Lesson 5 Table of Contents Lesson 7

L e s s o n 6


1. Key personalities

Thomas Mann (1875-1955). A Nobel Prize winning novelist, he was a writer of international stature when the Nazis came to power. Since he was neither Jewish nor a political radical, the Nazis at first hoped that he would take their side. Instead, he preferred exile, living in the U.S. and later settling in Switzerland.

Albert Einstein (1879-1955). One of the great creative minds of all time, he revolutionized modern physics with his theory of relativity. He became an American citizen and spent the last years of his life at the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton University.

Erich Maria Remarque (1898-1970). After the world success of his 1929 anti-war novel, All Quiet on the Western Front, the Nazis denounced Remarque as a pacifist. He took refuge in Switzerland and was later part of the group of German refugee intellectuals who settled at Pacific Palisades, CA. The list includes Thomas Mann and the Austrian novelist Franz Werfel, author of The Song of Bernadette.

2. Main trends

Hitler's seizure of power in 1933 had far-reaching consequences for German intellectual life. Jewish intellectuals were the first to feel the chill that gripped Germany during the 1930s. To begin with, Jewish civil servants were dismissed from their employment. This not only affected office workers in government jobs but thousands of teachers, college professors, and employees of state-run theaters, museums, and research institutions. Persecution also proceeded along political lines. Anyone who was opposed to the Nazi regime could find himself in trouble, but for creative occupations there was an additional problem. Writers, artists, and other creative people were not only prohibited from expressing themselves as they wished, but were also urged to lend their talent and energy to the support of the Goebbels propaganda machine.

Under these circumstances, it is not surprising that a flood of German intellectuals left Germany after 1933. Some went to other countries in Europe, but many ultimately went to the U.S. In all, more than 100,000 German and Austrian immigrants settled in the U.S. between 1933 and 1941. They came, of course, from all walks of life, but many were refugee intellectuals who were to have an important impact on American culture.

To begin with, there were the writers. The long list includes Heinrich Mann, Thomas Mann, his son Klaus Mann, Erich Maria Remarque, Franz Werfel, Oskar Maria Graf, Carl Zuckmayer, Lion Feuchtwanger, and Berthold Brecht. Another important group were the psychoanalysts, such as Erik Erikson, Erich Fromm, and Bruno Bettelheim. Refugee physicists such as Hans Bethe were to play an important role in the wartime development of the atomic bomb.

There were certain places that became centers of German exile culture in America. In his book Exile in New York, Helmut F. Pfanner gives us some insight into the remarkable colony of German exile writers in New York City during the 1940s. In 1933 the New School for Social Research in lower Manhattan opened a University in Exile to accommodate the flood of refugee intellectuals from Germany. The philosopher Herbert Marcuse and the critic Theodor Adorno were among the many refugee intellectuals associated with the New School. Black Mountain College, an experimental college in North Carolina founded in 1933, was another center of German exile culture during the 1930s/1940s. Prominent on its faculty were the Bauhaus artists Josef and Anni Albers. There were, of course, a number of other German refugee artists who came to the U.S. during that time. One of the most distinguished was George Grosz, whose work is characterized by bitter social criticism. German refugees such as Max Reinhardt and Lee Strasberg made important contributions to the theater in America. The film critic Siegfried Kracauer played an important role in popularizing the German cinema of the Weimar era in the U.S.

3. Suggested further reading

Robert Boyers, ed. The Legacy of the German Refugee Intellectuals. New York: Schocken Books, 1972.

Robert E. Cazden. German Exile Literature in America 1933-1950. A History of the Free German Press and Book Trade. Chicago: American Library Association, 1970.

Laura Fermi. Illustrious Immigrants: The Intellectual Migration from Europe 1930-1941. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press, 1968.

Donald Fleming and Bernard Bailyn, eds. The Intellectual Migration, Europe and America, 1930-1960. Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1969.

Anthony Heilbut. Exiled in Paradise. New York: The Viking Press, 1983.

Helmut F. Pfanner. Exile in New York: German and Austrian Writers After 1933. Detroit: Wayne State Univ. Press, 1983.

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Created: 4 August 1998, SEL
Updated: 17 November 2007, BAS
Comments to: Eberhard Reichmann, reichman@ucs.indiana.edu
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