Lion Feuchtwanger’s immediate family in Germany

Lion Feuchtwanger’s brother Ludwig, one of the most important authors of works on German Jewish identity between the wars, was the director of academic publishing house Duncker und Humblot until 1936, at which point he was forced out by Nazi legislation. After Kristallnacht and following six weeks of internment in Dachau concentration camp he emigrated to Great Britain with his family. He received financial help from his brother Lion to pay for a so-called Kapitalistenvisum (family visa) for Great Britain.

Originally by profession a lawyer, in August 1945 Ludwig Feuchtwanger served as an interpreter for the occupying US Army in Bavaria, helping to gather evidence for the denazification process and the post-war trials. In his published correspondence with Lion Feuchtwanger during that period he gives compelling descriptions of the atmosphere in occupied Germany.

Another brother, Martin, was a journalist and publisher who after January 1933 moved his business to Prague; following an interrogation by the Gestapo in 1939 he emigrated to Israel.

The youngest of Lion Feuchtwanger’s brothers, Berthold, is described as follows by Edgar Feuchtwanger in his memoir I was Hitler’s Neighbour (London: Bretwalda 2015, 42-3): “In Munich’s Café Stefanie, a haunt of my father’s, in the early days of the Third Reich one could still read the foreign newspapers. Uncle Berthold would often join us there and talk a lot of politics. It was conspiracy theory sort of stuff, how the Dutch oil magnate Deterding was financing this, that and the other, that was really behind it all, and a lot more in this vein. I can now see that Uncle Berthold was rather typical of the front-line generation, the men who had spent the formative years of their lives fighting in the trenches. Had he not been Jewish and not been a Feuchtwanger he might have talked similarly alongside Hitler and his cronies in a beer cellar not far from our coffeehouse.”

Edgar Feuchtwanger goes on: “Unfortunately there were rather too many men in Germany whose lives had been totally disrupted by the war, who could never fully adjust to civilian life and who suffered from disorientation in the defeated and humiliated country. It looked at this point in time as if it had all been in vain and they were looking for a meaning. There is a mention of Uncle Berthold in the autobiography of Weiss Ferdl, the most famous Munich comedian besides Karl Valentin. He records an occasion when he had been engaged to appear at one of the meetings of the early Nazi party. After his act Weiss Ferdl was taken to Hitler’s table and heard, from what was being said, that the Nazi leader had claimed in his speech that evening that Jews could not be soldiers as they lacked the necessary courage. Weiss Ferdl then mentioned Berthold Feuchtwanger, whom he called a brother or cousin of the famous writer Lion, author of Jew Süss. He said that Berthold had been a corporal in his company, had always volunteered for dangerous patrols, and had been awarded the Iron Cross First Class as early as May 1915. Hitler brushed this aside by saying “the exception proves the rule”. How much of the story is pure truth, how much embellishment, is difficult to make out. In the post-war era, Weiss Ferdl, like everybody else, was anxious to show that he had never fallen under Hitler’s spell.”

Berthold Feuchtwanger in World War I, with Iron Cross First Class

Grave of Berthold Feuchtwanger in Bogotá

Of Lion Feuchtwanger’s sisters, two emigrated to Palestine in the 1920s. His sister Bella, who had worked in the publishing operations of Martin Feuchtwanger in Prague, did not escape the Holocaust, was deported to Theresienstadt, and died there of typhus in 1942.

Commemorative stone for Lion Feuchtwanger’s sister Bella

For a full account, see:

— Heike Specht, Die Feuchtwangers. Familie, Tradition und jüdisches Selbstverständnis (Göttingen: Wallstein Verlag, 2006)

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