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The Fruits of Exile

Central European Intellectual Immigration to America in the Age of Fascism


Edited by Richard Bodek & Simon Lewis


Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 2010

Hardback. xxx+232 pp. ISBN 978-1570038532. $49.95


Reviewed by Ursula Langkau-Alex

International Institute of Social History, Amsterdam



The editors of this collection, Richard Bodek and Simon Lewis, aim to open new perspectives for interdisciplinary studies and discussions in the United States on Central European intellectual immigration after 1933. The contributors to the volume provide starting points by taking stock of the changes of Zeitgeist, reception, and research in the last five or six decades; some of them present their “work in progress”. Yet, the selection of academic disciplines and of the arts is a narrow one: social sciences are represented by three essays, two of which dealing with Max Horkheimer of the Frankfurt Institut für Sozialforschung, re-established as Institute for Social Research affiliated with Columbia University in New York City, and one, number four, with Karl Mannheim, whereas the third one focuses on law. Together they form the first group in the book (the groups or sections figure only in the “Preface” not in the Table of Contents). The second section looks at a writer, at the theatre, and at music (composers). The final section contains four papers of “relatively understudied individuals and groups” [x].

Though illustrated by some individual cases, the last essay in group three (and of the whole volume) is to a certain extent a cumulative biography of (not only) Jewish intellectuals who after World War I and the forced break-up of the Austro-Hungarian dual monarchy left the former multinational state of Hungary for political, ethnic, religious, cultural, and professional reasons. A great many of them emigrated to Germany, especially to roaring Berlin. When eventually they experienced circumstances and events similar to those in their former homeland(s), culminating in the rise and dictatorship of the Nazis, they emigrated to the United States. In general they were not welcome there for the same reasons that they had left Hungary and fled Germany. Those who succeeded were “of use in war-related science, education, the film industry, and the economy” (Tibor Frank, “Budapest–Berlin–New York: Stepmigration from Hungary to the United States, 1919-1945” [197-221, quotation p. 214]).

“At Home with Nietzsche, at War with Germany” is the expressive main title of David Pickus’ view on “Walter Kaufmann and the Struggle of Nietzsche Interpretation” [156-176]. The author confronts Nietzsche: Philosopher, Psychologist, Antichrist (Princeton, 1950) by Walter Kaufmann, who in 1939, aged 18, emigrated to the United States and completed his academic education mainly at Harvard University, with prominent Nietzsche interpreters as well as abusers like the Nazis. He quotes Kaufmann’s conclusion of his eminent work (first edition): “Nietzsche ‘addressed himself primarily to the few – as an educator’” [165]: an educator for Humanity without Christianity or whatever religion. But it seems that Kaufmann, and with him David Pickus, struggled with Stefan George’s perception of Nietzsche in his eponymous poem, the original text and Kaufmann’s adaptive translation of which conclude the essay.

Yael Epstein tells a history of self-help organizations and professional networks among natural scientists of various specializations whose professional career scarcely (or not at all) benefitted from the Emergency Committee in Aid of Displaced Scholars, as this institution mainly supported the humanities and social sciences. The story culminates in the extraordinary contribution of mostly younger refugee chemists of polymer science in America (“When the Nobel Prize Was Not Enough: Jewish Chemists from the Nazi Regime as Refugees in the United States”, [127-155]).       

Nearly all contributors to The Fruits of Exile stress the gap between the expectations of the persecuted newcomers about the benevolence of the residents and the actual possibilities of getting positions and continuing their work on the one hand, and the cultural and scientific environment and traditions in the land of rescue on the other hand. Moreover, the individuals of Jewish descent – and they represented the majority of the intellectuals by far – were unexpectedly confronted with anti-Semitism, and the Marxism of the social scientists at and around the Institute for Social Research met with an anti-socialist mentality. Both sides became more or less disappointed and antagonistic. In this collection, the only exception to the intellectuals struggling for a new living, for recognition, for success, is David Kettler. The professor emeritus in political studies and cultural studies at Trent University, Ontario, at present research professor at Bart College (New York), is the subjective (and nevertheless sociologically analyzing) author and the main object of the text, “Negotiations: Learning from Three Frankfurt Schools”, the fourth article in section three. The reader learns that Kettler was a boy of nine when he found refuge in the U.S. in 1940 as Manfred (Israel) Ketzlach, and that he belongs to the so-called “second wave” of refugees, i.e. refugees from Nazi Germany under eighteen years when arriving in America. This generation, many of which succeeded in building up an academic or cultural career, was still in the phase of learning and therefore open to the new world and its challenges, open to changes and experiments in study and politics. The links to the old world were the ‘baggage’, with education and experiences in the homeland, the memories, and refugee teachers.

