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French Riviera: Intellectual Exile In Paradise (1933-1945)

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With the rise of Nazism in the early 1930s, a great number of German writers, artists and intellectuals left Germany and settled in Sanary sur Mer on the French Riviera.

Ludwig Marcuse in his book "Mein Zwanzigstes Jahrhundert" (p.160) wrote about Sanary:

"Wir wohnten im Paradies - notgedrungen" - we lived in paradise, against our will.

"If one lives in exile," wrote Hermann Kesten, "The café becomes at once the family home, the nation, church and parliament, a desert and a place of pilgrimage, cradle of illusions and their cemetery... In exile, the café is the one place where life goes on." Source

In the early 1930s, a great number of German and Austrian writers and intellectuals left their countries after the Nazi book burning campaign. A lot of them settled in Sanary-sur- Mer, at one point between 1933 and 1944, a then small French village in the South of France, 30 miles from Marseille. Among them the proportion of Jewish intellectuals was high.

On arriving, many exiles stayed at the Hôtel de la Tour (Project Photo) before finding a place to rent. Sanary-sur-Mer Land for Refugees


  • the playwright Bertold Brecht,
  • Walter Bondy - Austrian portrait painter
  • Egon Erwin Kisch,
  • Erich Klossowski - painter
  • Thomas Mann,
  • Klaus Mann - author The Volcano
  • Heinrich Mann author - Henry of Navarre
  • Ludwig Marcuse,
  • Joseph Roth,
  • Anna Segher - the Seventh Cross
  • Hilde Steiler - journalist and author
  • Franz Werfel and his wife Alma Mahler
  • Alma Mahler widow of Gustav Mahler at Le Moulin Gris (near the Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Pitié),
  • Andre Malraux - author
  • Lion Feuchtwanger at Villa Lazare then at Villa Valmer, and
  • Marta Feuchtwanger
  • HG Wells - author
  • Arnold Zweig

The German expatriates clustered around Thomas Mann and his large family, his brother Heinrich Mann and his wife (the model for Blue Angel), the writers Stefan Zweig and Arnold Zweig, the art critic Julius Meier-Graefe, and the artist René Schickele.

Sybille von Schoenebeck (later, as Sybille Bedford, the author of A Legacy) lived here with her mother.


Patronised by Jean Cocteau and his coterie, Sanary had already drawn Aldous Huxley, who wrote Brave New World at Villa Huxley, and his wife, Maria; they attracted other English visitors, such as D. H. Lawrence and his wife, Frieda; Julian Huxley and his wife, Juliette; and others.

Sanary sur mer Teil 6: “Die deutschen und österreichischen Schriftsteller im Exil” auf der Flucht vor den Nazis

  1. Sybille von Schoenebeck (Bedford)
  2. Bert Brecht
  3. Albrecht Betz
  4. Ferdinand Bruckner
  5. Fritz Brügel
  6. Franz Th. Csokor
  7. Albert Drach
  8. Lion Feuchtwanger , Geni
  9. Bruno Frank
  10. Emil J. Gumbel
  11. Walter Hasenclever
  12. Eva Herrmann
  13. Wilhelm Herzog
  14. Franz Hessel
  15. Hugo Huppert
  16. Alfred Kantorowicz
  17. Hermann Kesten
  18. Egon Erwin Kisch
  19. Arthur Koestler
  20. Annette Kolb
  21. Mechthilde Lichnowsky
  22. Erika Mann
  23. Golo Mann
  24. Heinrich Mann
  25. Klaus Mann
  26. Thomas Mann
  27. Valeriu Marcu
  28. Ludwig Marcuse
  29. Julius Meier-Graefe
  30. Alfred Neumann
  31. Balder Olden
  32. Erwin Piscator
  33. Emil Alphons Reinhardt
  34. Joseph Roth
  35. Renee Schickele
  36. Anna Segher
  37. Franz Werfel
  38. Friederich Wolf
  39. Kurt Wolff
  40. Theodor Wolff
  41. Otto Zoff
  42. Arnold Zweig
  43. Stefan Zweig

  Source

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Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, German historians and scholars have conducted studies on the German speaking intellectuals who had stayed in this little Provencal fishing village called by Ludwig Marcuse, somewhat ironically; the ‘Capital of German Literature’.

In 2004, following these studies, the city of Sanary-Sur-Mer published a booklet in three languages showcasing the most famous names and their respective fates in relation to the events which took place during the war, along with a map indicating the location of the villa in which they lived in 'l'Allée Thérèse'.

A plaque with a picture and a short text was fixed on the site of each of the selected sites.

If Aldous Huxley is only mentioned once, his nationality logically excluding him from the pack, he had the privilege to have one made in his name on the site where once stood the Villa Huxley.

Huxley in Sanary

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The book is an account of what happened to some of the best German writers and journalists after they fled the Nazi terror to find shelter in France. It is a tragic intellectual drama that unfolds over seven years, and features writers such as Thomas Mann, Lion Feuchtwanger, Stefan Zweig and Joseph Roth, as well as H. G. Wells, Andre Malraux, Aldous Huxley and Andre Gide.

It recounts how persecuted writers settled in a colony in the south of France how they tried to counter-attack, aided by British and French writers, how they quarrelled among themselves and how they sought to alert the West to Nazi plans for military conquest and warn the German people that Hitler was plunging the nation into ruin.

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