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German Exilliteratur (German pronunciation: [ɛˈksiːl.lɪtəʁaˌtuːɐ̯], exile literature) is the name for a category of books in the German language written by writers of anti-Nazi attitude who fled from Nazi Germany and its occupied territories between 1933 and 1945. These dissident authors, many of whom were of Jewish origin and/or with communist sympathies, fled abroad in 1933 after the Nazi Party came to power in Germany and after Nazi Germany annexed Austria by the Anschluss in 1938, abolished the freedom of press and started to prosecute the authors whose books were banned.

Writers of prominence[edit]

The exodus included virtually all writers of prominence, and so the exiles soon began to conceive of themselves as representatives of the "other," better Germany whose traditions had been perverted by the Nazis.[1]

Many of the European countries where they found refuge were later occupied by Nazi Germany as well, which caused them again to look for safety elsewhere, by emigrating to the United States or taking cover in the "underground".

Exile centers[edit]

Between 1933 and 1939, prolific centers of German exile writers and publishers emerged in several European cities, like Paris, Amsterdam, Stockholm, Zürich, London, Prague, Moscow as well as across the Atlantic in New York, Los Angeles, and Mexico. Some exiled Germans were not completely pleased with their relocations.

As Bertolt Brecht, another famous émigré who ended up in Los Angeles, noted in his famous poem “The Hollywood Elegies,” it was both heaven and hell.[2] Well known for their publications were the publishers Querido Verlag and Verlag Allert de Lange in Amsterdam and Oprecht in Zürich. They served the German community outside Germany with critical literature, and their books were also smuggled into Nazi Germany.

Exiled German writers oftentimes had difficulty expressing what they were truly feeling. In his political thriller titled "The Blond Spider" (1939), Hans Flesch-Brunningen, writing under the pseudonym Vincent Burn, wrote a story involving two Germans. He created "An older, wiser, and somewhat mysterious German in the character of Martino. He is the archetypical, valiant antifascist and spared any of the ambiguities of Borneman’s ultimately vanquished Müller. Yet, as committed and exemplary as Martino may be, he occupies a limited role, overshadowed by the brutal antics of the central German character, the Nazi spy Hesmert. As much as the simple fact of Martino’s existence in the novel is indicative of the author’s desire to raise British awareness of a “good” Germany, his marginality in the plot may well be equally suggestive of Flesch-Brunningen’s sense of caution in dwelling upon a nonpopularist view of German culture."[3]

Meeting place[edit]

Lion Feuchtwanger, a prominent author in exile in the United States, purchased a mansion, called Villa Aurora, and used it as a meeting place for exiled writers and intellectuals. Not everything was easy for Feuchtwanger while in exile. In the McCarthy era, Feuchtwanger was scrutinized as a “premature antifascist” by the House Un-American Activities Committee. Fearing that he would not be allowed to return, he never traveled outside the U.S. again. After years of immigration hearings, Feuchtwanger's application for American citizenship was finally granted, but the letter informing Feuchtwanger of the fact was not received until a day after his death.[4]

Exile writers[edit]

The best known exile writers include Theodor Adorno, Günther Anders, Hannah Arendt, Bertolt Brecht, Hermann Broch, Ernst Bloch, Elias Canetti, Veza Canetti, Alfred Döblin, Lion Feuchtwanger, Bruno Frank, Oskar Maria Graf, Hermann Hesse, Max Horkheimer, Heinrich Eduard Jacob, Hermann Kesten, Annette Kolb, Siegfried Kracauer, Else Lasker-Schüler, Emil Ludwig, Heinrich Mann, Klaus Mann, Erika Mann, Thomas Mann, Ludwig Marcuse, Robert Musil, Robert Neumann, Erich Maria Remarque, Ludwig Renn, Joseph Roth, Alice Rühle-Gerstel and Otto Rühle, Nelly Sachs, Felix Salten, Anna Sebastian, Anna Seghers, Peter Weiss, Franz Werfel, Bodo Uhse, Max Brod, and Arnold Zweig.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mews, Siegfried. “Exile Literature and Literary Exile: A Review Essay”. South Atlantic Review 57.1 (1992): 103–109. Web
  2. ^ Rosenthal, Michael A. "Art And The Politics Of The Desert: German Exiles In California And The Biblical Bilderverbot." New German Critique: An Interdisciplinary Journal of German Studies 118.(2013): 43-64. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 29 Apr. 2016.
  3. ^ Brunnhuber, Nicole. "Explaining The Enemy: Images Of German Culture In English-Language Fiction By German-Speaking Exiles In Great Britain, 1933-45." Seminar -- A Journal of Germanic Studies 42.3 (2006): 277-287. Academic Search Premier. Web. 29 Apr. 2016.
  4. ^ "Marta and Lion Feuchtwanger - VATMH (en)". www.villa-aurora.org.

Further reading[edit]

  • Martin Mauthner: German Writers in French Exile, 1933-1940, Vallentine Mitchell, London 2007, ISBN 978-0-85303-540-4
  • Roy, Pinaki. “Patriots in Fremden Landern: 1939-45 German Émigré Literature”. Writing Difference: Nationalism, Identity, and Literature. Eds. Ray, G.N., J. Sarkar, and A. Bhattacharyya. New Delhi: Atlantic Publishers and Distributors Pvt. Ltd., 2014 (ISBN 978-81-269-1938-3). pp. 367–90.