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Dr. Benno Wolf


Image: Dr. Benno Wolf.

Dr. Benno Wolf was an early German speleologist, and honorary member of the British Speleological Association. He was executed by the Nazis during World War II, and subsequently almost forgotten. Some years ago the German caving award of the Verband der deutschen Höhlen und Karstforscher (VdHK), the national German caving organization, was named after Dr. Benno Wolf. It is awarded to cavers who showed a continuous and extraordinary effort for many years.

Benno Wolf started caving in 1898, while he studied law. Soon he became rather famous for his speleologic work. However, a huge part of his importance for caving is based on the huge amount of people he knew. He had a sort of network, he knew the who's who of German speaking cavers, founded various caving organizations, found sponsors for speleology and published a speleologic journal. He studied law, worked as a lawyer, and later became judge in Berlin. In this position he worked on the first environmental law of Germany.

With the rise of the Nazi regime, he was aware of the danger he lived in, being the descendant of Jews. He quit his position, to avoid being thrown out. He reduced his public work, and finally gave the position of the editor of the German speleologic journal to a friend. Financed by friends, he wrote his most important books, three volumes about cave animals, in the years before the war. The British Speleological Association made him a honorary member because of his continuing work in the field of speleology.

The end was tragic, one of his most important works, the German national cave registry was confiscated by the regime. They used the information to build bunkers, underground factories and concentration camps. Finally he was arrested on 06-JUL-1942 by the Gestapo, and deported on the 17. Alterstransport (17th Elderly Transport) to the concentration camp Theresienstadt. Here he died a few months later 71 years old.


26-SEP-1871born in Dresden.
1898started caving.
1912became judge in Berlin-Charlottenburg.
1922vice president of the newly founded Hauptverband Deutscher Höhlenforscher (Main Society of the German Cave Researchers).
1923upon his initiative Gesellschaft für Höhlenforschung und Höhlenkunde (Society for Cave Research and Cave Knowledge) founded in Berlin.
1933quits his position to anticipate his dismissal.
1936became Honorary Member of the BSA.
06-JUL-1942arrested by the Gestapo.
1943killed by the Nazi regime because of its Jewish ancestors.


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