His books were bestsellers, his judgments about aberrations in the German language were clear and unequivocal. Wolf Schneider, a well-known journalist, moderator and language critic, died on Friday at the age of 97 in Starnberg, Upper Bavaria, according to his family.
As the sharp-tongued moderator of the "NDR Talk Show" and as the former head of the Henri Nannen School in Hamburg, he was also known far beyond the media industry - which was not least due to his books such as "Wörtermachen Menschen", "German for professionals" or "German for connoisseurs" with advice for clear, understandable German.
For many aspiring journalists, such titles were required reading for decades, but his attacks on flatulence, unnecessary Anglicisms, monstrous sentences and swaggering formulations also sold well outside the media industry.
Also works as an author
Schneider, born in Erfurt in 1925, was, among other things, the head of the service at "Stern" and editor-in-chief of "Welt", but also had a reputation as an author. He not only wrote linguistically sparkling "Streiflichter" columns for the "Süddeutsche Zeitung" and numerous reports for the magazine "Geo", but also more than two dozen non-fiction books.
Schneider's motto was that if you wanted to be read, you had to work hard. Shortened to "Quality comes from agony" it could be read carved in stone in the entrance of the Henri Nannen School in Hamburg. Schneider was the first principal from 1979. "Stern" founder Nannen himself had wanted him for this task on the grounds that no one else could do it better.
When Schneider handed over management of the school to Ingrid Kolb in 1995, he was at an age when others have retired for a long time. He, on the other hand, wrote more books, gave seminars on language-critical topics and was involved in the Living German campaign, among other things.
Formerly against Anglicisms
In earlier years he had railed against Anglicisms such as T-shirts, mountain bikes or airbags and demanded that German equivalents be used for them, but as he got older he softened in this regard. At least there was nothing wrong with short, concise English loanwords like "sex," he later decided.
Henri-Nannen-Schüler paid tribute to her long-time boss on Twitter on Friday: "As the founder and long-time director of the @Nannenschule, as an enemy of rotten compromise, as a sharpener and unforgiving, he has hundreds of students (and not: students ) shaped and changed their lives."
In 2019, Schneider was one of the initiators of an appeal by the German Language Association under the heading "End gender nonsense". The text criticized, among other things, "ridiculous language structures" such as "the cyclists", "the students" or even "air pirates" and "idiots" and "as a further contortion the strange gender star" was targeted.
As a young soldier in World War II
Two and a half years ago, shortly before his 95th birthday, he spoke in detail to the "SZ" about how he experienced the end of the Second World War as a young soldier. "In the evening I went for a walk in the dark park of our so-called command post and asked myself how things should continue," he said. He was afraid too. "The winners had every reason to treat us very badly. I saw in Poland how we treated the Poles."
He always said to his children: "Anyone who has been through something like this enjoys later life all the more - at least much more than someone who doesn't know how dirty it can be. Even today I don't spread butter on bread, I do put them in thick slices on top. Because I haven't had any in ten years."
Wolf Schneider's son Curt Schneider, who had worked as a puzzle author for "SZ-Magazin", died in a mountain accident at the beginning of October.