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Feuchtwanger Memorial Library

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Researching German Exiles | Feuchtwanger Society | Villa Aurora | Writings


Bertolt Brecht Turns 100: A Web Exhibit

Heinrich Mann: His Final Years. Drawings, Letters and Manuscripts
Exiled to Paradise Kurt Weill and Lion Feuchtwanger: Collaborations and Connections
Feuchtwanger as a Manuscripts Collector    

Exiled to Paradise: German Intellectuals in Los Angeles, 1933-1950

An Exhibit in Honor of Dr. Franklin D. Murphy

Doheny Memorial Library
University of Southern California

March 15 - May 29, 1992

The rise of National Socialism in the 1920s and 1930s in Germany led to great changes in Europe and directly affected the cultural and social landscape of Southern California. Even before Adolf Hitler was named Chancellor in 1933, German intellectuals and artists began fleeing their homeland. Under the influence of National Socialist ideology, Germany no longer provided the liberal artistic environment enjoyed during the Weimar Republic. Instead, Nazi proponents stifled artistic expression and attacked whatever they considered "un-German."

Hundreds of Germans flocked to Southern California during the 1930s and 1940s. Many came to Los Angeles hoping to find work in the Hollywood movie industry as screenwriters, actors, composers, directors, etc. Although a large number of the émigrés had been successful in Europe, the language barrier and different artistic sensibilities hindered many from finding their niche in American cultural life. Not all émigrés were interested in working in the movie industry; instead they came to the Southland to enjoy the Mediterranean-like climate and to be among fellow exiles.

Exiled to Paradise outlines the successes and failures in Southern California of several German intellectuals who escaped to Los Angeles in the 1930s and 1940s. Writer Lion Feuchtwanger and composer Arnold Schoenberg form the primary focus of the exhibit, with glimpses of Bertolt Brecht, Hanns Eisler, Max Reinhardt, and Franz Werfel.

Nazi Propaganda against 'Un-German' Intellectuals

The first part of the exhibit shows examples of the massive Nazi propaganda against Jewish and other "un-German" intellectuals. The newspaper articles on display endeavored to discredit writer Lion Feuchtwanger's sharp attacks against National Socialism as well as blacklist those authors considered by the ultra right wing political group as "degenerate" and "un-German."

Internment of Anti-Nazi Intellectuals

The next section shows Lion Feuchtwanger's captivity in the French internment camp at Les Milles and his arrival in New York in 1940. Also illustrated are examples of Feuchtwanger's efforts to help fellow exiles obtain the appropriate visas and paperwork required for their entry into the United States.

Life for those Exiled to Paradise

The bulk of the exhibit depicts the new lives of Lion Feuchtwanger, Arnold Schoenberg, and several other German-speaking émigrés who lived for a time in Southern California. Bertolt Brecht, Hanns Eisler, Max Reinhardt, and Franz Werfel all contributed to the cultural life of Los Angeles in varying degrees. Lion Feuchtwanger (1884-1958) was considered by Nazi officials to be a traitor because of his strongly critical stance toward National Socialism and Hitler. In his novel Erfolg (Success) published in 1930, Feuchtwanger revealed the evils of National Socialism as he had experienced them living in Munich in the early 1920s. By the 1940s, Feuchtwanger already had a large American audience, thus he could continue to write in German and have his work translated into English.

Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951), atonalist composer and inventor of the twelve-tone serial technique, came to the United States after he lost his teaching position at the Prussian Academy of Arts in Berlin. He moved to Los Angeles in 1934 primarily to enjoy the healing benefits of the warm climate. In 1935 he began teaching at the University of Southern California. The following year he accepted a position at the University of California, Los Angeles where he remained until his health forced him to retire in 1944.

Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956), probably the most significant German playwright of the twentieth century, had great difficulties in this country owing to his theatrical philosophy and political views. One success, however, was his production of "Galileo," on which he was assisted by the well-known British actor Charles Laughton.

Composer Hanns Eisler (1898-1962) studied with Arnold Schoenberg in Vienna in the early 1920s and began collaborating with playwright Bertolt Brecht in the 1930s. Eisler moved to Hollywood in 1942 and accepted a teaching position at USC. Although known for his modernist compositions, Eisler was also able to write the type of music sought in Hollywood and created a number of film scores. Unfortunately, Eisler's involvement with the Communist Party in the late 1920s got him in trouble with the House of Representatives' Un-American Activities Committee in 1947, which led to his abrupt departure in 1948. Eisler settled in former East Germany where one of his compositions was selected as the national anthem of the former German Democratic Republic.

World renowned theater director Max Reinhardt (1873-1943) emigrated in 1933 to the United States after he lost his position as Director of the Deutsches Theater in Berlin. His spectacular production of Shakespeare's "A Midsummer Night's Dream" in 1934 at the Hollywood Bowl was enormously popular.

The Austrian poet, novelist, and dramatist Franz Werfel (1890-1945) was another émigré who was able to break into the film industry successfully. He fled Austria in 1938, lived in France for two years, then came to this country. His internationally successful novel The Song of Bernardette and play "Juarez and Maximilian" were made into films in 1943 and 1939.

Pazifische Presse

One major difficulty facing German writers living in exile was isolation from their readers. Since the writings of these authors were outlawed in Nazi-controlled territories, their works had to be produced elsewhere or not at all. A number of publishing firms undertook the task of keeping the writings of such figures as Alfred Döblin and Thomas Mann in print. Publishers in Los Angeles, too, played their part in making the works of well-known German writers available, albeit in limited editions. The Pazifische Presse, formed in 1942, produced eleven volumes by German writers.

Most of the materials displayed in the exhibit "Exiled to Paradise" come from the Feuchtwanger Memorial Library and Archive and the Arnold Schoenberg Institute at the University of Southern California. Other sources are the Warner Brothers Archives, Cinema-Television Collection; Hearst Collection, Regional History Center; and the Department of Special Collections, University of Southern California. The exhibit at the University of Southern California was inspired by the1991 Hollywood Bowl Museum exhibit "Exiles in Paradise" created by Carol Merrill-Mirsky. We would like to extend our thanks to Carol Merrill-Mirsky, Curator of the Hollywood Bowl Museum, and Hollywood Bowl Executive Director Ernest Fleischmann for their help in making this exhibit possible.

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