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Edgar Feuchtwanger

Arrived in Britain:
Place of Birth:
15 February 1939
Interview number:


Dr Anthony Grenville

Date of Interview:

Interview Summary:

Edgar Feuchtwanger was born  in 1924 in the affluent Munich district of Bogenhausen into a family that formed part of the German-Jewish cultural aristocracy. He came from an old established Munich Jewish family, one branch of which were famous bankers. His father studied under the economist Gustav Schmoller at Berlin. He did the ‘Habilitation’ for an academic career as a professor, but remained more of a private scholar and bibliophile and ran the publishing house Duncker & Humblot. His uncle was Lion Feuchtwanger, famous writer and friend of Bertolt Brecht, who left Munich for Berlin after the publication of his controversial novel Erfolg. The family was steeped in German culture. He was very conscious of being Jewish, but totally non-observant. His father’s first wife, by whom he had had a daughter, was Catholic. He lived within sight of Hitler’s flat and describes seeing him coming and going. He also saw Ernst Röhm. Educated at Maximilians gymnasium, he was the only full Jew in his class. He experienced little antisemitism before 1938, though he was aware that his parents did. His father was removed from his position, and took to writing for Jewish newspapers.

His father was arrested on Kristallnacht and sent to Dachau for six weeks. He emigrated alone in January 1939. His parents followed. He went to live with a well-connected doctor’s family in the West Country, they arranged for him to take an examination for scholarship to Winchester College, which he won. His parents settled in Winchester, where his father stayed (apart from three months’ internment on the Isle of Man in 1940) until his death in 1947, his mother until her death in 1979. His father was hardly able to work after being cut off from German academic/cultural sphere. His mother got by as a seamstress, but they were happy in Winchester, mother later became a figure in local social life. After Winchester, Edgar served in a sawmill of the Ministry of Supply’s Home-Grown Timber Division, then in 1944 went to Magdalene College, Cambridge, which he loved. He met T.S. Eliot, among others. After graduation, he taught for the Workers’ Educational Association in the Winchester area. He also taught conscripts in the forces. He then joined the Adult Education Department of University of Southampton and took a Ph.D. on 19th-century British history, moved into Department of History. Has published books on German history (Bismarck) and British history (Disraeli, Victoria and Albert). He married the daughter of a British Army Major-General and has three children, including journalist Antonia Feuchtwanger. 


Full Interview


I’ve got an exercise book, which I had aged eight, in the spring of 1933. The teacher was obviously somebody who was completely enthusiastic about the Nazi takeover and straight away pushed out all this: how great the war was, how heroic Germany was and- subtext being, ‘We’ll have another go, and this time we’ll win’.

[About his father, Ludwig] Two Gestapo officials came and took him away. Then the thing after that was that my father had this big library. Partly it was because he was a collector of antiquarian books, but the bulk of it was his library. He also had an enormous number of review copies being the publisher, and so on. They came and took most of it. A removal van came with large cases, and people who knew what they were doing took the books and put them in there.

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