Writers in Extremis

by Guy Stern

One of the exile writers from Nazi Germany described exile as a misfortune.1 But he might have added that the alternative the inability to become an exile, thus remaining entrapped in Germany or its occupied territories-constituted an infinitely greater calamity. While details of this calamity differed in the case of each affected individual, world events-the spread and mounting oppressiveness of Nazi rule-imposed five discernible broad patterns of such thwarted exile. All of them proved to be wrenching and any one of them could lead, as the fate of Felix Nussbaum demonstrates,2 to the sudden extinction of a life and a major talent. This study, through examining the biographies of five distinguished German writers, will try to assess from the perspective of thwarted exile how these egregious patterns left symptomatic traces not only on their lives but on their works.

Obviously, many of their existential concerns, subsequently mirrored in their works, were no different from those of writers and artists who would ultimately escape the Nazi inferno. The abrupt discontinuation, for the Jews among them, of the age-old GermanJewish tradition, the persecution, the anxiety and grief for friends and relatives were similar, but often those who were constantly thwarted in their attempted flight felt these experiences more intensely and lent such tribulations an even more searing poignancy in their works. But there were additional and pervasive themes and topoi typical of the works of the entrapped writers-the sense of an ever more confining isolation, the physical and mental degradation, the cruel and debilitating reality of "no escape." Moreover, there was the tragic uniqueness of the anticipated and experienced travail of the concentration camps. In the thrall of that extreme situation some men and women found the gift to express the ineffable.

Admittedly these patterns do not fit all those persecuted by the National Socialists. Anomalous fates abounded in a dictatorship that was both ruthless and capricious. Their variety, however, can only be hinted at. By singling out two examples at opposite ends of the moral scale of resisting or conforming to an amoral society, this article will attempt to show, in passing, exceptional cases where more general patterns cease to apply.

Victor Klemperer, though tightly supervised by the Gestapo, was allowed to eke out a straitened existence in Nazi Germany, which he had been unable to leave. Born in 1881 and a professor of eighteenthcentury French literature in Dresden, Klemperer was spared imprisonment and death because of his marriage to a non-Jewish wife. But he was stripped of his position, isolated from fellow professionals, denied access to libraries and books, and forced to do manual labor during the war. By various ruses he succeeded in compiling a unique vocabulary and semantic case study of fascist double-think.3 Written during the war as a diary and published shortly thereafter, it is considered even today one of the most authoritative studies on Nazi jargon.

At the other extreme, there were a few writers whose exile was thwarted not by outside forces, but by their own lack of principles or fortitude. Ernst Glaeser (1902-1963), who had written respectable dramas and novels prior to his emigration, distinguished himself while in exile by the novel The Last Civilian (Der letzte Zivilist, 1935), which exposed conditions in Nazi Germany. But then he tired of his haven in Switzerland. Disliking his existence as an exile, he made his peace with the Nazis and returned to Germany.4

In examining the more common patterns of thwarted exile, one is struck by the pervasiveness of certain character traits in many of the persecuted writers, no matter what outward patterns were imposed on their lives. Most of them displayed an indomitable will to survive as creative human beings-to survive through utterance,5 despite or because of the certainty of their physical destruction. Motivated by a desire to give testimony or simply to be remembered as individuals amidst a collective horror, some good writers reached greatness and some ordinary men and women reached, perhaps in a single poem or one short chapter, the eloquence of poets. It should be added that, here, too, there are exceptions. Extreme suffering can inspire, but it can also destroy. Nelly Sachs, who reached exile in Sweden at the last possible moment and, as a creative person, would alternate for years afterwards between periods of poetic eloquence and silence, wrote in a poem: "When the great horror came, I fell silent."6

It will be useful to keep these anomalies and variations in mind in contemplating the five more common patterns of thwarted exile and the writers' response to it.

Writers by the hundreds perished in the concentration camps. Among them were professing Jews like Arno Nadel; apostates like the Catholic nun Edith Stein7; anti-Nazi political writers-Jews and non-Jews alike-for example, the Nobel Prize winner and conservative Carl von Ossietzky; writers opposed to Hitler, e.g., the novelist Emil Alphons Reinhardt; or Christian theologians such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer.8 Many of them, though prematurely silenced, continue to speak through their works-none more memorably than the poet Gertrud Kolmar. Her poems, frequently anthologized in postwar Germany, have also found an audience in the United States, in part because of a highly sensitive English translation. Gertrud Chodziesner, Kolmar's real name, was born in 1894, the daughter of a successful Berlin lawyer. She loved nature passionately and the large yard behind her parents' home, with its "forest," its flowers, animals, and birds, must have supplied her with many early impressions and with the pervasive images in her poetry. Later she became the embodiment of the poet in isolation, the lyrical interpreter of nature. Her poems are among the most meaningful lyrical stanzas on flowers and animals in German literature. But she also became, perhaps because of her intense involvement with and subsequent abandonment by her lover, the most expressive celebrant of woman's sexuality in European letters-this at a time when the subject was still taboo. She also engrossed herself in history and blended her romantic tendencies with realistic observations. This combination also marked her poems on Jewish subjects.9 In her poem "We Jews" she decries Jewish suffering of her times and through the ages:

And we, we have proceeded through the gallows and the rack,
This bursting of our hearts, this sweat of death, this gaze
without a tear,
And the eternal windblown sigh of martyrs at the stake,
The withered claw, the weary fist with veins like vipers
Raised against the murderers from ropes and funeral pyres of ages,
The gray beard singed in hellfires, torn by devils-grip,
The mutilated ear, the wounded brow and fleeing eye:
Oh all of you! Now, when the bitter hour strikes I will arise
And stand like a triumphal arch above your cavalcade of anguish!10

With the coming of the Nazis, Gertrud Kolmar knew what her own fate would be. As early as 1933-1934 she had a nightmarish poetic vision:

And I can feel the fist that drops my weeping head toward the hill of ashes.

