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German Exiles in Southern California
Franz Werfel (1890-1945) & Alma Mahler-Werfel (1879-1964)
Austrian-Jewish writer Franz Werfel married Alma Mahler (widow of
composer Gustav Mahler) in 1929. The Werfels fled Vienna in 1938 for
France when Austria fell to the German army. In 1940, the Werfels
along with Heinrich Mann and his nephew Golo Mann fled by foot over
the rugged Pyrenees to Spain, ultimately leaving Europe for the United
wrote poetry and plays but is best known for his novels. Among
these are The Forty Days of Musa Dagh (1933; Die
vierzig Tage des Musa Dagh) and Embezzled Heaven
(1939; Der veruntreute Himmel). While in Southern
California, Werfel completed his novel The Song of Bernadette
(1941; Das Lied von Bernadette) thereby fulfilling
his vow made in 1940 in Lourdes for a safe escape. This novel
was made later into the film The Song of Bernadette,
starring Jennifer Jones who won the Academy Award for Best Actress
in 1943 for her performance. Werfel also wrote his final play,
Jacobowsky and the Colonel (1944; Jacobowsky
und der Oberst), while in Southern California. Werfel's
ability to work in the film industry made him one of the few
financially successful émigrés.
lived in the Hollywood hills at 6900 Los Tilos Road between
December 1940 and June 1942. In September they moved to 610
North Bedford Drive in Beverly Hills.
Werfel died in Los Angeles during the summer of 1945 and
was buried in Rosendale Cemetary. His body was later exhumed
and returned to Vienna for reburial.
Mahler-Werfel is well known for her close association with
many of Europe's greatest artists and intellectuals. As the
daughter of landscape painter Emil Schindler, she grew up in
an artistic household, studing art and piano, turning later
to composing with Alexander von Zemlinsky as her teacher.
In 1902 she married Gustav Mahler giving birth in 1902
and 1904 to their daughters, Maria and Anna (who became
a significant sculptress, see photograph on the right). Although
Mahler was not supportive of Alma's own musical career, he immortalized
her in the first movement of his Symphony No. 6,
and he dedicated Symphony No. 8 to her. After his
death in 1911 Alma became involved with Oskar Kokoschka,
who painted her many times, most notably in "The Tempest" (1914;
"Die Windsbraut"). In August 1915 she married the architect
Walter Gropius. In 1916 their daugther, Manon, was born;
the couple was divorced after World War I.
her lifetime Alma Mahler became friends with numerous celebrated artists,
including the painter Gustav Klimt (who made several portraits of her),
composer Arnold Schoenberg, the writer Gerhart Hauptmann, and the singer
Enrico Caruso. The composer Alban Berg dedicated his opera Wozzeck (1921)
Werfel's death, Alma travelled to Europe and in the early 1950s moved
to New York, hoping to leave painful memories behind in Los Angeles.
Werfel's years in Southern California: 1940-1945.
Mahler-Werfel's years in Southern California: 1940-1952.
Wagener. Understanding Franz Werfel. Columbia: University
of South Carolina Press, 1993.
Mahler-Werfel. Mein Leben. Frankfurt/M: Fischer Verlag,
more information contact the Feuchtwanger