD, becomes his political home. He writes chansons, cheeky poetry, music reviews and a lot of cultural criticism for the "Weltbühne" and the Berlin newspapers. He keeps a close eye on the political currents of the time. "He was someone who had a very keen eye for the rapidly developing anti-Semitism. And who also felt affected by it," adds Hosfeld.

Mockery and irony as a journalistic weapon

In 1924 Tucholsky went to Paris as a cultural correspondent for two years, initially with great euphoria. But the disillusionment caused by the general political climate in Europe hits him hard. "He quickly realized that France is also not a country without contradictions. In France, too, there were things that one could get upset about in the same way as in Germany. But there were fascist movements in France too, and there was anti-Semitism."

In Berlin, the now famous publicist takes over the editing of the "Weltbühne". With his pointed articles and often polemical comments he quickly made enemies in the right-wing camp of the rising National Socialists. "Satire was important to him. Satire was important because it exposed the incontestable claim to truth behind political or religious ideologies," explains his biographer this time.

In the meantime, Tucholsky no longer writes everything under his real name. "I like us very much," he writes as Theobald Tiger, alias Peter Panter, "pseudonyms are like little people." He reserves the name Ignaz Wrobel for sharp political positions. "We are traitors to the country. But we are betraying a state that we deny in favor of a country that we love - for peace and a real fatherland: Europe," he wrote in March 1928.

Homeless and torn inside

His numerous pseudonyms were also his masks

In 1929 he went back to Paris, in 1930 he went into exile in Sweden. His writings ended up in the great book burning in May 1933 in the flames of the National Socialist purges. As an enemy of the state, Tucholsky is at the top of the Nazi expatriation lists. Homeless and internally torn, the brilliant political analyst and author witnessed how the Nazis expand their power and align cultural life in the German Reich.

Kurt Tucholsky died on December 21, 1935 from an overdose of tablets. Suicide or mistake? That has not yet been clarified. "As a publicist, he had given up completely," says biographer Rolf Hofeld. "He knew: journalists are not people who shape political conditions, they can only influence public opinion in a certain way. With a view to the developments in Germany with which he was confronted, he did everything to help the catastrophe on his typewriter. But he couldn't stop it. "