Still more startling, in the same years when news of the camps was still scattered and uncertain, she wrote the poem "The Camp" (Das Lager):

Those who walk about here are but bodies
And have no longer any soul,
Are only names in books.
Imprisoned: Men and boys and women,
And their eyes stare emptily....

Insensate, gray, degenerate they toil,
Cut off from human life,
Stiff, wounded, branded with official stamps,
They wait like slaughter cattle for the knife. . . . 11

Yet despite her inner certainty of what would happen, she did not flee. As the oldest and most homebound of her sisters, she felt compelled to nurse her ailing father, and when she finally made desultory plans to emigrate to Palestine or England after her father's deportation to Theresienstadt, she found that she had waited too long. Thus her fate became predictable. After the forced sale of her father's suburban home she was relegated to housing designated for Jews in Berlin. Then followed deportation and death. Neither the exact date nor place of her death are known. She was 48 when she was exterminated.

The second pattern is an equally calamitous variation on the first. Some writers did reach exile, in Belgium, Holland, France, Czechoslovakia, or other nations bordering on Germany, only to become Nazi victims once again when the German army overran these neighboring countries. The best known among these is, of course, Anne Frank, whose incandescent gifts as a writer were extinguished in a concentration camp.12 But there were also such meritorious writers as Paul Kornfeld, captured in Prague, and Georg Hermann, taken in Holland, who left poetic mementos for their contemporaries and successors.13 And there were other temporarily successful but ultimately thwarted exiles: those whom the Nazis abducted from their country of refuge, such as the essayist and journalist Berthold Jacob.14 There were those whom callous authorities, for example those in Switzerland15 or the Soviet Union, delivered up to the German authorities. Margarete Buber-Neumann, as she herself describes in her memoirs A Prisoner of Stalin and Hitler (Als Gefangene bei Stalin und Hitler), is one instance of the latter; the composer Hans David is another. David's crime had been the writing of a composition in honor of Stalin's birthday: he had made the mistake of offending Stalinist aesthetics by composing it atonally. Ultimately he died in the gas chambers of Maidanek.16

Of those victims who died at the hands of the Nazis after having reached a seemingly safe haven or who committed suicide abroad, the artist Felix Nussbaum, and the poet Alfred Wolfenstein, stand out for a variety of reasons.

Nussbaum (1904-1944) was born in Osnabruck to a well-to-do Jewish family. He studied art, first in Hamburg and then in Berlin, where he established himself as a superb surrealist painter. He received a generous stipend to study art in Rome, but within two years the paintings he had left in his Berlin studio had been burned, the new antisernitic policies of 1933 had caused his stipend to be revoked, and he had fled from Italy because of the Nazis' increasing influence there. From 1935 to 1940 he lived in Brussels, but with the German invasion of 10 May 1940 he was shipped by Belgian authorities to St. Cyprien, an internment camp on the French Mediterranean coastline. During his imprisonment, as well as after his escape, he continued to paint. In 1942 Nussbaum, having made his way back to Belgium, went into hiding in Brussels. In 1944 German surveillance, which had become increasingly strict, discovered him and deported him to Auschwitz where he died.17

Wolfenstein, like Nussbaum, came from a middle-class Jewish family and belonged to the generation of Expressionist-Surrealist artists, though he deliberately lied about his age in order to "belong" to that group of young rebels. (He was born in 1893.) His three volumes of Expressionistic poetry were enthusiastically received by such prominent fellow writers as Robert Musil and Oskar Loerke.18

Like Nussbaum, Wolfenstein exiled himself from Germany immediately after the Nazis' accession to power, never to return. And parallel to Nussbaum's flight from his first asylum in Italy, Wolfenstein fled Prague via airplane while German troops were already approaching the Czech capital. As Nussbaum was incarcerated in France at the behest of Belgian authorities, so Wolfenstein was arrested by French border guards as he was trying to cross illegally into unoccupied France after the Nazi invasion in 1940. He was sent to La Sante, a prison in Paris. Miraculously, the poet was released after three months; one of the prison officers knew and admired his poetry and effected his release. Afterward he lived in hiding in Nice, sporadically continuing to write. With the help of Swiss friends he was able to publish some essays pseudonymously in Swiss newspapers and journals. But his creative powers, undermined by constant fears and persecutions, were waning. His novel Frank, named after his son, remained fragmentary. His earlier elan evaporated, from both his life and his poetry. Perhaps with more enterprise on his part he might have been able to flee Vichy France; Thomas Mann and friends in Switzerland interceded for him. Though he never got out of France, he did live to see its liberation. But thwarted exile, as the lives of Wolfenstein and others proved, can be a lingering and fatal disease. At the end of January 1945, less than half a year after the liberation of Paris where Wolfenstein was then living, he died of an overdose of sleeping pills. Pursued by evil during the last years of his life, "he was forced to commit suicide," as one Wolfenstein scholar put it, "by [his illusory belief] in a grand human utopia."19

