From: Rufus Diamant
Date: December 17, 2008 12:38:27 PM PST
Subject: Rufus' visit
Dear Lion Feuchtwanger Enthusiasts,
Thanks for treating me to such a fine welcome during my visit to L.A. I enjoyed meeting you, learned a lot from Herb Krill's excellent film, and was fascinated by the Villa Aurora aura. It's good to see Lion's and Marta's home being used for such worthwhile purposes. Thanks also to those of you who've networked my name and article, which led to re-uniting with the Feuchtwanger clan, and to publication on www.feuchtwanger.de
I've also been contacted by Feuchtwanger editors who are in the final stages of re-publishing an updated Feuchtwanger family tree (which now contains thousands of relatives).
Seeing the flurry of recent events commemorating the 50th aniversary of Lion's death has energized me, and I have begun to develop and focus my own efforts at floating a new project researching Lion. I plan to draw up grant proposals for a new video with educational workbooks, incorporating some dramatic tableaus, the use of still photos and audio tapes, period music (Kurt Weill), and interviews with current and past scholars (including some of his own students). I'm also working with the Univ. of Calif at Berkeley to create a new website around these activities, and hope Lion Feuchtwanger's story and his work will find a resurgence of interest in the U.S.
Please feel free to communicate your ideas to me, including any resources you feel are pertinent. And of course pass my contact info to interested parties. Hoping you all have a good holiday, and that 2009 brings a vigorous renewal of international efforts to achieve peace and justice. Warm regards, Rufus
By Rufus Diamant 9/26/07
At a time of personal change in my life, and when the world’s stresses and strains and increasing intolerance continue to lead nations into genocide and inhumanity to others, I feel compelled to write of a somewhat forgotten relative, my father’s uncle Lion Feuchtwanger (LF). Though he was a famous author and humanist, my own discovery of him was recent. The scattering of my German-Jewish family, owing to the systemic brutalities of the Nazi era, dispersed them and my sense of lineage. When my brother and I made a claim to the International Claims Commission in 2004, I began to examine the remaining documents available to us; I was stunned to find the story of my parents’ upbringing in fearsome Berlin, laid out in LF’s historical novels and plays and other perceptive and powerful writings.
Adding spice to the search were a number of congruences which whet my appetite for more: a photograph saved his life (I’m a photographer) when it was published in U.S. newspapers and led to a daring rescue from a French concentration camp in 1940; the instrument of this rescue was none other than the wife of the president, Eleanor Roosevelt (and my daughter Erica attends Eleanor Roosevelt College, U.C. San Diego, studying international relations). LF and I were born on the same day. My father owed his life and escape from Germany in 1939 to LF, who arranged sponsorship for him in Czechoslovakia.
Who was Lion Feuchtwanger? A lifelong seeker after truth and justice, he became an anti-war activist while serving as a medic during WW1, publishing the first poems of anti-war resistance. His novel “Success” was an early analysis of Hitler’s failed putsch of 1923; he was hated by the National Socialists ever after, had his novels prominently torched during Nazi book-burnings, and was branded “Enemy #1” by Hitler. He was a world-renowned academic with a chair later dedicated to studies of his work at the University of Southern California; his home was turned into a museum which still hosts international writers today. He became a mentor to Berthold Brecht, with whom he co-authored 3 plays. When Sinclair Lewis won the Nobel Prize for Literature he said LF should have won it.
LF’s interest in internationalism stemmed from his early travel experiences, and later as one of the many “stateless” he championed immigrants and the downtrodden in his work. Considered perhaps the finest historical novelist out of Germany in the 20th century, he devised new forms of writing which brought to life many periods of history, while making his themes pertinent to the travail of modern times. Among his 50 novels and plays (which sold over 50 million copies in 30 different languages) were stories of the American Revolution (& Ben Franklin), French Revolution (Rousseau), the Nazi era (“Simone” and “The Oppermanns”), the life of Goya, and his autobiographical account of the French concentration camp Les Mille (“The Devil in France”)—just this year re-released in a new paperback edition! Throughout his books the dichotomy of theoretical thinking vs. action and commitment comes into play. His humanism and sense of ‘doing the right thing” speaks truth to power. He makes his reader care about these issues with penetrating psychological treatments of very realistic characterizations.
