“Few novels strike such a stark note of warning, or capture with such accuracy the perilous years of the rise of a dictatorship.” Financial Times

The Oppermanns, in the original 1933 James Cleugh translation (with minor adaptations), has been re-published by Persephone Books, London, with a preface and notes by Sir Richard Evans, Emeritus Regius Professor of History, Cambridge University.

Professor Evans points out that “the brutality and criminality of the regime were clear enough even in the first months of the Nazi dictatorship, and Feuchtwanger’s novel supplies unforgettable evidence of their extremism and their extent, as well as the complacency of so many people, including a substantial part of the Jewish community, who failed to realise what was happening until it was too late.”

He also notes that the novel is “all too relevant in the twenty-first century, as a warning against complacency in the face of lies and abuse, and a call for vigilance in the defence of democracy against those who would destroy it. It is the first great masterpiece of anti-fascist literature, and deserves to be as widely read today as it was on its original publication.”

— For a full analysis of the novel and its reception in 1933-34, see International Feuchtwanger Society Conference 2017.

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.

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 Beginning with a selection of Feuchtwanger’s unpublished writings, speeches, and interviews, the volume examines the author’s approaches to Jewish history, Zionism, Judaism’s relationship to early Christianity and to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 an early-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 Nazi Party, 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, and follow-up article

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 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 detailed 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 Neighbor was published by Other Press (New York) in November 2017, with accompanying excerpts in Time (online) and People (online).

Covering the period 1929-39, the book is an account of the everyday life of Edgar’s family at their Munich apartment, directly opposite the private apartment of Hitler. Edgar watches as events unfold beneath his window.

“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

“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

Television and film:

Further resources:

On the 80th anniversary of Lion Feuchtwanger’s 1937 visit to Moscow, and to accompany publication of Professor Anne Hartmann‘s new book (above), a conference entitled ‘Die revolutionäre Versuchung. Reiseberichte aus dem Exil: Auf nach Moskau! Der Fall Lion Feuchtwanger‘ was held at Literaturhaus Berlin (in collaboration with Freie Universität Berlin) on 8-9th December 2017 (with a subsequent book launch at Moscow’s Stanislavsky Electrotheatre).

To understand Stalin, asks Anne in her monograph – how feasible was that for a Western intellectual visiting him in the Soviet Union in the 1930s? What was it that Feuchtwanger grasped when he sat face to face with the dictator on January 8th, 1937? How far-reaching was his understanding of that radically different society?

Anne points out that in his travel report Moskau 1937 Feuchtwanger shows considerable appreciation for Stalin and his policies. He ends his book with a triple, enthusiastic ‘yes’ for the USSR, praising its social order and even justifying its show trials. The political reasons are obvious. Forced into exile, by the Hitler regime, the German-Jewish author hoped the Soviet Union would offer the fierce resistance to the National Socialists, which was sadly missing among the Western democracies.

But other motives may be worth mentioning, Anne goes on. There are irritations, contradictions and cracks detectable under the smooth surface of his travel log, and there is also the question of why Feuchtwanger stuck staunchly to his vision of the Soviet realities until his death in 1958.

In response, Edgar‘s line of argument is: “Looking at it from my perhaps rather superficial viewpoint, of course Lion was very wrong indeed about Stalin. But you have to remember that the situation at the time was desperate. That is evident from a document such as Thomas Mann’s ‘Bruder Hitler’. It seemed as though the Western powers were not going to put up any resistance. Lion got his understanding of Russian from Tolstoy, Dostoevsky and Gogol. His assessment of Stalin was completely erroneous: a man of the people, well read, in extraordinarily jovial mood throughout the long interview. There are probably other factors involved—vanity, and not least Eva Herrmann, with whom he was in an extramarital liaison at the time.”

