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This new and innovative biography portrays the life of Wilhelm Heinrich Solf, a man who lived from Bismarck to Hitler (1862-1936), and whose life was deeply entangled with the ups and downs of Germany’s domestic and in particular foreign and international policies.
Solf went from carving out a name for himself as a liberal - and successful - colonial Governor to becoming the imperial colonial minister of the Kaiserreich before World War I. During the war he struggled to influence the Kaiser’s ruling circle away from its aggressive military policies towards a negotiated peace, rising to become imperial Germany’s last Foreign Minister. He was appointed Weimar’s ambassador to Japan, and turned out to be the Republic’s most successful and cultured diplomat overseas, restoring the relationship between the two former enemies. On his return to Germany, Solf became involved with several political attempts to forestall Hitler’s rise to power. He and his family worked against the Nazi’s anti-Semitic policies. In fact the ‘Solf circle’ became an important opposition group. After Solf’s death his wife, Hanna, and daughter Lagi (who was born in Samoa) continued this work and were imprisoned by the Nazis. While their accomplices were executed during the war, the Solf women escaped by the barest of margins as the Russians invaded Berlin in the last stages of the war. (Text in English with a German summary)