One of the lasting stories about LF is his remarkable rescue from Les Mille. A journalist recognized and photographed him behind the barbed wire fence, after which said photo was published in America’s NY Times and Washington Post. Eleanor Roosevelt, who had met LF on one of his book tours, determined the great danger he faced (certain death if he was turned over to the Nazis), and arranged an escape carried out by Hiram Bingham, assistant consul to France (and grandson of the explorer who discovered Machu Picchu). Bingham drove a diplomatic vehicle into the camp, dressed LF in women’s clothing, and drove him out of the camp, telling the guards “she” was his mother-in-law. He was then turned over to Varian Fry, the American journalist in Marseilles who ran the French “underground railroad” for Jews. Fry provided boat passage and a guide who helped LF and his wife hike over the Pyranees into Spain, where they gained passage to the U.S. (via Mexico where they obtained the necessary visas).
Why talk about LF now? Well, one hopes the effort to remember the genocide committed against the Jews and others by the Nazis remains vital and can eventually manifest in a worldwide embrace of the concept “never again”. It would seem new methods of instant communication, coupled with awareness of our past, could counter the fascism and religious intolerance in today’s world, but does it really? What of the present day episodes of genocide, the rewriting of history or intransigent denial of such episodes (such as Turkey’s continuing denial of their genocide against Armenians nearly 100 years ago? What of the world’s blind eye to the plight of the Tutsis in Africa or the millions killed in Cambodia? Or perhaps worst of all the institutionalized inequities which lead to increasing hunger and poverty? These problems have been with us a long time, but with renewed vigor and international cooperation can be solved. LF is a strong voice in this struggle, and he helps bring into critical focus both the issues and commitment necessary for action.
Open letter to Gov. Charlie Crist r.e. showing Nazi film Jud Suss
Dear Gov. Crist,
When the white supremacist group Nationalist Coalition sent your office the film 'Jud Suss', produced by the Nazis in 1939 and required viewing for the SS, the German military, and their police forces, did you think it might be wholesome family entertainment? Why did you suggest 'sharing' it with the people of Florida? Giving you the benefit of the doubt, I'm hoping you may not have actually seen the movie, for within 5 minutes of the film's beginning its virulent anti-Semitic message begins threading its way through the plot. Now given that it has excellent entertainment value: fine acting and cinematography, sumptuous sets, and a plausible (though inaccurate) historical plot. 20 million viewers saw this tale in 1940's Germany, and the Nazi message of genocide wormed its way into their psyches. But the message was well camouflaged, hidden in the folds of its pseudo-historical script and carefully constructed to twist the truth with its litany of stereotypes. No one really knew how prescient and notorious a propaganda piece it would become, not even Lion Feuchtwanger ('LF'), the Jewish author of the book upon which the movie was based. LF himself underestimated the reach (though not the danger) of the Nazis, and was interned in a French concentration camp in 1940. Fortunately he escaped and penned another book of that experience, 'The Devil in France'.
LF always chafed beneath the ironic fact that his objective and well-researched novel, which exposed the anti-Semitic sentiment of the early 18th Century, would be cut and pasted into a piece of classic Nazi propaganda. Shortly after WWII Germany and other countries banned the film for good, except for scholarly study. I hope you'll do the same with your copy, and ask yourself why an overtly racist organization is still using it to promote their message of hatred and separation
By the way, I am a great-nephew of LF. I hope that people will seek out the actual book 'Jud Suss' (titled 'Power' in the British version) and read for themselves the history LF intended. His is a far different and complex story, one underpinned by his humanism and espousing freedom, equality, and fraternity.
Sincerely, Rufus Diamant
Fine Photography and Video
Professionell über Feuchtwanger schreiben. Hier finden Sie brandneue Quellen für spannende Themen. weiter
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Erstmalige Verleihung der Auszeichnung in Stuttgart.
International Feuchtwanger Society
Members Meeting / Mitglieder-Treffen
Villa Aurora, Pacific Palisades
September 17, 2015
1. Welcome / Begrüßung
2. Treasurer’s Report / Bericht des Schatzmeisters
3. Election of Officers / Wahl des...
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