There were survivors among the inmates of the concentration camps. The rabbi and theological writer Leo Baeck, after whom the scholarly institutes in New York, London, and Jerusalem are named, was one of those few.20 The Protestant novelist Ernst Wiechert, who dared to speak out for humaneness in an inhumane period, was another.21 Bruno Apitz, a writer, communist, and early prisoner of Buchenwald, was a third, and H.G. Adler a fourth.22 They would share their memories of the sordidness and horrors of the univers concentrationnaire and, each in his or her own way, recall it and draw a moral judgment of the experience, once they had been liberated and, belated exiles, had left Germany.

H.G. Adler, for many years the honorary president of the PEN Club in exile, now lives, at age 74, in London. One of the survivors of Auschwitz and a score of other concentration camps, he has recorded his life in a terse autobiographical essay entitled "Obituary During My Lifetime" (Nachruf bei Lebzeiten).23 He was born in Prague in 1910, at a time (as he put it) when Kafka was beginning to realize his gifts. He was the son of a petit bourgeois family; his parents were assimilated Jews who believed more in continuous human progress than in the traditional Judaic faith. His cultural and linguistic roots were Austrian and German rather than Czech. Even as a boy he displayed a talent for inventing and telling stories.

He spent his boyhood in Prague, in several small rural Bohemian towns, and also in boarding schools in Dresden. These separations from home contributed to his precociousness. After his return he studied German literature at the University of Prague, receiving his doctorate in 1935. By that time any possibility of employment by a German university had of course vanished. Adler found an "interesting but ill-paying" job in an adult education center in Prague. He later accused himself of not pursuing his plans for emigration vigorously enough, even though he had recognized that Hitler would not stop at Germany's borders. He did prepare himself for emigration to Brazil by studying business administration in Milan. When he returned to Prague to secure a Brazilian visa, he and his wife, a Prague physician he had married in 1941, were deported to Theresienstadt, then to Auschwitz. His wife, who had saved his life repeatedly, died at Auschwitz.

Freed in April 1945, Adler returned to Prague, became a teacher of children who had survived the camps, and helped in the rebuilding of the Jewish Museum of Prague. In 1947, with the help of a childhood girlfriend who had emigrated to England in 1938, Adler was able to leave Czechoslovakia and settle in England. His rescuer then became his second wife. In England writing became his chief occupation. He has written monographs about German Jewish history, the deportations and the concentration camps, and the classic history of Theresienstadt. He also composed several outstanding works of fiction and received several literary prizes for his book on Theresienstadt and for his best-known novel, Panorama.24

The latter work was undoubtedly conceived during his confinement. One of Adler's observations about Theresienstadt is pertinent, as it applies to him, to the martyred writers in general, and to the question implicit in all studies on art and literature of thwarted exile: "Why did men and women continue to write in these, the most extreme circumstances?" Adler observed:

When and wherever it was possible, the prisoners wanted to utilize their mental capacities; otherwise life would have appeared unbearable to many. . . . Even in solitary, in the death cells, in the worst concentration camps, Auschwitz not excluded, writing was going on.25

He mentions poems as a short form that could be accommodated and could serve as a retreat from persecution to an inner preserve. And he quotes the poem "To Prometheus" which he wrote in Theresienstadt and which culminates in the lines

With the courage of despair
with the spirit of outrage with
proud repentance oppose all
dark forces!26

Other writers survived in hiding either inside or outside Germany. Irmgard Keun lived in Germany under an assumed name; Rudolf Leonhard found a hiding place in Marseille. The television show Forbidden, aired over HBO in April 1985, recreated the ever-present sense of confinement and fear in such a situation but left unsaid the fact that its subject, Hans Hirschel, who was hidden by Countess Maria von Maltzan at the peril of her own life, was a writer, the former editor of Das Dreieck, an avant-garde German literary journal founded in 1925.27 In his hiding place he continued to write:

He [Hirschell also had a great deal of specific work-more, ironically, than he had ever had in normal times-articles, book reviews, radio plays, even short books. It was Marushka [i.e., Maria] who would obtain the assignments, ostensibly for herself. She would then give them to Hans to do, along with the research materials.28

