Leon Feuchtwanger was a German novelist and playwright whose work influenced contemporaries such as Bertolt Brecht. Born in 1884, Feuchtwanger was raised in a Jewish household and attended university in Berlin and Munich, studying literature and philosophy. He began writing historically-themed works by the age of 19, and started a German culture magazine in 1908.
After serving in WWI, Feuchtwanger's writing took a decidedly leftist turn and he began collaborating with Bertolt Brecht. By 1925, Feuchtwanger already had a reputation as a gifted writer and later that year published his first popular novel “Jew Swiss”, the story of the rise and fall of an early 18th century Court Jew.
However, it was Erfolg or (“Success”) which caused the greatest stir. Written as a fictional account of the rise and fall of the Nazi party, the novel predicted many atrocities long before they were known, and quickly made Feuchtwanger an enemy of the fascist regime.
Feuchtwanger and his wife were on a speaking tour of the United States in 1933 when Hitler became Chancellor. Learning that their home had been ransacked by government agents, they did not return to Germany. They instead settled in the south of France until 1940, when the German occupation resulted in their interment at Camp des Milles. With the help of American journalist Varian Fry, (Prompt #602) the Feuchtwangers escaped and settled in Los Angeles in 1941.
Lion Feuchtwanger lived in the Pacific Palisades until his death in 1958. His wife Marta devoted the remainder of her life to promoting her husband’s works. The Feuchtwanger’s home, known as the Villa Aurora, has become a local center for Germanic cultural events.
Listen to the story of Emilio Segre in prompt 144, another notable Jew who was traveling in the United States and could not return home.