Edgar goes on: “I can remember when I was 13 (in 1937) my aunt Bella came to visit us in Munich from Prague. She had a Czech passport and could travel back and forth freely, which ultimately meant she perished in Theresienstadt. She told us about Lion stopping off to see her in Prague on his way back from the Moscow trip. She said Lion was already aware that there were Potemkin villages and that the golden taps in his hotel often produced no water. Allegedly Lion had said to Stalin: “How much pleasure does it give you that there’s a picture of you on every toilet seat in Russia?”, to which Stalin apparently replied “That’s how things work here”. My aunt Bella recounted this anecdote in her Bavarian accent and I can still remember it to this day. Bella was a very amusing person, and I subsequently took a trip with her to Berlin, which was the only time I travelled outside Bavaria as a child. In England during the war, no country was more popular than Russia after 1941. Even here in Hampshire we often had to get out of bed and go to the air raid shelter, but in May 1941 that suddenly stopped, for which we were very grateful to the Russians. It seems to me that Lion was always a man of the Enlightenment and reason, but that somehow came into conflict with his powerful imagination.”

My own contributions to the discussion can be found in ‘Russia’s Mythic Attraction: Lion Feuchtwanger in Moscow, 1937′, in Germano-Slavica 8 (1993); and in  ‘Lion Feuchtwanger and the Culture of Remembrance‘, in Against the Eternal Yesterday, (Los Angeles: Figueroa Press/USC Libraries, 2009).

Ludmila Stern’s Moscow 1937: The Interpreter’s Story’ (ASEEES Vol. 21, Nos. 1-2 (2007), 73-95) gives an insider’s view.

Further scholarly publications in the field:

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 the conference was entitled  ‘Die Geschwister Oppermann: A German Jewish Family in Extremis’ (with accompanying image set). Die Geschwister Oppermann was written in Sanary-sur-Mer in 1933, at the start of Lion Feuchtwanger’s seven-year period of exile in France. It 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.

IFS 2017 Conference Program (Conference proceedings forthcoming 2020, Peter Lang)

In 1940, Lion Feuchtwanger was interned by Vichy France at the Les Milles camp (opening ceremony of the museum & memorial site at Les Milles). His account of internment, Der Teufel in Frankreich, was republished in English in 2009 by Figueroa Press/USC Libraries.

(click on image for full digital edition, including Marta Feuchtwanger’s account of how she and Lion made their escape from Europe in September 1940)

— 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).

Ample evidence that Lion Feuchtwanger’s work was much admired by fellow writers in exile from Nazi Germany, among them Thomas Mann, can be found in the Lion Feuchtwanger 60th birthday book.

(click on image for table of contents)

The Lion Feuchtwanger 60th birthday book was originally published on July 7th 1944, and excerpts were re-published in English by USC Libraries/Villa Aurora in 2014. On June 7th 1944 Thomas Mann sent the following letter for inclusion in the book:

Pacific Palisades, June 7th, 1944

“Dear Lion Feuchtwanger,

I find it rather amusing that I’m sending you greetings for your 60th birthday on this handmade paper via New York, since we are, after all, neighbours on this slightly unreal coast and I often have the pleasure of seeing you in person anyway. Actually there’s nothing to stop me visiting you at your castle by the sea on July 7th, so that I may shake my young colleague encouragingly by the hand (my God, I was already 60 at the point when Hitler was embarking on his sins). That will be better than writing to you. However, I do not wish to be absent, nor will I be permitted to be, when the literary world pays you collective homage and your richly blessed life is assembled between the handsome covers of a volume, even though on birthdays one would prefer not to be what one usually is—a writer required to formulate everything with great art and precision.

Allow me, then, to be brief and sincere! This will be more of a handshake than a birthday essay. As you’ve probably noticed, I’m fond of you, and am always eager to chat when we meet socially. This is easy to explain. You are a likeable, cheerfully communicative, and — if you’ll forgive the expression! — ingenuous fellow, whose Munich manner of speaking makes people comfortable; you are also a knowledgeable, experienced man from whom one can learn something; and behind your personality lies a body of work that is diverse, energetic, rich in characters, well researched, astute in its critique of our era, and felicitous. Since the beginning, your work has been well received in many parts of the world, first in Germany, then outside it in both East and West, and in Russia and the Anglo-Saxon countries. I heard it with my own ears in England: ‘It’s almost as good as Feuchtwanger’ was true praise indeed.

