Wilhelm Solf
Overview
 
Wilhelm Heinrich Solf was a German
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 scholar, diplomat, jurist and statesman.
Wilhelm Solf was born into a wealthy and liberal family in Berlin
Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

. He attended secondary schools in Anklam
Anklam
Anklam is a town in the Western Pomerania region of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany. It is situated on the banks of the Peene river, just 8 km from its mouth in the Kleines Haff, the western part of the Stettin Lagoon. Anklam has a population of 14,603 and was the capital of the former...

 in western Pomerania
Pomerania
Pomerania is a historical region on the south shore of the Baltic Sea. Divided between Germany and Poland, it stretches roughly from the Recknitz River near Stralsund in the West, via the Oder River delta near Szczecin, to the mouth of the Vistula River near Gdańsk in the East...

 and in Mannheim
Mannheim
Mannheim is a city in southwestern Germany. With about 315,000 inhabitants, Mannheim is the second-largest city in the Bundesland of Baden-Württemberg, following the capital city of Stuttgart....

. He took up the study of Oriental languages, in particular Sanskrit
Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

 at universities in Berlin
Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

, Göttingen
Göttingen
Göttingen is a university town in Lower Saxony, Germany. It is the capital of the district of Göttingen. The Leine river runs through the town. In 2006 the population was 129,686.-General information:...

 and Halle
Halle, Saxony-Anhalt
Halle is the largest city in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt. It is also called Halle an der Saale in order to distinguish it from the town of Halle in North Rhine-Westphalia...

, earning a doctorate in philology
Philology
Philology is the study of language in written historical sources; it is a combination of literary studies, history and linguistics.Classical philology is the philology of Greek and Classical Latin...

 in the winter of 1885. Under the supervision of the well-known Indologist Richard Pischel
Richard Pischel
Richard Pischel was a German Indologist who was a native of Breslau.In 1870 he received his doctorate from the University of Breslau under the guidance of Adolf Friedrich Stenzler . His graduate thesis was De Kalidasae Cakuntali recensionibus...

, he wrote an elementary grammar of Sanskrit.

He then found a position at the library of the University of Kiel.
Encyclopedia
Wilhelm Heinrich Solf was a German
Germany
Germany , officially the Federal Republic of Germany , is a federal parliamentary republic in Europe. The country consists of 16 states while the capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 357,021 km2 and has a largely temperate seasonal climate...

 scholar, diplomat, jurist and statesman.

Early life

Wilhelm Solf was born into a wealthy and liberal family in Berlin
Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

. He attended secondary schools in Anklam
Anklam
Anklam is a town in the Western Pomerania region of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany. It is situated on the banks of the Peene river, just 8 km from its mouth in the Kleines Haff, the western part of the Stettin Lagoon. Anklam has a population of 14,603 and was the capital of the former...

 in western Pomerania
Pomerania
Pomerania is a historical region on the south shore of the Baltic Sea. Divided between Germany and Poland, it stretches roughly from the Recknitz River near Stralsund in the West, via the Oder River delta near Szczecin, to the mouth of the Vistula River near Gdańsk in the East...

 and in Mannheim
Mannheim
Mannheim is a city in southwestern Germany. With about 315,000 inhabitants, Mannheim is the second-largest city in the Bundesland of Baden-Württemberg, following the capital city of Stuttgart....

. He took up the study of Oriental languages, in particular Sanskrit
Sanskrit
Sanskrit , is a historical Indo-Aryan language and the primary liturgical language of Hinduism, Jainism and Buddhism.Buddhism: besides Pali, see Buddhist Hybrid Sanskrit Today, it is listed as one of the 22 scheduled languages of India and is an official language of the state of Uttarakhand...

 at universities in Berlin
Berlin
Berlin is the capital city of Germany and is one of the 16 states of Germany. With a population of 3.45 million people, Berlin is Germany's largest city. It is the second most populous city proper and the seventh most populous urban area in the European Union...

, Göttingen
Göttingen
Göttingen is a university town in Lower Saxony, Germany. It is the capital of the district of Göttingen. The Leine river runs through the town. In 2006 the population was 129,686.-General information:...

 and Halle
Halle, Saxony-Anhalt
Halle is the largest city in the German state of Saxony-Anhalt. It is also called Halle an der Saale in order to distinguish it from the town of Halle in North Rhine-Westphalia...

, earning a doctorate in philology
Philology
Philology is the study of language in written historical sources; it is a combination of literary studies, history and linguistics.Classical philology is the philology of Greek and Classical Latin...

 in the winter of 1885. Under the supervision of the well-known Indologist Richard Pischel
Richard Pischel
Richard Pischel was a German Indologist who was a native of Breslau.In 1870 he received his doctorate from the University of Breslau under the guidance of Adolf Friedrich Stenzler . His graduate thesis was De Kalidasae Cakuntali recensionibus...

, he wrote an elementary grammar of Sanskrit.

He then found a position at the library of the University of Kiel. While residing there he was drafted into the Imperial Navy to serve his military obligation, however, he was deemed medically unfit for military service and discharged.

