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The Lahr von Leitis Archive
Collecting – Preserving – Remembering
 
Dr. Volkmar Zühlsdorff
Dr. Volkmar Zühlsdorff
Photo: Volkmar Zühlsdorff (right) and Prinz Löwenstein (standing)
 
Dr. Volkmar Zühlsdorff, diplomat and journalist, was born on December 9, 1912 in Finow, a small village outside of Berlin. In 1931 he joined the “Reichsbanner Schwarz-Rot-Gold” (Imperial Banner Black-Red-Gold), an organization with 3.5 million members founded in the 1920s to protect the Weimar republic against its enemies from the extreme right and left. In Berlin, Volkmar Zühlsdorff studied law.
On May 15, 1933 he narrowly escaped his arrest by the Gestapo. Together with Prince Hubertus and Princess Helga zu Löwenstein he emigrated to Austria and in 1938 to the United States. In 1936, Volkmar Zühlsdorff, together with Löwenstein, a dedicated democrat whom Joseph Goebbels dubbed the “Red Prince” and with the eminent Austrian writer and journalist Richard A. Bermann, founded the German Academy for Arts and Sciences in Exile. The foundation of the German Academy in Exile was probably the most significant attempt to organize the cultural exiles. Under the joint presidency of Thomas Mann and Sigmund Freud the Academy enabled the scattered and often isolated German-speaking intellectuals to work together constructively. From 1936 until 1942, Volkmar Zühlsdorff was Managing Director of the German Academy of Arts and Sciences in Exile.
On October 12, 1946 Volkmar Zühlsdorff returned to Germany. From 1947 until 1957 he was the spokesperson of the “German Action” (Deutsche Aktion), the first civil rights movement in Germany after World War II. Two of the goals of the German Action where to stop the bombing of the island of Helgoland by the British air force, and to allow free elections in the Saar region, so that its citizens could decide themselves whether they want to be reintegrated into the new Federal Republic of Germany. From 1952 until 1956, Zühlsdorff also worked as a journalist for the German weekly “Die Zeit”. 1959 he joined the Foreign Ministry of Germany. Since 1979 he has been one of the chairmen of the “Free German Author’s Association” (Freier Deutscher Autorenverband), whose Honorary President he became in 1991. In addition he served as Chairman of the “Federation of Active Democrats” (Bund Aktiver Demokraten) and member of the executive board of the “Union of German Associations of Resistance Fighters and Persecuted” (Union deutscher Widerstandskämpfer- und Verfolgtenverbände).
In 1988, Volkmar Zühlsdorff received the Cross of the Order of Merit from the President of the Federal Republic of Germany.
From 2001 until his death in 2006, he was an Honorary Artistic Director of Elysium – between two continents.
 

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