In Memoriam – Waldemar Kumming, 31 July 1924 – 5 April 2017

By Wolf von Witting: It feels surreal writing “I only knew him for forty years,” but in fact Waldemar began publishing Munich Round Up [MRU] before I was born. He was among the pioneers of German fandom. MRU, the fanzine of the Munich SFCD-group, was launched as a newsletter in November 1958, but rose to prominence when the dynamic duo of engineers Waldemar Kumming and Walter “Fux” Reinecke took charge of its publication. By the time we first met in 1977, I was 17 and Waldemar 53 and the dynamic duo had already come out with MRU #143. Its appearances grew sparse after the death of Walter Reinicke in 1981.

On June 2, 1962 Waldemar became the second chair of the SFCD, which had experienced a turbulent infancy under Walter Ernsting. With Waldemar at the helm for six years, the SFCD had a somewhat peaceful period.

It hardly seems fair that our history books don’t teach us more about the good men who walked among us. Waldemar was such a good man. Humble. Generous. He was a good listener. Not much of an attention hog. Science fiction fandom was his hobby and he was literally a fan who had an impact on thousands, in Gerfany and abroad. He was not one who sorted his fannish activity among the follies of youth and then got away from it all for a couple of years, only to return to fandom by the time retirement approached. Waldemar was an active fan before I was born and he kept at it, into the new millennium.

In 40 years I saw him disgruntled only once. It was in Berlin, at BärCon 1985, as we had come to a restaurant over-challenged with the arrival of a dozen sf-fans. Most of us had to wait for our food an hour and a half. Waldemar was served half an hour later. One rarely heard him participating in the fierce verbal battles of the SFCD other than when he suddenly yelled; “Stop!” And everyone fell silent. Waldemar turned the tape in the recorder and signaled the heated combatants to resume their ruckus.

Denis Scheck, left, interviews Marion Zimmer Bradley, center, at STUCON 1980, while Waldemar Kumming captures it all on his tape recorder, right.

He was bestowed with the Kurd Lasswitz Award for Munich Round Up in 1993 and received the Big Heart Award at the WorldCon in Glasgow 2005.

Near the end of his life, he was unable to visit sf-conventions. It should not have been a surprise to hear that Waldemar is no more. Yet the news hit me like a punch in the face as Thomas Recktenwald casually mentioned in an email: “Btw Waldemar Kumming died two weeks ago.” We have been bracing for the impact of his departure for a couple of years. Yet, I can’t rid myself of the feeling, that a grand chapter of our fan-history now definitely has vanished into the mist.

P.S. Thanks to Michael Haitel, for reminding me of the classic Stop-episode. Recommended reading (page 20) “Waldemar Kumming – Behold the Fan”:

4 thoughts on “In Memoriam – Waldemar Kumming, 31 July 1924 – 5 April 2017

  1. Sorry to hear about Waldemar Kumming, though I never had the pleasure to meet him.

    And amazingly, that’s really Denis Scheck as young as I’ve never seen him in that photo with Marion Zimmer Bradley and Waldemar Kumming. Nowadays, Denis Scheck is a renown literature critic with his own TV show. He’s still a fan and occasionally recommends SFF books on his show. He’s also interviewed George R.R. Martin and Patrick Rothfuss.

  2. Wolf: Thanks for writing this reminiscence of one of the world’s greatest fanzine fans.

  3. I just heard about his passing this morning, from Thomas Recktenwald.

    Waldemar was my German agent for ALGOL/STARSHIP and then SCIENCE FICTION CHRONICLE, and I his US Agent for MRU, for decades, since the 1970s. I saw him many times over the decades, always at the Worldcon. He stayed with me during a visit to NYC the week after Millennium Philcon, the 2001 worldcon, during which we ironically did touristy things, often with the World Trade Center in the background.

    He was known for taking many photos at local and World conventions, and did extensive Worldcon reports, often with pages of photos, in MRU.

    About 20 years ago, he literally gave me a bond fund worth more than $10,000, in order to avoid paying an exorbitant German income tax on it, at a time when I certainly needed the money.

    I believe his father was a newspaperman in pre-Hitler Germany. During WW2, Waldemar was a soldier, wounded on the eastern front with Russia, and sent to the western front to recuperate, where he was captured by advancing American forces. After the war he was an engineer for Radio Free Europe, and for many years could not go to Berlin because of the danger of falling into Soviet hands.

    I will miss him very much.

    If you need any better photos of him, let me know.

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