Conflicted Power of the Pen

The Impact of French Internment on the Pacifist Convictions and Literary Imagination of Lion Feuchtwanger

in French Politics, Culture & Society
Nicole Dombrowski Risser Towson University

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German Jewish author, Lion Feuchtwanger, wove uncompromising pacifism into his post-World War I novels and plays, preferring a pen to a sword to oppose European fascism. Even over his six years of exile in France (1933–1939), Feuchtwanger maintained his pacifist convictions. This article traces the author’s late turn from literary pacifist antifascism to a reluctant, but firm advocacy of armed civilian and military struggle. Feuchtwanger’s internment by the French in the Les Milles detention camp triggered the author’s conversion. There, he abandoned his faith in pacifist, communist internationalism opting now for a romanticized idea of French nationalism, which pivoted around French martial, nationalist heroines like Joan of Arc and the Revolutionary Marianne. Novels, Paris Gazette (1939), Simone (1944), and his memoir The Devil in France (1941) demonstrated a sharpening of his pen to mobilize American and French readers for armed intervention and the militarization of female civilians. France in its betrayal, defeat, and regeneration became the lodestar for resetting Feuchtwanger’s compass.

Contributor Notes

Nicole Dombrowski Risser is Professor of History at Towson University and Director of the Towson University Nuremberg Papers Digital Project. She received her Ph.D. from New York University Department of History. She is author of France under Fire: Civilian Flight and Family Survival during World War II (2012), and editor of Women and War in the Twentieth Century: Enlisted With or Without Consent (2004). She teaches courses and writes about gender and the militarization of civilian society during wartime.

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