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Graphic: An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand 1966.


This information was published in 1966 in An Encyclopaedia of New Zealand, edited by A. H. McLintock. It has not been corrected and will not be updated.

Up-to-date information can be found elsewhere in Te Ara.


ZEDLITZ (-NEUKIRK), George William Edward Ernest von


University professor.

A new biography of Zedlitz, George William Edward Ernest von appears in the Dictionary of New Zealand Biography on this site.

George William von Zedlitz was born on 10 March 1871 at Hermannswaldau, in German Silesia, the only son of Baron Sigismund von Zedlitz-Neukirk, who was a lieutenant in the Prussian army, and Mary Bethia, née Woolf, an Englishwoman. He was educated at Wellington College (England) and at Trinity College, Oxford, where he took honours in Classical Moderations and Literae Humaniores. In the Oxford Union, where he often crossed swords with Hilaire Belloc, Zedlitz was known as a brilliant debater. From 1896 until 1901 he was an assistant master at Loretto, in Scotland, and also contributed to the London Globe. In the latter year he was appointed Professor of Modern Languages at Victoria University College, arriving in Wellington on 22 March 1902. He served a term as chairman of the Professorial Board and became prominent in the university reform movement. In October 1908, with Rankine Brown and Easterfield, he circulated a manifesto criticising the federal character of the University of New Zealand. In addition to his academic duties, Zedlitz acted from 1912 to 1914 as official translator to the New Zealand Government. On the outbreak of war in 1914, Zedlitz volunteered to return to Germany as a Red Cross worker. When this became known there was a revulsion of feeling against him and, notwithstanding the intervention of Sir H. F. D. Bell, the Government introduced legislation to secure his removal from Victoria College. Although the College Council defended him strongly, Zedlitz was removed in October 1915 by the Alien Enemy Teachers Act.

In 1920, with C. E. Blundell, Zedlitz founded the University Tutorial School, of which he remained principal until shortly before his death. He became well known as an adult education lecturer and as a broadcaster. In 1936 Victoria University College made him Professor Emeritus and, in the same year, he was elected to the Senate of the University of New Zealand.

On 4 January 1905, at the Church of St. James, Lower Hutt, Zedlitz married Alice Maud Fitzherbert (1877–1957). There were three children, a son and two daughters. Zedlitz died at Lower Hutt on 23 May 1949. Although it was a cause célèbre in its day, the Zedlitz case has now only an academic significance. It is an excellent example of the folly of legislating in response to mass hysteria.

by Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.

  • The Search for a Country, Zedlitz, G. W. (1963)
  • the Dominion, 25 May 1949 (Obit)
  • Victoria College … a history, Beaglehole, J. C. (1949).


Bernard John Foster, M.A., Research Officer, Department of Internal Affairs, Wellington.