I have always admired your existence. You were born to happiness and success, and they will not desert you. You are a comforting example of how a cheerful approach to individual destiny can triumph over the gloom of circumstance. Our era has treated you badly, as it has all of us. You have suffered losses and affronts, been uprooted and endangered — yet I have never heard you talk about any of this without laughter in your voice. It has all turned out well for you. I believe you were the first of the emigrés to acquire a suitably impressive house: in Sanary-sur-Mer, where we spent those first few months following our discharge as German writers. I would have loved to have brought Goebbels to your house and shown him the view, to enrage him. Now, prolific as ever, as an honored guest of this expansive but cosy country, you are waiting for the mindless episode which refers to itself as National Socialization and which you have done, you may say, your best to avoid, to come to an end. You are only 60, you spry young thing. Unlike the undersigned you’ll be able to adjust gradually to what comes next. Whether I’ll be missing out on much need not be addressed here. Provided things turn out as anticipated, we will all live to see, and celebrate together, the ignominious end of the murderous lunacy that drove us out of Germany; and each of us, when the time comes, will leave this life safe in the knowledge that on this star with which we were briefly acquainted, though not everything is, to put it mildly, entirely flawless, the most idiotic, most despicable aspects lasted no longer than perhaps a dozen years.


Thomas Mann”


With Edgar at The Library of Burned and Banned Books at Munich’s new NS-Dokumentationszentrum. The Drei Masken Verlag first edition of Jud Süss (1925) is easily identifiable by its yellow jacket (top shelf). The total print run of the novel in German up until 1933 was 200,000; in other European languages (English, French and a dozen others), Yiddish and Hebrew it was 638,000.


Clip: In the Learning Centre at the NS-Dokumentationszentrum. Edgar watching his 60-minute Zeitzeugeninterview

Recent scholarly publications in the field:
— Volker Weidermann, Das Buch der verbrannten Bücher (Cologne: Kiepenheuer und Witsch, 2008)

On 2nd June 2016 the New York Times ran a Books Section article (‘Edgar Feuchtwanger Bore Witness, Horribly Close to Hitler,’ to coincide with Edgar’s talk at the 92nd Street Y cultural center.

Edgar also appeared on CNN with Christiane Amanpour, June 23rd 2016. Minute 0.57: “If Hitler had known who I was, I wouldn’t be here to talk to you. My uncle Lion Feuchtwanger–who was very much a personal enemy of Hitler’s–had satirized him as Rupert Kutzner [in Erfolg], and if they had ever found out that we were the closest relations to Lion,  we would’t be here for sure.”


And also on the world’s most visited English-language newspaper website Daily Mail Online on June 23rd: “A Jewish man and one-time neighbor of Hitler has revealed what it was like to live next door to the German dictator for nine years during his rise to power. Edgar Feuchtwanger’s incredible story is made the more improbable by the fact that his uncle, Lion Feuchtwanger, was a prominent novelist and ‘personal enemy’ of Hitler at the time.”

mail online

Edgar’s memoir I was Hitler’s Neighbour (Bretwalda, London), written from his viewpoint as a professional historian, was published in the United Kingdom in 2015. (This memoir is not to be confused with Hitler, My Neighbor (New York: Other Press, 2017), which is a semifictionalization written from the viewpoint of Edgar as a child).

“Nine-year-old Edgar was strolling down the street in pre-war Munich when he glanced into a nearby garden. There, relaxing in a deckchair and dozing in the sun, he saw a neighbour who lived directly opposite him. Edgar, who was Jewish, felt no cause for alarm. Yet this fellow city dweller was none other than Adolf Hitler, then resident in Munich and on his way to becoming the most dangerous and fearsome tyrant of the 20th century.

And as such Edgar, now the 91-year-old distinguished historian Edgar Feuchtwanger, witnessed some of the most dangerous and notorious events in the run-up to war. Edgar’s family was well-known in pre-war Germany. His uncle was Lion Feuchtwanger, a successful author in the Weimar Republic who incurred the wrath of the authorities when in 1930 – the year of Hitler’s electoral breakthrough – he published a novel called Success, which lampooned the German leader as Rupert Kutzner, a garage mechanic with a populist touch, who founds a party called the Truly Germans.” Daily Express