Menu JTA Search

Special to the JTA Literary Legacy of 1920s Perpetuated

Lion Feuchtwanger, whose novels dealing with historic Jewish themes were the sensations of the 1920s, comes to life again in a remarkable series of recordings and films. Marta Feuchtwanger, his widow, who shared with him the role of an activist in the colony of emigres from Nazi Germany in Southern California, is the medium of this unusual venture.

Herself now 87, a resident of Pacific Palisades, Calif., she has a record of immense energy in the perpetuation of her husband’s labors. It is thanks to her labors that the notable novel, “Jew Suess,” the story about the 18th century Court Jew Joseph Suess Oppenheimer, was published. A series of television programs on this theme is scheduled in England, to be presented also to American audiences.

Similar programs are planned for “Power,” as the 1927 title of the novel was popularized in the British film. It was used as anti-Semitic propaganda by the Nazis and a revival will serve as history, and surely as an exoneration of the author. Especially notable presently in the labors of Marta Feuchtwanger is a “Project History,” which has just been undertaken and is about to be concluded by the University of Southern California (USC).

Lawrence Weschler conducted a series of interviews with Mrs. Feuchtwanger. They were done over four months and there were 48 hours of interviewing, resulting in 32 tapes. In this thoroughly detailed memoir of a German emigre, her life and her husband’s and that of the emigre community of which they became members in 1941, is described. Sponsorship of this Oral History Program was agreed upon by Bernard Galam, director of the program, and Dr. Harold Von Hoff, dean of the USC graduate division.

Generating in this program are five milieus: Munich, the birthplace of both Lion and Marta Feuchtwanger, through the 1923 Hitler Putsch; Berlin, from the Putsch through 1933; Sanary-Surmer, the French Riviera emigre colony; the Hitler invasion of France, 1933 through the Nazi invasion of France; and Southern California after 1941.

Recorded by Marta Feuchtwanger are recollections of eminent personalities, the Mann brothers, Berthold Brecht and others. Mrs. Feuchtwanger touched upon political persecutions and Jewish assimilation. Her personal reminiscences, including her travels, are related as experiences since 1958.

A TIRELESS LADY

Mrs. Feuchtwanger emerges as a most fascinating lady of 87, with the energy of a tireless protector of the works of her eminent husband. She has had many unusual personal experiences and she relates one of them in this charming manner:

“A funny thing happened. I was invited to the American Film Institute for a special performance, and somebody asked me if I would like to play a nun. I took it for a joke and answered: ‘Why not?’ After some time I got a call–the robe is ready, and a Catholic chapel, and I had forgotten all of it.

“Not to disappoint those people I played, and what do you know–the short film ‘In the Region of Ice’ received an Oscar. In big letters: ‘Supporting actress–Marta Feuchtwanger.’ I received many calls, people told me they had seen a film with ‘a nun who looked exactly like you.’ Small wonder.”

In films, on television, in the recorded memoirs, an important chapter in Jewish and world history is kept intact. It is in largest measure the achievement of Marta Feuchtwanger, the bearer of the legacy of Lion Feuchtwanger.

NEXT STORY