Author and former Lion-Feuchtwanger_Gymnasium teacher Peter Thalheim

The Lion Feuchtwanger collection in the school library at the Lion-Feuchtwanger-Gymnasium in Munich has recently been expanded and now consists of no fewer than 120 items, writes Peter Thalheim, former teacher of Germanistik and history at the school and author of Die Geschwister Oppermann Oldenbourg Interpretationen study notes for high school students.

Feuchtwanger and Judaism, History, Imagination, Exile, ed. Paul Lerner and Frank Stern (the conference proceedings of the International Feuchtwanger Society 2015 conference) has been published by Peter Lang, with an accompanying launch event at the Feuchtwanger Memorial Library, USC.

At the launch event

The Feuchtwanger and Judaism volume covers the Jewish themes that ran through Lion Feuchtwanger’s life, works and worlds. Beginning with a selection of Feuchtwanger’s unpublished writings, speeches, and interviews, the volume examines the author’s approaches to Jewish history, Zionism, Judaism’s relationship to early Christianity and to Eastern religions, and Jewish identity through his works, above all historical fiction.

The volume includes my conference paper ‘Caught Between Cultures: Lion Feuchtwanger’s Flavius Josephus’. Lion Feuchtwanger’s 1932 novel Der jüdische Krieg portrays Flavius Josephus as a young man caught between the conflicting cultures of Rome and Jerusalem and forced to make difficult choices. The novel also makes an implicit comment on the precarious position of European Jews in the early 1930s. In the paper I outline the principal elements and themes of the novel, and place it in the context of other German literary works of the period, in particular Hanns Johst’s Nazi play Schlageter. That play can fruitfully be lined up alongside Der jüdische Krieg since, like Feuchtwanger’s novel, it explores the psychology of a young man’s attitudes towards war and patriotism. Johst raises some of the same questions as Feuchtwanger, but from a proto-Nazi perspective: should a young man’s loyalty to his country override all other concerns, or should loyalty to values matter more? What kind of values matter, and in what kind of a nation?

— For analysis specifically of Jud Süss, see earlier conference (University of Amsterdam) entitled ‘The Many Guises of Jud Süss, The Image of “The Jew”: Joseph Süss Oppenheimer via Feuchtwanger to Goebbels and Beyond’.

The 9th Conference of the International Feuchtwanger Society (Lion Feuchtwanger und München: Der junge Feuchtwanger—Dramatiker, Theaterkritiker, früher Romanautor) was held in Munich from 17th-20th October 2019. My paper for the conference was entitled ‘Das Buch Bayern’: The Portrayal of Antisemitism and the ‘Wahrhaft Deutschen’ in Erfolg (and accompanying Powerpoint).

Between 1920 and 1933 Lion Feuchtwanger published four works—one satirical short story and three novels—in which he addressed the subject of antisemitism in Germany. In the third of these works, Erfolg (1930), he exposed antisemitism in Bavarian politics and society, satirized the emerging NSDAP, and drew attention to the increasing politicization of Bavaria’s judicial and penal system, as well as providing a compelling fictionalized account of the 1923 Munich Putsch.

Although the novel helped garner Lion Feuchtwanger a Nobel Prize for Literature nomination in 1930, it put him as well as other family members in the crosshairs of the Nazi press. After the war the novel endured a mixed reception, but nowadays it is highly regarded, especially in Bavaria.

In my conference paper I trace the theme of antisemitism in the novel, describe how the publication of the novel affected family members at the time, and point out that a comprehensive German Jewish studies interpretation of the novel would be a welcome addition to the existing secondary literature.

IFS 2019 Conference Program

Süddeutsche Zeitung 21st October 2019, Kultur section article about the conference

Edgar addressing the conference (top); and signing copies of his book Als Hitler unser Nachbar war (the German edition of Hitler, My Neighbor)

Recent scholarly publications in the field:
— Michael Brenner, Der lange Schatten der Revolution, Juden und Antisemiten in Hitlers München 1918-1923 (Berlin: Jüdischer Verlag im Suhrkamp Verlag, 2019)

Lion Feuchtwanger’s diaries, recently published by Aufbau Verlag, have been reviewed in a very broad range of mainstream media — testimony to the sheer breadth of interest in his writings:

“Feuchtwanger ohne Filter.” Klaus Modick, author of Sunset.

