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May 20, 1983 - Image 48

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1983-05-20

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

48 Friday, May 20, 1083

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

TV Docudrama 'TheOppermanns' Based on Feuchtwanger Work

By LEONARD N. SIMONS

(Editor's note: Adver-
tising executive and
communal leader
Leonard N. Simons
created the following

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backgrounder on "The
Oppermanns," who will
be the subject of a TV
special 9 p.m. Saturday
and 9 p.m. May 28 on
Channel 56.)
Many will recognize and
remember this title ("The
Oppermanns") because it is
the same as the famous book
written 50 years ago, in
1933, by that great
German-Jewish author and
historical novelist, Lion
Feuchtwanger. Thomas

the

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Mann once said about him:
"Lion Feuchtwanger —
never a name more unpro-
nounceable — yet never
more renowned in the liter-
ary world."
The film, "The Opper-
manns" is unique because
for the first time in TV his-
tory the same program is
being shown all over the
world at practically the
same time. The event is re-
ported "as a sensation"
especially in Germany and
in England, but most of all
in Israel. "The Opper-
manns" happens to be the
first TV film made in Ger-
many that was shown in Is-
rael.
Feuchtwanger was one of
the earliest German
authors to recognize that
Hitler was dangerous. He
became a dedicated and ef-
fective anti-Nazi propagan-
dist. He ridiculed Hitler in
his speeches and in his
books going back to 1930

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LION FEUCHTWANGER

Luckily during 1932,
Feuchtwanger with his
wife, Marta, had left Ger-
many for an extended
speaking trip in America.
After Hitler came into
.power, the Feuchtwangers
never returned to Germany.
The Nazis took over. their
home and burned his very
large and very valuable li-
brary. Feuchtwanger spent
the rest of his life in exile in
various countries including
France and the United
States.
The Feuchtwangers were
captured in France when
the Germans took over
France. They were thrown
into concentration camps,
separately, in Marsailles,
which were under Nazi-
Vichy control Mrs.
Feuchtwanger made her es-
cape. Because of her friend-
ship with the U.S. Consul in
Marsailles and with the
backing of President
Franklin D. Roosevelt and
Mrs. Roosevelt,
Feuchtwanger was issued
an emergency visa under
the name of "J.L. Wetch-
eek" which Feuchtwanger
had used as his pen-name on
various occasions in his
early days. Feuchtwanger
translated into English,
means "wet cheek."
In 1940, he was smuggled
out of his concentration
camp. The husband and
wife went over the Pyrenees
Mountains to Spain and
Portugal. They had many
"cloak and dagger" experi-
ences, but eventually got to
the United States — to
California.
Feuchtwanger liked to
say he was a German
novelist whose "heart-
beat was Jewish and
whose mind was cos-
mopolitan." He wrote 16
novels and 10 plays about
French, Spanish, British,
American and Jewish -
history. His books were
translated into 33 lan-
guages.
In 1963, the Wayne State
University Press found that

Feuchtwanger had been
writing a scholarly textbook
for schools about historical
novels, but it wasn't
finished. He died before he
finished his manuscript.
However, Dr. Hal Basilius,
the WSU Press director,
flew out to Los Angeles, met
the widow, and was given
permission to publish the
book which is called, "The
House of Desdemona."
Unfortunately, the sec-
ond half of the book was
never completed, but there
was enough in the un-
finished manuscript that
made what he did write very
worthwhile publishing.

when he attacked Hitler
openly through his novel
"Success." He wrote "The
Oppermanns" in 1933 while
sco
in exile in France in reac-
tion to Hitler's ascension to
power that year as
Reichkanzler.
Feuchtwanger was
proud to report that "for
years, Hitler and the
Nazis have been calling
me their Enemy Number
One..."
The film, "The Opper-
manns," brings to the sc-
reen a vivid picture of early
life in the Third Reich under
the mad-man Adolph Hit-
MARTA FEUCHTWANGER
ler. It describes the downfall
of an eminent German-
Feutchwanger's widow,
Jewish family of Berlin at
Marta, who recently cele-
the beginning of Nazi perse-
brated her 92nd birthday is
cutions. It details the brutal
still very .much alive with
pressures of the Gestapo on
full command of all her
their victims; it portrays a
faculties. She lives in a
fictional yet realistic repre-
Spanish-style mansion in
sentation of how the Nazi
Pacific Palisades, Calif.,
terror infiltrated all do-
overlooking the Pacific
mains of the life of the Jews
Ocean. She gave the 20-
in Germany and especially
room mansion and the
how it 'affected every
famous Feuchtwanger Li-
member of the Oppermann
brary, which is valued at
clan.
over $3 million, to the Uni-
The book was one of the
versity of Southern Califor-
most widely read novels of
nia in 1959, a year after her
the early '30s.. It had tre-
husband's death.
mendous sales throughout
Five years later she
Europe and many parts of
willed the remainder of her
the world.
estate — over $1 million —
History tells us that in
to the University of South-
1932, Prime Minister Mac-
ern California to build a
Dbnald of England re-
Feuchtwanger Memorial
quested Feuchtwanger to
Library on the campus. It is
prepare the scenario for an
a fantastic library that has
anti-Nazi feature' movie or
over 35,000 volumes includ-
film. Feuchtwanger ac-
ing thousands of priceless
cepted the assignment and
first editions from the 15th
did a screenplay in two
through the 20th Centuries.
months called, "Die Ges-
There are complete
chwister Oppermann," Pa. Coalition
first editions of many of
("The Oppermann Chil- Seeks to Combat
the most famous authors
dren") but by then His
in the world. There are
ew Federalism also 14 Incunabula books
Majesty's Government had
resolved on a policy of ac-
PITTSBURGH (JTA) — (books that were printed
commodation with Herr The Pennsylvania Jewis h before 1500) including a
Hitler, culminating in "ap- Coalition (PJC), represent _ priceless Nuremberg
peasement." The film was ing eight Jewish federa _ Chronicle (dated 1493)
never made in England.
tions, has moved into high said to be a source of the
In 1933, Feuchtwanger gear in an effort to reverse a first book written about
converted his dramatic state government proposa 1 Faust.
effort into a novel which which could be a major issue
She dresses almost exclu-
a Dutch firm published. for the Jewish communitie s sively in simple black
When the book hit Ger- of the state in their care o f Chinese attire, lives in the
many, an important Nazi the aged.
mansion with her 200-
whose name was Opper-
The PJC was formed some year-old turtle. She's still
mann
contacted 20 months ago as a by- vigorous and athletic. She
Feuchtwanger
and product of the proposed shift swims in the ocean daily,
threatened him. He said of social service program climbs the mountains near
that unless funding from the federal to her home; and she is the
Feuchtwanger changed. the state level.
curator of the
the title of the book,
The PJC monitors reg- Feuchtwanger Collection.
Feuchtwanger's brother ulatory and legislative de- She recenity completed a
would be, thrown in a velopments in Harrisburg, 2,000-page transcribed ver-
concentration camp. Be- the state capital, which af-
si on of her oral history story
cause of that Nazi, the fect the Jewish community,
of
her
life
with
title was changed to "Die seeks new funding sources Fe uchtwanger.
Geschwister Op- from the state for Jewish
Incidentally, this is the
penheim" instead of communal agencies, and 25 th anniversary of
"Oppermann." However tries "to sensitize" both ap-
Fe uchtwanger's death. He
the American and British pointed and elected officials di ed in Pacific Palisades,
editions in 1934 remained "to concerns of the Jewish Ca lif., in 1958 at the age of
"The Oppermanns."
community."
74 from cancer.

.

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