Sound in the Silence - The Story of Gebrüder Wolf

The story of the Gebrüder Wolf

In 1895, three sons of a butcher from the Hamburg “Neustadt”, Ludwig, Leopold und James Isaac, founded the “Wolf-Trio”, and entertained their audiences with parodies, humorous natters and farcical scenes. Their success was not only restricted to Hamburg. Their tours also took them to Berlin, Erfurt, Kopenhagen and Oslo.

James left the trio in 1906. Ludwig and Leopold went on as the “Gebrüder Wolf” and had their artistic breakthrough with the revue “Rund um die Alster” in which they incorporated the characters Fietje and Tetje, two workers from the harbour. Due to the anti-Semitic trends in Germany almost all the family members also took on the name Wolf as their family name at the end of March 1924.

Leopold Wolf who was quasi the business manager of the “Gebrüder Wolf” also continued his artistic success in some economic businesses. At the peak of his activities he owned the tourist café “Waldwiese” in Kiel as well as the variety theatre “Hammonia” and the “Operettenhaus” in Hamburg. Even a factory named “Wolf & Franzen” that produced nutritional products belonged to the business activities he was in charge of, usually with the help of his eldest son. The music shop and publishing house Bendiner were the platform he established with which he distributed the lyrics of the “Gebrüder Wolf” songs.

Leopold died in 1926. His part was taken over by his son James Iwan Wolf who knew all the songs and from then on was on stage with his uncle Ludwig. After the Nazi takeover it was forbidden for the “Gebrüder Wolf” to perform in public. Their most popular songs were still sung by the people in Hamburg but “Snuten un Poten”, “Dat Paddelboot”, “De kugelrunde Deern”, “An de Eck steiht´n Jung mit´n Tüdelband” (Today´s well known version of this song actually has it´s origin in the couplet “Een echt Hamborger Jung” written by Ludwig Wolf in May 1911) and many other popular songs were officially treated as “authorship unknown” from that time on.
In 1939, James Iwan Wolf left his native Hamburg and emigrated to Shanghai together with his brother Donat – later to New York. They performed several times as the “Gebrüder Wolf” in the costumes of their father and uncle to earn their living during their exile. Their uncle James Wolf one of the founders of the “Wolf-Trio” was deported to Theresienstadt and murdered by the Nazis as many others of the family. Ludwig Wolf survived the persecution thanks to his popularity and his non-Jewish wife. He died in 1955 in Hamburg.