Even more dramatic was the life of Jacov Lind, who was born of Austrian Jewish parents in 1927. His father was a bit of a Luftmensch, his mother a self- taught connoisseur of German literature. When Hitler came to power in Austria, his parents shipped their son to the supposed safety of Holland, while they prepared for the more forbidding journey to Palestine. Before the Nazis turned west in their conquests, Lind was cared for by Jewish welfare organizations and private benefactors in Amsterdam. But when the Nazis came to Holland, he (like thousands of other refugees) was unable to flee. He began, at first, an existence like Anne Frank's, hiding in garrets. Then, as the house-to-house searches started, he procured forged Dutch identity papers and took on odd gardening and farm jobs. But this existence proved precarious. As Lind writes in his autobiography, he gained a sudden insight: "By now I was afraid to go anywhere but to the very heart of the monster. Inside the lion's mouth I would not have to fear the animal's teeth and claws."29 In consequence he wrangled a job on a river barge plowing the Rhine from the Hoek of Holland to the Ruhr Valley in Germany. When someone challenged the newly born Jan Gerrit Overbeek for having a German accent in his now fluent Dutch, he would explain that his mother had been German. He would go ashore, drink at bars, court the girls, and finally even accept (and sabotage) a position inside the Third Reich. After the war he managed to rejoin his father in Palestine. After moving on to England he emerged as a bilingual writer. Today he lives and writes in New York.30

One final and exceptional pattern must be considered. A few writers managed to escape from Nazi Germany and find refuge in a neighboring country. When the Nazis invaded, they were left relatively unmolested. We still do not know with certainty why, for example, Armin T. Wegner in Italy and Hans Henny Jahnn in Scandinavia, why Picasso in Paris or Max Beckmann, a Jewish artist in Amsterdam, were, for the most part, ignored by the Nazis.31 It was no oversight, but sometimes the most efficient machine can be foiled by the passive resistance of one of its functionaries. To the best of my knowledge Beckmann was the only Jew in this situation, although one Catholic author survived without major harassment by the Nazis despite the fact that he was married to a woman who was Jewish by religion and half-Jewish according to the Nazis' racial laws.

In the case of Stefan Andres an unusual concatenation of circumstances occurred. Born the son of a miller in 1906 in the vicinity of Trier, brought up in the Catholic faith and educated in a monastery, he learned early in life to contrast the abstract theology of his schooling with the practical, down-to- earth, sincere, and happy religiosity of his father. When he fell in love with a Jewish medical student while a student at Jena, he was outraged by the insulting attempt of his university friends to dissuade him from continuing with the relationship-this as early as 1931. He protested that his Christian friends showed little Christian tolerance.32

As persecution of the Jews grew in intensity, the couple, now the parents of two daughters, decided to settle in Italy, away from the mainstream of fascism and later from Nazi supervision, in the small fishing village of Positano. Andres later stated repeatedly that it was not only his Jewish wife but his hatred of the "pestilence of Nazism" that caused him to leave Germany.

Somehow the family survived the deprivation of an uncertain income, the isolation of living in a small fishing village, and their denunciation by party- line Nazis living in that part of Italy. These three circumstances tested the family to the utmost, especially during the fatal illness of one of the daughters. Andres, who had become a successful writer in the early thirties, was able to keep on publishing in the Frankfurter Zeitung, the one newspaper in Germany that was permitted a modicum of independence because Josef Goebbels occasionally found it expedient to create the illusion that vestiges of a free press survived in Germany.33 Andres's wife was able to secure a job as a secretary and he as a tutor. Occasionally friends from Switzerland and even some courageous ones from Germany visited them, relieving their isolation. But as of 1943 they were completely cut off: not even mail reached them. As to the denunciations, which could have led to "resettlement" and the death camps, the Andres family was saved by the passive resistance of German expatriates in southern Italy. The German consular official in Naples, to whom these hate letters were sent, was not a fanatic and simply filed them in a waste basket.

With the advance of American troops, the Andres family was freed from their German yoke. An American medical officer supplied them with plentiful food and medication. After the war they returned to Germany, where Stefan became a best-selling author; at one time more than a million copies of his books were in print. But the new Germany, where Nazis regained influential positions, disappointed them. They left a second time and settled in Rome. The family's thwarted exile became a real emigration. Andres is buried in the Vatican cemetery. His Jewish wife, to the best of my knowledge, still lives in Rome.

All of these existences in extremis fall under the inadequate rubric of thwarted exile. Despite all the different patterns of experience (and further individual divergences even within these categories) there are unifying themes (as briefly stated above) that both unite the works of these writers and separate them, at least in degree, from the works of their compatriots who escaped the Nazi nightmare. The paradigmatic themes, detailed below, may serve as examples.

In extreme situations we tend to think in extremes. For example, faced with an overpowering enemy we will think of the agony he can inflict and at the same time envision a rescuer who will deliver us and destroy our foe. Few situations were more extreme than those faced by thwarted exiles. Their writings, despite differences in genre, subject matter, ideology, and the degree of oppression under which they were produced, nonetheless express themes striking in their commonality and in their prototypical presentation of extremes. Many of their themes are also based on a common Central European heritage, which in the case of the Jews is blended with their religious tradition. In generations past and future, these authors envision the polar opposite of their own catastrophic circumstances. Indeed, it is inherently optimistic of a writer to create literature for a future that might find his or her work meaningful. Gertrud Kolmar, while doing forced labor prior to being transported to a concentration camp, put it succinctly in a letter of 23 July 1941: "1 seek, probably with insufficient strength, to create for eternity." Such a statement is colored by an optimistic tradition of the past and offers a striking contrast to the horror endured by so many.

