How I Met Tile Kolup

The movie "Hoax" with Richard Gere is coming out in the States now and reading about it makes me think of Tile Kolup. As a coincidence, last week I had the chance of a lifetime - to read in Wetzlar, Tile's home town, or at least the town of his glory and death. "Hoax" is about one of the most ballsy scams in history – in the early seventies, a down and out writer named Clifford Irving conspired to fake the autobiography of the reclusive eccentric millionaire Howard Hughes. Irving claimed he had access to Hughes and his book became a huge sensation. What Irving was thinking I not quite clear – Hughes was still alive and would surely catch wind of his "autobiography." Then of course it cam as it must come – Hughes made a call to the publisher and the gig was up. What fascinates me about it is the sheer ballsiness – of was it stupidity – of making so stupid a claim. When the Germans published the fake diaries of Hitler, Hitler was at least dead and couldn’t pop up and say, "Uh… they're not my diaries." That didn't seem to bother Irving in the least. Tile Kolup fascinates me for the same reason. Tile was a nobody in the high Middle Ages who suddenly claimed he was in fact the famous and loved emperor Frederick II. As chance may have it, Frederick II had been dead for many years and everyone knew it. Didn’t bother Tile. He was so good (and apparently fit into local politics so well) that he convinced entire cities that he really was the (dead) emperor: In Neuss and in Wetzler. His "rule" in Wetzlar lasted a year before the ruling emperor besieged the city and forced them to deliver Tile to him. He ended up burned at the stake. (Irving only got 5 years in jail and is today an established novelist). I just hope Tile made the best of that year at the very top. It was my love of Tile that made a guy in Wetzlar named Henner take notice of me (most photos here are his), and last week he and the bookstore Buchhandlung an der Lahnbrücke invited me to give a reading out of "Planet Germany" there. Thus I finally got to know the town of Wetzlar and its people – who are, as they apparently were in the Middle Ages, an extremely hospitable and friendly people who really made me feel at home. I would go back there to read anytime.

And the best part was: Finally I got to see Tile Kolup's gravesite.


Anonymous said…
Wow is that you Eric? he he all I can say is "Bravo" no other comment just BRAVO again.
Anonymous said…
Hello Eric, I became interested in learning more about Tile Kolup as his name, Dietrich Holzschuh, came up as I was doing some family research. My great grandfather, John Herman Holzschuh, was born in Germany, and the family immigrated to the US in 1854. I know that part of my family had lived in the Mainz and Darmstadt area, and that is not far from Wetzlar. I really have no idea if Tile Kolup is a distant relative or not, but his story is interesting just the same. I believe there is some kind of local festival based on his claim to be the Emperor Frederick II. Do you have any additional information on the history or the festival that you could share with me. My email is
Thank You!

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