The Oppermanns: timely reissue of anti-fascist classic

Feuchtwanger’s tale of Nazism and a Jewish family resonates in era of rising nationalism

Lion Feuchtwanger in Los Angeles, 1958.  Photograph:   via Getty

Lion Feuchtwanger in Los Angeles, 1958. Photograph: via Getty

In April 1933, British prime minister Ramsay MacDonald made a proposal to the celebrated German writer Lion Feuchtwanger, who was living in exile in France. MacDonald wanted to warn the British public about the dangers of nazism, and suggested that Feuchtwanger collaborate with the British screenwriter Sidney Gilliat to write a film on the subject. Feuchtwanger came up with the idea of telling the story of the impact of Hitler’s regime on an apolitical Jewish family in Berlin, and the pair quickly wrote a script.

When the British government decided against the plan at the end of May, a frustrated Feuchtwanger expanded the script into a novel, drawing on first-hand accounts of what was going on in Germany at the time of writing. The result was The Oppermanns, an astonishingly vivid and moving account of the immediate impact of the Nazis’ accession to power.

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