Audio book link


Literaturhaus Munich, ‘Lion Feuchtwanger, Die Tagebuecher’ event, 25th November 2018
Image credit: Tanja Kinkel

“Lion Feuchtwangers Roman Exil im nostalgischen Dreissigerjahre-Look”. Süddeutsche Zeitung

A theatrical production of Exil was staged at Munich Kammerspiele in November 2017, with an accompanying reading of correspondence between Lion Feuchtwanger and fellow exiled Jewish author Arnold Zweig.

For in-depth analysis of the novel Exil and Lion Feuchtwanger’s personal experience of exile from Nazi Germany, see Proceedings of the International Feuchtwanger Society Conference 2009.

Hitler, My Neigbor, written from the viewpoint of Edgar as a child/teenager and covering the period 1929-1939, was published by Other Press (New York) in November 2017, with accompanying excerpts in Time (online) and People (online).

“Edgar plays with toys, listens to his mother playing piano, and eavesdrops on adult conversations between his father (the director of an academic publishing house) and his famous uncle, author Lion Feuchtwanger. […] An exceptionally powerful and emotionally charged story.” New York Journal of Books

“The title of this memoir says it all. A young Jewish boy growing up in Munich in the 1930s, Edgar Feuchtwanger writes about living across the street from Hitler, the future mass murderer he could see through his window.” New York Times Book Reviews, New and Noteworthy

See also:

The International Feuchtwanger Society Conference 2017, with the title ‘France as Host Country to German-speaking (in particular German-Jewish and Austrian-Jewish) Emigrés between 1933 and 1940: Forms and Media of Public Memory Culture’ was held in Paris from October 12th -14th 2017.  My paper for this conference, entitled  ‘Die Geschwister Oppermann: A German Jewish Family in Extremis’ is available here (with accompanying image set).

Die Geschwister Oppermann (1933) was the first novel by a prominent international author to provide readers outside Germany with a full account of conditions inside the Third Reich. Written as an act of resistance to the developments unfolding in Germany, it is an important and compelling work which won plaudits from reviewers and fellow authors at the time, and has been well received by critics and biographers ever since. The situation faced by the fictional Oppermann family mirrored that of the Feuchtwanger family as the Nazi dictatorship took hold.

For information on Lion Feuchtwanger’s internment in the Les Milles camp in 1940, see portal entry about the recently opened museum & memorial site at Les Milles and link to a full digital edition of The Devil in France (English translation of Der Teufel in Frankreich (Los Angeles: USC Libraries, 2009) — Lion Feuchtwanger’s account of his internment at Les Milles in 1940.

The Oppermanns (English translation of Die Geschwister Oppermann) (London: Persephone Books, forthcoming Spring 2020)

IFS 2017 Conference Program (Conference proceedings forthcoming Autumn/Winter 2019, Peter Lang)

— Recent scholarly publications in the field:
Magali Nieradka-Steiner, Exil unter Palmen, Deutsche Emigranten in Sanary-sur-Mer (Darmstadt: Theiss, 2018)

Some recent items in mainstream media discussing the quality of Lion Feuchtwanger’s works and their place in “the canon”:

Literaturpapst Marcel Reich-Ranicki rightly includes Höhenflugrekord, a classic of the Neue Sachlichkeit, in his influential Der Kanon–Erzählungen . In the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung in 2010, however, he argued that Feuchtwanger’s writing was sometimes “gaudy”.

Micha Brumlik, professor of education at the University of Frankfurt, writing in the Jüdische Allgemeine in 2013, values in particular the contemporary relevance of Der jüdische Krieg.

Bayerischer Rundfunk, on the occasion of its 2014 rerun of Dietrich Leube’s TV documentary Lion Feuchtwanger: Geachtet & geächtet, argued that it was with Erfolg that Lion Feuchtwanger staked his claim to immortality.


And Ian Wallace, Emeritus Professor of German at the University of Bath and former President of the International Feuchtwanger Society, writing for the Forgotten Gems section of the website New Books in German, admires Die Jüdin von Toledo for its portrayal of the mindset behind holy war (a matter of great concern today).