Though living in the twentieth century, many of those whose exile was thwarted were children of the Enlightenment, an age of optimism marked by a belief in human progress. Confronted by the bestiality of the camps, the faith of these writers and artists in the tenets of human improvement was constantly tested and shattered. But their convictions would repeatedly reassert themselves. This clash between a traditional, optimistic philosophy and the harshness of their plight is exemplified by a previously mentioned work of literature. H.G. Adler's novel Panorama, in which the author's life is reflected but not retold,34 features a hero who leads the life of a nonconformist Jewish intellectual of "good bourgeois" background. As in so many works of fiction written since Goethe's Wilhelm Meister, Josef, the hero, undergoes a tremendous variety of experiences in his search for self. But during and after Auschwitz he comes to the conclusion that there exists no orderly structure into which an individual can be integrated or can integrate himself. In short, neither the hero nor the world truly progress. Josef, talking to himself, has to admit: "You are not cured yet; your [idealistic] desires are unquenchable."35 In a recent interview H.G. Adler told me of a pervasive symbol in his (unpublished) novel The Wall (Die Wand). The hero, as he advances in life, is steadily confronted by an impenetrable wall, moving ahead of him at the same pace. We are marching forward, Adler seems to be saying, ridiculously determined-despite the fact that an irremovable obstacle constantly impedes our progress and vision. Through his symbol, Adler modifies, indeed, the eighteenth century's belief in human progress, but does not entirely dismiss it.

The second contrast is the often inspiring proclamation of human dignity and freedom amidst total subjugation. One of the most striking examples is a letter by Gertrud Kolmar to her sister, written in 1942, at a time when she knew that none of her poems would be published. Hence she endowed her small body of correspondence with the same power of language that she formerly had lent her poetry:

My acquaintance Dr. J. was a Spinoza scholar and spoke with me one day about the theory of the freedom of the human will amidst unfreedom. I told him that I understood this well from my own experience. Because I could not choose to accept or reject the factory work I was ordered to do, I had to give in and do it. But I was free to inwardly reject or accept it, to resist it or to approach it with good will. At the moment that I accepted it in my heart, there was no more pressure weighing on me; I was determined to see it as a lesson and to learn as much as possible. In this way I was free in the midst of my subjugation.36

Cynthia Ozick, the well-known American Jewish author, was the first to remark on the seeming paradox encapsuled in the letter: "But now and then a congeries of letters plunges out of the sparks of the [crematoria] to give us back ... a man who meditates on Spinoza in the slave factory (it was to him that Gertrud Kolmar talked of freedom in subjugation) ......37

In the work of Jacov Lind yet another-a most understandable and most individual-ambivalence repeatedly surfaces. Lind, who assuredly could not write while a crew-member on a barge, obviously held this schizophrenia, a term he himself employs, within himself. He writes:

In the new body of Jan Gerrit Overbeek I felt safe for the first time. It's insane to walk about freely when you are supposed to be sitting in some camp. Insane maybe, but it also makes one contented and happy, to be that insane. Schizophrenia did not hurt for a change. To be schizophrenic is to be normal, unreality is reality. I was both. Overbeek for the world and J.L. for this other world, who might or might not come back when the Germans have lost the war.38

This schizophrenia of thwarted exile also permeates his fiction. In 1962, in a remarkable short story entitled "Soul of Wood,"39 an Austrian Jewish doctor and his wife entrust their epileptic son to an old caretaker, a war veteran with a wooden leg, as they are being deported to Auschwitz. The caretaker leaves Antony Barth, the cripple, in a mountain hut, hidden and helpless. One morning a herd of stags and does attacks the hut, breaks open the door, and severely batters him. It would have killed anyone else, the narrator tells us, but the exact opposite happened to Barth. The boy, now 20, gains the use of all of his limbs and learns to speak-all this while living among wild animals. For Anton has discovered his full human identity while running with the beasts. Lind has turned his own schizophrenic experience into a surrealistic parable. There is one more hint that the author is linking his hero's experience to his own. As Anton Barth, the hero, discovers the use of his legs, "he counted the steps." Not by mere chance, Counting My Steps is the precise title of Lind's autobiography; he too had to learn to walk after being battered.

Stefan Andres provides us with perhaps the most startling contrast. Fully aware of the horror and hostility in Nazi Germany, he envisioned a utopian world. It may be that when the human mind is surrounded by the grimmest reality, it must find refuge in a world of visions, dreams, and ideals. During the hardships of his thwarted exile Andres repeatedly juxtaposed his dreams to reality. One of his novellas, with the revealing title We Are Utopia, is set against the carnage of the Spanish Civil War. Only a brief stirring of humanity interrupts the murder and mayhem. Ephemeral as it is, this momentary surfacing of human nobility proves once again that we are such stuff as God's dreams are made on. We are utopia.40

Even more revealing of Andres's utopian vision in times of an uncompromisingly bleak reality is his novel The Marriage of Enemies, written during his thwarted exile in Italy.41 Andres knew full well that the relationship between Germany and France was steadily worsening. Despite this, in 1938, he wrote a novel of reconciliation between the two arch-enemies. A German father, compromised during World War I by his dereliction of duty because of his love for a Frenchwoman, tries to keep his daughter apart from the Frenchman she loves. A simple farmer, endowed like Andres's father with uncommon common sense, points out to the German that it is illogical to perpetuate the past, thereby saddling future generations with it. Through his ingenuous arguments, he exposes the absurdity beneath the whole concept of nationalism. At the end of the novel the two young lovers marry, their union symbolizing the advent of a new friendship between their two countries. The book was published only after the war. In celebrating the triumph of a longed- for utopia over the dystopia that the author saw all around him, it is a typical novel of thwarted exile.