Early diplomatic career

Solf joined the German Foreign Office (Consular Service) on 12 December 1888 and was assigned to the Imperial German Consulate General in Calcutta on 1 January 1889. However, he resigned from the consular service after three years to study law at the University of Jena where he obtained his doctorate in law (Doktor juris) in September 1896. His advanced degrees qualified Solf for higher positions in the diplomatic service. He joined the Colonial Department of the Foreign Office (Kolonialabteilung des Auswärtigen Amtes) and in 1898 was assigned as district judge in Dar es Salaam
Dar es Salaam
Dar es Salaam , formerly Mzizima, is the largest city in Tanzania. It is also the country's richest city and a regionally important economic centre. Dar es Salaam is actually an administrative province within Tanzania, and consists of three local government areas or administrative districts: ...

 in German East Africa
German East Africa
German East Africa was a German colony in East Africa, which included what are now :Burundi, :Rwanda and Tanganyika . Its area was , nearly three times the size of Germany today....

 for a short period. In 1899 he was posted to the Samoan Islands, where he served as council chairman in the provisional government of the municipality of Apia, Samoa
Apia, Samoa
-Administration:Apia is part of the Tuamasaga political district and of election district Vaimauga West and Faleata East. There is no city administration for Apia. Apia consists of some 45 individual, independent villages...

.

Governor of Samoa

The division of the Samoan Islands as a result of the Tripartite Convention of 1899 assigned the western islands to Germany (independent Samoa
Samoa
Samoa , officially the Independent State of Samoa, formerly known as Western Samoa is a country encompassing the western part of the Samoan Islands in the South Pacific Ocean. It became independent from New Zealand in 1962. The two main islands of Samoa are Upolu and one of the biggest islands in...

 today) and Eastern Samoa to the United States (American Samoa
American Samoa
American Samoa is an unincorporated territory of the United States located in the South Pacific Ocean, southeast of the sovereign state of Samoa...

 today). Wilhelm Solf, at age 38, became the first Governor of German Samoa
German Samoa
German Samoa was a German protectorate from 1900 to 1914, consisting of the islands of Upolu, Savai'i, Apolima and Manono, now wholly within the independent state Samoa, formerly Western Samoa...

 on 1 March 1900. "Solf was a man of quite unusual talent, clear-thinking, sensitive to the nuances of Samoan attitudes and opinion." He was known as a liberal, painstaking and competent administrator. Solf included Samoan traditions in his government programs, but never hesitated to step in assertively, including banishment from Samoa in severe cases, when his position as the Kaiser's deputy was challenged. Under Solf's direction, plantation agriculture was further encouraged; in his judgment it provided the soundest basis for the colony's economic development. In turn, tax revenues were enhanced, making the establishment of a public school system, the construction and staffing of a hospital (including the training of Samoan nurses) major successes. Road and harbor facilities construction was accelerated. In all, the Samoan colony was on its way to self-sufficiency and actually reached that achievement just before Solf was called to Berlin and was succeeded by Erich Schultz as Governor of German Samoa.

Later career

After his return from Samoa, Solf became Secretary (Staatssekretär) of the German Colonial Office (Reichskolonialamt) to 1918, travelling extensively to the German protectorates in West and East Africa in 1912 and 1913. The outbreak of World War I caused Germany's colonial possessions to be invaded by Britain (including Dominions), Belgium, France and Japan.

Solf lobbied for a negotiated peace settlement in 1917 and 1918. He was opposed to the implementation of unrestricted submarine
Submarine
A submarine is a watercraft capable of independent operation below the surface of the water. It differs from a submersible, which has more limited underwater capability...

 warfare, a policy which eventually contributed to the entry of the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 into the war in 1917.

With the defeat of Germany imminent and the likelihood of revolution growing he was appointed what turned out to be the last of the Imperial Foreign Ministers in October 1918. In this capacity he undertook negotiations for the armistice that took effect on 11 November 1918.

He resigned his post as Foreign Minister on 13 December 1918 with the onset of the German revolution. Between then and 1920 he was Vice President of the Deutsche Kolonialgesellschaft. From 1920 to 1928 he served as the German chargé d'affaires and then ambassador to Japan; his tenure proved to be fruitful, as he was instrumental in restoring good relations between the two wartime enemies, culminating in the signing of the German-Japanese treaty of 1927. On Solf's return to Germany and retirement from government service he became the Chairman of the Board of the Deutsches Auslands-Institut based in Stuttgart
Stuttgart
Stuttgart is the capital of the state of Baden-Württemberg in southern Germany. The sixth-largest city in Germany, Stuttgart has a population of 600,038 while the metropolitan area has a population of 5.3 million ....

.

Solf's political position was centrist; he joined the German Democratic Party (Deutsche Demokratische Partei), however, with its dissolution in 1933 he had planned with others to form a new moderate party. With the National Socialist (Nazi) reality of that time it was unsuccessful, if not impossible. He supported the election of retired Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg
Paul von Hindenburg
Paul Ludwig Hans Anton von Beneckendorff und von Hindenburg , known universally as Paul von Hindenburg was a Prussian-German field marshal, statesman, and politician, and served as the second President of Germany from 1925 to 1934....

 as German President.

Wilhelm Solf was married to the former Johanna Dotti, who later formed the anti-Nazi Frau Solf Tea Party
Frau Solf Tea Party
The Solf Circle was an informal gathering of German intellectuals involved in the resistance against Nazi Germany. Most members were arrested and executed after attending a tea party held near Heidelberg on September 10, 1943, at the residence of Elisabeth von Thadden...

get-togethers with their Samoan-born daughter So'oa'emalelagi, also known as Lagi. Solf was the author of Weltpolitik und Kolonialpolitik (Foreign policy and colonial policy, 1918) and of Kolonialpolitik, Mein politisches Vermächtniss (Colonial policy, my political legacy, 1919).

External links

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