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Deutsches Technikmuseum - Wüüüste! Erich "Wüste" Hoffmann and Cycling in Berlin

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Photo: Erich Hoffmann, wearing a jersey and leather protective gear, smiles for the camera.

"Wüste" Hoffmann at the Berliner Meisterschaft (Berlin Championship) at the Werner Seelenbinder-Kampfbahn, 1946

Photo: In the left half of the picture, the peleton; in the right half, judges stand off the track, holding up boards for the riders.

"Wüste" Hoffmann enters the sprint lap at the AVUS velodrome in the Großer Preis von Berlin (Berlin Grand Prix), 1946.

Photo: The two cyclists with their victory scarves and flowers. An official dressed in a suit stands between them.

Hoffmann (left) comes in second behind Heinrich Schwarzer at the Rundkurs um den Pfefferberg (Pfefferberg Circuit), 1946.

Photo: Hoffmann sits at a table in his striped bathrobe, a soup bowl and thermos in front of him. A man in a suit stands close by, telling him something. More people stand in the background.

Even while eating his stew, "Wüste" Hoffmann gets advice for the next stage of the race, 1946.

Photo: Smiling, Erich Hoffmann shakes hands.

At the beginning of the 1949 cycling season in East Berlin: "Wüste" is greeted warmly.

Photo: Heinrich Schwarzer is just before the finish line, with Erich Hoffmann following about 4 meters behind. The roadside is densely packed with spectators being held back by police.

Heinrich Schwarzer beats "Wüste" Hoffmann in the final sprint to win the Straßenmeisterschaft der Berufsfahrer (Professional Cyclist Road Championship), 1946.


Erich "Wüste" Hoffmann and Cycling in Berlin, 1934 - 1950

Gallery of the Photo Technology permanent exhibition, Beamtenhaus 2nd floor

26 July to 15 October 2017

Photo: In the middle of the image, Erich Hoffmann on a racing bicycle. In the background, spectators in open-air stadium seating.

Victory lap: “Wüste” Hoffmann, winner of the Blaues Band (Blue Ribbon), Werner- Seelenbinder-Kampfbahn in Berlin-Neukölln, 1946.

Cycling was a mass phenomenon in the 1930s and 1940s, regularly attracting thousands of enthusiastic spectators to race courses and arenas.

In Berlin, the professional cyclist Erich "Wüste" Hoffmann (1912 - 1990) was a highly acclaimed fan favorite. His career is emblematic of cycling’s growing professionalization and popularization in the Nazi and post-war periods.

Insight into Hoffmann’s successful career is provided by 40 original press photos from his estate, which is kept safely in the Deutsches Technikmuseum’s historical archives. These are being presented for the first time, to mark the 200th anniversary of the invention of the bicycle. Many of the images were taken by Max Schirner (1891 - 1952), a pioneer of sports photography.

The images reflect the lively atmosphere during races and provide a glimpse behind the scenes of various cycling events in Berlin. Popular venues for dramatic competitions included the Werner Seelenbinder-Kampfbahn in Neukölln, the Deutschlandhalle, and the AVUS velodrome.
When the audience roared "Wüüüste!", it meant that Erich Hoffmann was at the starting line.

From Amateur to Pro

Hoffmann’s talent was discovered and promoted by Willy Funda (1906-1988), a popular six-day cyclist of the era nicknamed "the Small Wonder". After noticing the speed at which Hoffmann covered the distance of his daily ride to and from work, he encouraged the staunch Social Democrat to join a workers’ cycling league in 1931.

Photo: Four riders are lined up behind one another on the track and are brought by helpers to their starting positions. In the background, stands filled with spectators.

“Wüste” Hoffmann (first from the left) at the starting line of the Kampf der Matadore (Clash of the Matadors) in the Deutschlandhalle, 1938.

In 1934, Hoffmann decided to earn his living as a professional cyclist. As a pro he participated in numerous national and international sprint, motor-paced, track, pursuit, and road races.

His victories included the Mannschaftsrennen in der Deutschlandhalle (Team Race in the Deutschlandhalle, 1935) the Stunde der Giganten (Hour of the Giants, 1937), the 60-kilometer Mannschaftsrennen in Magdeburg (Team Race in Magdeburg, 1944), the Großer Preis von Berlin (Berlin Grand Prix, 1946), and the Berliner Stehermeisterschaft (Berlin Motor-Paced Championship, 1950).

500 Victories in 2,000 Races

As a professional cyclist, Hoffmann was deferred from military service until 1943. After the end of the war, he continued his career, winning the Berlin Championship in 1946. In 1949, he suffered a major injury during a motor-paced race in Erfurt. But only three months later, he won the Blaues Band (Blue Ribbon) in Neukölln. This resilience, along with his stamina, quickly earned Hoffmann the nickname "Wüste", meaning something like ‘robust’, or ‘indestructible’.

Photo: Talking with colleagues during a break: Hoffmann and an athlete in a striped bathrobe stand, while an older trainer massages the calf of a third athlete lying on a bench.

A group of cyclists: Manager Marx, a retired cyclist, Fombellida of Spain, Hoffmann from Berlin, and Heimann of Switzerland (from left to right), Deutschlandhalle, 1938.

Erich "Wüste" Hoffmann announced his retirement in 1950. At the Goldenes Rad (Golden Wheel), in May of 1950, he set eight new track records and became the first to break the speed barrier of 70 kilometers per hour. This now nearly forgotten cyclist claimed 500 victories in over 2,000 races.

A Collaborative Project of the Junior Curators

This exhibition is a collaborative project of the Deutsches Technikmuseum’s Junior Curators Florian Müller, Maike Priesterjahn, Sandra Stahl, Matthias Stier, and Stephanie Thom.

Header image: "Wüste" Hoffmann in the lead ahead of Heinrich Schwarzer in the road race Rund um Berlin (Around Berlin, 1946).

© for all photos (all black and white):
SDTB / Historisches Archiv, photo print, Sportbild-Verlag Max Schirner, Berlin

Film: Das Kuratoren-Team erzählt, wie die Ausstellung entstand

Filmlänge: 3:39 Min. © SDTB / SMIDAK Filmproduktion