Another contrast permeates the works of both exiles and thwarted exiles. It is the anomaly of having to write in the same language as one's oppressors.42 The theme acquires an added intensity in the art of those who had to hear that language constantly, either in Germany or inside one of the invaded countries. It is, of course, one thing to hear words bellowed over the radio and another to have them unleashed at one in a concentration camp or while retreating before the armored might of the invader. Wolfenstein, even though his poetic gifts were declining in exile, succeeded in transmuting suffering into lyrical statement during the nightmare retreat across France in the wake of the advancing German army. In the poem "Exodus 1940" he chronicles the travail of the overcrowded roads, the strafing, the battlefield atmosphere, and also the inner quest for love and for a world at peace. In the penultimate stanza, he deplores the isolation from German words spoken in kindness:

Foreign sun, oh won't you speak!
Apart from things familiar I've been flung
No one else to hear that wild and silent shriek
The enemy alone speaks here my mother tongue43

These lines can serve as a partial summary on thwarted exile. That experience meant complete isolation, in which only the heavens might respond to the supplicant's appeal. Shrieks had to be silent. The familiar German sounds, once heard in love, now brought only fear and loathing.

But there is another, very brief poem of Wolfenstein's of the same period, which encapsulates the other side of thwarted exile, and which anticipates what today would be called "found poetry." Fleeing from the Germans just before they entered Paris and trying to cross the Loire into the unoccupied zone of France, he was arrested and sent back to Paris, to the ancient prison La Sante, where he wrote this poem:

Das schonste Gedicht stand so an der Wand der Zelle:
Je n'ai fait que penser a ma femme cherie, a ma fille
cherie, a ma mere cherie, a mes copains, et quelle
joie pour moi le jour ou je vais les revoir.44
(The most beautiful poem was written on the wall of the cell: I have done nothing but think of my beloved wife, of my beloved daughters, of my beloved mother, of my buddies and what joy for me the day I shall see them again.)

As this poem extols hope and love in the bleakest of circumstances and reaffirms them in two languages, it upholds those feelings across boundaries and barriers. Such sentiments are, of course, not original or unique. But their asseveration in the midst of thwarted exile lends them authenticity and the power to persuade.

NOTES This article is a revised and edited version of a lecture delivered on 28 April 1985 at the Jewish Museum, New York, as part of the symposium "Artists and Intellectuals in Nazi-Occupied Europe," organized in conjunction with the exhibition "Art and Exile: Felix Nussbaum, 1904-1944." Revisions were made in collaboration with Ms. Rachel Freudenburg, Research Assistant at Wayne State University.

1. See Hermann Kesten, "Fragen und Antworten," Akzente 2 (1974): 189.

2. See Emily D. Bilski, "Felix Nussbaum: A Mirror of His Times," in Art and Exile: Felix Nussbaum, 1904-1944, ed. Bilski (New York, 1985), pp. 19-69. See subsequent section of present article.

3. See Victor Klemperer, LTI. Aus dem Notizbuch eines Philologen (Berlin, 1946). Biographical information on Klemperer from Henry Friedlander and Sybil Milton, "The Language of Totalitarianism: Victor Klemperer's LTI," unpublished ms., 1980, courtesy of the authors. Also see Henry Friedlander, "The Manipulation of Language," in The Holocaust: Ideology, Bureaucracy, and Genocide, ed. Henry Friedlander and Sybil Milton (New York, 1981), pp. 103- 13.

4. Glaeser's vacillation is described in Rene Geoffroy, "Ernst Glaeser und der 'Schweizer Schutzengel'," Exil-Forschung: Ein internationales Jahrbuch 2 (1984): 358-80. Also see Gilbert Badia and Rene Geoffroy, "Ernst Glaeser-ein Antisemit?" ibid. 1 (1983): 283-301, which concludes that Glaeser became "a collaborator and yea-sayer because he lacked the ability to muster the moral strength to resist" (p. 297).

5. See Alvin H. Rosenfeld, A Double Dying: Reflections on Holocaust Literature (Bloomington and London, 1980), p. 15: Holocaust literature is born ... as a miracle of some sort, not only an overcoming of mute despair but an assertion and affirmation of faith. In some cases, perhaps [faith] in nothing more than human tenacity, the sheer standing fast of life in the face of a brutal death; in other cases, faith in the will to reject a final and wicked obliteration; in still other, faith in the persistent and all but uncanny strength of character to search out and find new beginnings.

6. For a further development of this argument and examples of literary texts written by nonprofessionals in extreme situations, see my "Hinweise und Anregungen zur Erforschung der Exilliteratur," in Exil und innere Emigration II, ed. Peter Uwe Hohendahl and Egon Schwarz (Frankfurt, 1973), pp. 14-16. Nelly Sachs's counter- statement appears in her Spate Gedichte (Frankfurt, 1965), p. 188.

