Paul Wulf

The Life Story and Social and Political Work of a Münster Anti-Fascist

Public squares and streets are often named for historical figures. A city's choice of persons to honour in this way demonstrates whom and what that city regards as honourable.

The largest square in Münster is named for Paul von Hindenburg, a man who once said of the First World War, which he did much to cause, “War does me good like a spa treatment.” The university of this city bears the name of Kaiser Wilhelm II, an anti-democratic and power-hungry imperialist likewise to blame for the First World War. Other streets in Münster are dedicated to “war heroes” like Manfred von Richthofen, Maximilian Graf von Spee, and Otto Weddingen.

One will look in vain, by contrast, for a street in memory of the Münster anti-militarist and anti-fascist Paul Wulf.

Paul Wulf – A Warrior for Social Justice

Paul Wulf, born on 2 May 1921, was a man of great humour. He was a passionate blasphemer. He loved the pathos of revolution, and took a child's delight in pranks against power relationships and the clergy. He considered himself an anarchist and a Communist. His “weapon” was the word. His aim was a libertarian Socialism, a society without domination. Paul Wulf died on 3 July 1999. He was 78 years old.

Paul Wulf – Child of the Working Class

Paul Wulf grew up with his three siblings in proletarian circumstances. It was the years between the hyperinflation and the world economic crisis (1923-1930), the era of the Weimar Republic.

Forced Sterilisation

Material poverty forced Wulf's parents, with great regret, to entrust him to the care of the Catholic St. Vincent-Heim in Cloppenburg.

In 1932, he was sent to the adolescent psychiatric “idiot asylum” in Marsberg. A shortage of beds resulted in healthy and “sick” children being housed alongside one another and in inhuman conditions. They were prey to the asylum “doctors” and their “racial hygiene measures”.

In 1937, Paul Wulf's parents applied for his release. The head of the institution responded that, in view of Paul's “inborn mental deficiency of the first order”, the application could only be granted on the condition of his sterilisation. To save their child from gassing, his parents agreed to the forced sterilisation.

He was not yet 17 when he fell victim to the “Eugenics Law for the Protection of Heredopathic Offspring”.

Anti-Fascist Resistance and Educational Work

After his release from the asylum in Niedermarsberg, Paul Wulf worked against the Nazi regime throughout the Second World War. He conspired with prisoners of war, passing information to them and carrying out small works of sabotage.

The entry of the Allies into Germany was liberation for Wulf. Yet he soon saw that many of the old desk job Nazis took key positions in the “New Germany” and enjoyed high social standing, while he, because he openly expressed his social-revolutionary thinking, was often unemployed and impoverished even in times of full employment.

After the collapse of the “Third Reich”, Paul Wulf fought doggedly for political education and personal restitution.

In 1950, the Hagen local court rescinded the diagnosis of “inborn mental deficiency.” The same court cynically refused Paul Wulf's claim for damages: “In our experience, affected parties claim that the sterilisation procedures made them unable to work or handicapped in their work. The experience of appeals proceedings teaches that this bodily harm is, without exception, simulated.”

It was not until 1979 that Wulf prevailed in the Münster Social Welfare Court, which ordered the federal state insurance authority to pay him a modest disability pension.

Through his legal and political persistence, Paul Wulf became a voice for the approximately 400.000 people forcibly sterilised in National Socialist Germany. What is more, without his public engagement there never would have come about the one-time restitution payment authorised by the federal authorities in 1981 of 5.000 DM to all still-living forcibly sterilised persons.

Like no other man in Münster, Paul Wulf uncovered fascist structures and investigated the biographies of former Nazi party administrators who had been complicit in crimes during the Third Reich, then moved seamlessly into successful careers after the war.

He pursued his research daily in state libraries and numerous archives. He was always in search of material that he could use for his anti-fascist exhibitions. Few people have engaged the issues of euthanasia and forced sterilisation as deeply as Paul Wulf did.

He was a co-founder of the Vereinigung der Verfolgten des Naziregimes (VVN, the Organisation of Persons Persecuted by the Nazi Regime), and there was hardly a house squat, alternative street festival, or anti-nuclear, anti-war or anti-fascist demonstration in which he did not take part.

He was a regular visitor to the Umweltzentrum (Environment Centre) in Scharnhorststrasse, where he rummaged in the centre's archives and read alternative newspapers.

Wherever one happened to run into him, he would conjure up out of his legendary briefcase his latest finds of exciting books and photocopies of discoveries from his tours through the archives and bookstores.

The Order of Merit of the Federal Republic for an Anarchist

In 1991, Paul Wulf, social revolutionary and critic of the state, received the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic for his anti-fascist educational work.

Paul Wulf never betrayed his ideals. He was a friend of humanity, a loveable man who worked with his hands and his head and his heart, a difficult, sometimes chaotic, but always wonderful human being.

Bernd Drücke