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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.

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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)

Recent television re-runs of note:

On ARD: Michael Verhoeven’s film Menschliches Versagen (includes a part about the Feuchtwanger family):

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The photo above is of the passport held by Edgar at age 14.

And the re-run of Barbara Schepanek’s 2015 TV documentary Schatten über München, which uses Lion Feuchtwanger’s novel Erfolg (1930) as a springboard for its account of the beginnings of the Nazi movement in Munich:

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Art historian Dr. Roland Jaeger‘s article on Lion Feuchtwanger’s brother Martin Feuchtwanger, including an account of Martin’s career as a journalist and publisher and his subsequent narrow escape from Nazi-occupied Prague, has been published in Aus dem Antiquariat 2/2016.

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— Martin Feuchtwanger’s memoir:  Zukunft ist ein blindes Spiel (Berlin: Aufbau Taschenbuch Verlag, 1999)

Of Lion Feuchtwanger’s four brothers, Martin was the third, while the youngest among the brothers was Berthold.

Berthold in World War I, with Iron Cross First Class

Berthold is described as follows by Edgar 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 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’s grave in Bogotá

Recent scholarly publications in the field:

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

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.”

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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.”

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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

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Regerstrasse 8, Lion Feuchtwanger’s former home in Berlin, now has a new and more visible commemorative plaque mounted on the front wall of the house (the existing plaque on the pavement has been left in place), writes Marta Feuchtwanger biographer Manfred Flügge.

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Photo credits: Manfred Flügge

The Nazis’ expropriation of the house prompted Lion Feuchtwanger to write his well-known sarcastic public letter (1935) to the subsequent occupants (under National Socialism the street name was changed from Mahlerstrasse to Regerstrasse, as Mahler was Jewish).

A reading of Lion Feuchtwanger’s public letter was given at the the 2015 Hay-on-Wye (UK) Literary Festival as part of Letters Live, an event held to celebrate the art of letter-writing. The reading was performed by actor Jude Law. Letters Live was also performed by Jude Law at a refugee camp in Calais on February 21st 2016, to contribute to ongoing public debate on migration.

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Ken Burns and Artemis Joukowsky’s film Defying the Nazis: The Sharps’ War, with Tom Hanks as the voice of Waitstill Sharp, was previewed at the White House as part of the ongoing refugee debate and at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in September 2016, and broadcast on PBS on September 20th 2016. 7 minutes of the film cover the rescue of Lion and Marta Feuchtwanger in 1940.

Further reading:

  • full account of the role played by the Sharps, and their status as Righteous among the Nations, at the Yad Vashem website
  • Marta Feuchtwanger’s own account of how she and Lion made their escape from Vichy France with the help of the Sharps and the Emergency Rescue Committee
  • Manfred Flügge’s Fry, Bingham, Sharp: The Americans Who Saved Lion and Marta Feuchtwanger, published by Villa Aurora and reviewed in the International Feuchtwanger Society Newsletter (Volume 21/2016, page 63).