7. For a brief article on Arno Nadel, see Hermann Kasack, "Arno Nadel," in his Mosaiksteine: Beitrage zu Literatur und Kunst (Frankfurt, 1956), pp. 243-48. For the life of Edith Stein, see Robert M.W. Kempner, Edith Stein und Anne Frank: Zwei von Hunderttausend (Freiburg i.B., 1968).

8. For a brief discussion of Emil Alphons Reinhardt (sometimes Rheinhardt), see my introduction to his narrative "Ferien" in Konstellationen: Die besten Erzahlungen aus dem "Neuen Merkur," 1914-1925, ed. Guy Stern (Stuttgart, 1964), p. 318. For the life of Dietrich Bonhoeffer see Eberhard Bethge, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Theologe, Christ, Zeitgenosse (Munich, 1967). [English version, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: Theologian, Christian, Contemporary, trans. Eric Mosbacher et al. (London, 1970).]

9. The facts about the life and work of Gertrud Kolmar are based on Henry Smith's excellent biography, and on Johanna Woltmann-Zeitler's brief note. See Henry A. Smith, "Introduction," in Gertrud Kolmar, Dark Soliloquy, The Selected Poems of Gertrud Kolmar, trans. Henry A. Smith (New York, 1975), pp. 3-52. See also Woltmann-Zeitler, "Nachbemerkung," in Kolmar, Friihe Gedichte (1917-22): Wort der Stummen" [19331 (Munich, 1980), pp. 240-45.

10. The translation, excerpted here, is by Henry A. Smith, ibid., p. 21.

11. Translations by Henry A. Smith, ibid., p. 34.

12. Anne Frank died in Bergen-Belsen of typhoid, two weeks before the camp's liberation. See Ernst Schnabel, Anne Frank, A Portrait In Courage, trans. Richard and Clara Winston (New York, 1958), p. 186.

13. For a short biography of Paul Kornfeld, see Karl Otten "Nachwort" and "Paul Kornfeld," in Das leere Haus, Prosa judischer Dichter (Stuttgart, 1959), pp. 614- 16 and 643-44. For an informative book on Georg Hermann, see C.G. van Liere, Georg Hermann: Materialien zur Kenntnis seines Lebens und seines Werkes (Amsterdam, 1974).

14. A detailed account of the Nazis' unrelenting pursuit of Jacob appears in Alfred Kantorowicz, Politik und Literatur im Exil (Hamburg, 1978), pp. 90-91.

15. The callousness of the Swiss authorities is described in Werner Mittenzwei, Exil in der Schweiz, Vol. 2 of Kunst und Literatur im antifaschistischen Exil 1933-1945 (Frankfurt, 1981).

16. Margarete Buber-Neumann, Als Gefangene bei Stalin und Hitler (Stuttgart, 1968). See also David Pike, German Writers in Soviet Exile, 1933-1945 (Chapel Hill, 1982), pp. 354f., where he deals with the treatment of the one-time daughter-in- law of Martin Buber; and p. 346, for an account of David's treatment.

17. Biographical information on Nussbaum is from Sybil Milton's essay, "The Artist in Exile, Internment and Hiding," in Art and Exile: Felix Nussbaum, ed. Bilski, pp. 70-81.

18. The biographical data are based largely on two sources: Peter Fischer, Alfred Wolfenstein. Der Expressionismus und die verendende Kunst (Munich, 1968), which also supplies a brief summary of the esteem accorded Wolfenstein by other authors (see pp. 48-49, 212-214); and Gunter Holz, Die lyrische Dichtung Alfred Wolfensteins, Ph.D. diss., Free University of Berlin, 1970.

19. Fischer, Alfred Wolfenstein, p. 46.

20. For an account of Baeck's life in Theresienstadt, see Albert H. Friedlander, Leo Baeck, Teacher of Theresienstadt (New York, 1968).

21. For Wiechert's account of his imprisonment at Buchenwald, see his Der Totenwald. Bericht aus dem KZ Lager Buchenwald (Zurich, 1945). [English version Forest of the Dead, trans. Ursula Stechow (New York, 1947).] See also Ernst Wiechert Der Mensch und sein Werk, ed. anon. (Munich, n.d.).

22. See Marcel Reich-Ranicki's biography and critical appraisal of Bruno Apitz, "Bruno Apitz," in his Deutsche Literatur in West und Ost (Munich, 1963), pp. 456-60. See also Sybil Milton's biography of Apitz, in Janet Blatter and Sybil Milton, Art of the Holocaust, with an historical introduction by Henry Friedlander (New York, 1981), p. 240.

23. The essay, entitled "Nachruf bei Lebzeiten," appeared originally in Karl Heinz Krambach, ed., Vorletzte Worte. Schriftsteller schreiben ihren eigenen Nachruf (Frankfurt, 1970), pp. 11-20. It is reprinted in Alfred Otto Lanz, "Panorama" von H.G. Adler-ein 'Moderner Roman' (Bern-Frankfurt-New York, 1984), pp. 150-60. This volume also supplies many illuminating details concerning Adler's life, based, in part, on interviews with the author.

24. Panorama. Roman in zehn Bildern (Olten and Freiburg i.B., 1968).

25. See his "[Erfahrungsberichte deutscher Emigranten] H.G. Adler," in Literatur des Exils. Eine Dokumentation uber die P.E.N. Jahrestagung in Bremen vom 18. bis 20. September 1980, ed. Bernd Engelmann (Munich, 1980), pp. 22f.

26. Ibid., p. 28.

27. While two standard reference works, Fritz Schlawe, Literarische Zeitschriften 1910-1933 (Stuttgart, 1973) and Paul Raabe, Die Zeitschriften und Sammlungen des literarischen Expressionismus. Repertorium der Zeitschriften, Jahbucher, Anthologien, Sammelwerke, Schriftenreihen und Almanache, 1910-1921 (Stuttgart, 1964), do not list Das Dreieck, Fischer, Alfred Wolfenstein, p. 43 cites it as a place of publication for a Wolfenstein poem. He indicates 1925 as first year of publication. Hirschel's editorship is mentioned by Leonard Gross in The Last Jews in Berlin (New York, 1982), p. 14.

28. See Gross, Last Jews in Berlin, pp. 128-29 for these and the foregoing details about the ordeal of Hans Hirschel and Maria von Maltzan.

29. The account of Lind's life appears in Counting My Steps, An Autobiography (London, 1969), p. 116. For an analysis of Lind's stature as a writer see Daniel Stern's story "A Contemporary Nightmare," Saturday Review (25 June 1966): 25- 26.

30. Information about Lind's move from London to New York from Arno Reinfrank, Secretary of PEN Club of German-Speaking Authors Abroad. Confirmed by author's telephone call to Lind, 26 Apr. 1985.

31. Sybil Milton, "Armin T. Wegner: Polemicist for Armenian and Jewish Rights," unpublished paper delivered at Bentley College, Mass., April 1985, concludes that the Wegner correspondence, held at the Deutsche Literaturarchiv in Marbach, shows Wegner's compromises in order to secure his freedom. Studies of Jahnn are equally tentative. The most plausible explanation is that advanced by the Jahnn expert Thomas Freeman, who hypothesizes that friends of Jahnn with connections to the regime, e.g., the actor Gustav Grundgens, interceded on his behalf.

32. The biographical facts about Andres are based on three principal sources: Hans Wagener, Stefan Andres (Berlin, 1974); Klaus Piper, ed., Utopia und Welterfahrung: Stefan Andres und sein Werk im Gedachtnis seiner Freunde (Munich, 1972); and Stefan Andres's autobiographical essay "Jahrgang 1906: Ein Junge vom Lande," in Wilhelm Grobe, Stefan Andres, Ein Reader zu Person und Werk (Trier, 1980), p. 39.

33. See Benno Reifenberg, "Einleitung," in Ingrid Grafin Lynar, ed., Facsimile Querschnitt durch die Frankfurter Zeitung (Beme-Munich-Vienna, 1964), p. 14. Despite this somewhat greater maneuvering room for the Frankfurter Zeitung, it had to be constantly on guard. For an eyewitness account of the oppressive atmosphere in the editorial office, see Lili Hahn's memoir, The White Flags of Surrender, trans. Sybil Milton (New York, 1974), p. 141: "The reduced core of old editors have to be careful when they converse with each other because the walls seem to have ears"; see also p. 223.

34. 1 agree with the analysis of Lanz, p. 103, as to the recasting of the autobiographical elements, see n. 22.

35. Adler, Panorama, p. 535.

36. Quoted in Kolmar, Dark Soliloquy, p. 49, trans. Smith.

37. For an analysis of the importance of letters in exile literature, see my "Prolegomena zu einer Typologie der Exilliteratur," in Alexander Stephan and Hans Wagener, eds., Schreiben im Exil. Zur Aesthetik der deutschen Exilliteratur 1933-1945 (Bonn, 1985), pp. 1-17.

38. See Cynthia Ozick, "Foreword" to Kolmar, Dark Soliloquy, pp. viii-ix.

39. The original German collection appeared in 1962. See Eine Seele aus Holz (Neuwied, 1962), p. 126; see also Soul of Wood and Other Stories, trans. Ralph Manheim (New York, 1964), pp. 7-98.

40. See Andres, Wir sind Utopia, Novelle (Munich, 1951). English trans. by Cyrus Brooks (London, 1955).

41. See his Die Hochzeit der Feinde, Roman (Zurich, 1947).

42. In a chapter entitled "Mistress Language," Helmut Pfanner succinctly summarizes this point: "During the war years the German-language exile newspapers requested that their readers abstain from speaking German in public. Their appeals ... also reflected a feeling of shame that the German and Austrian exiles shared the Nazis' language." See his Exile in New York: German and Austrian Writers After 1933 (Detroit, 1983), p. 100.

43. Wolfenstein, "Exodus 1940," in Alfred Wolfenstein, Eine Einfuhrung in sein Werk und eine Auswahl. Verschollene und Vergessene, ed. Carl Human (Wiesbaden, 1955), p. 54.

44. See Wolfenstein, Ein Gefangener, Gedichte, ed. Walter Huder (Berlin, 1972), p. 68.

In This Section

Buy Tickets Contact Us

Become a Member Volunteer Calendar

Sign up for E-News


Do you have confidence in the strength of democratic institutions in this country?