As indicated above, The Fruits of Exile is intended for American scholars of exile studies. Most of the contributors hardly (if at all) take notice of research results in formerly Nazi Central Europe, above all in Germany. Maybe in view of the targeted American readers, this is a question of language as most of the German language publications are not translated into English, let alone originally written in English. Yet, the age of globalization requires knowledge across frontiers of history, science, culture; and language is a transmitter for understanding and comprehension.

Besides language, money is another transmitter. The connection between these two dissimilar ‘instruments’ for success and the lack of one or even both of them for misunderstanding and failure is illustrated with “Fighting Windmills on Broadway: Max Reinhardt’s Exile in the United States”, a case study on changes of interest in theatre, of repertoire, and of commercial possibilities or pressure before and in the time of exile, by Gudrun Brokoph-Mauch in section two [91-101]. Language and money are underlying themes, too, in James Schmidt’s chapter on “The Eclipse of Reason and the End of the Frankfurt School in the United States” in the first group [1-28]. Based on correspondence (especially the Leo Lowenthal Papers at Houghton Library) and other archival material the author describes, in the context of the worsening relationship between the Institute for Social Research and Columbia University, financial problems, personal rivalries, how Frankfurt School collegues moved to other universities, the linguistic, mental and psychological obstacles which Max Horkheimer met when effecting the conversion of a series of lectures at Columbia University in 1944 into a book written in English. The “epitome [of] some aspects of a comprehensive philosophical theory developed by the writer during the last few years in association with Theodore [sic] W. Adorno”, as Horkheimer put it in the preface (quotation by Schmidt, p. 1) eventually published by Oxford University Press in 1947, only led to misunderstanding and thus hardly generated any interest, so that it was soon forgotten in America.

The publication flop of Eclipse of Reason contrasts with the success of Dialectic of Enlightenment, on which Adorno and Horkheimer had been working together for years. A first version was published in 1944 under the title Philosophische Fragmente by Social Studies Association, Inc., New York. While Horkheimer continued to work alone on Eclipse of Reason, his collaboration went on with Adorno on a revised edition of Philosophische Fragmente, which was published in English as Dialectic of Enlightenment, and in German as Dialektik der Aufklärung in Amsterdam in the same year, 1947. In the passage quoted from the preface of Eclipse of Reason, Horkheimer refers to their co-operation "during the last few years".

“[A]lthough this is as much a thought experiment as it is an article, much of what makes the final chapter of Dialectic of Enlightenment so interesting is touched on in this oft-neglected piece”, states Richard Bodek in his discussion titled “Max Horkheimer and ‘The Jews of Europe: A Reevaluation’” (pp. 29-39, following Schmidt’s reconstruction of the failure of Eclipse of Reason, quotation p. 37). Horkheimer published “Die Juden in Europa” in number 1-2 / 1939 of Zeitschrift für Sozialforschung, which came out in Paris shortly after the outbreak of World War II. In order to disprove misunderstandings and critics of Horkheimer’s politico-philosophical quest of the roots of anti-Semitism and (ultimately) fascism / national-socialism, Bodek quotes at length from the English translation of Mark Ritter, in Stephen Eric Bronner and Douglas MacKay Kellner, eds., Critical Theory and Society: A Reader (New York and London: Roudledge, 1989), from Franz Neumann (Behemoth), from Hannah Arendt (Origins of Totalitarianism) – to mention only the most prominent scholars.

With the Hungarian-born sociologist “Karl Mannheim as a Refugee” – note the subtitle – Colin Loader concentrates on the case of a double émigré, moreover one who fled to Britain after his dismissal from his professorship at the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University of Frankfurt-am-Main. In his short piece the author focuses on Mannheim’s changing conception, “From Bildung to Planning” [59-70], and the reason why this theoretical change clashed with British sociology, and theory and practice of education, despite the fact that both aimed at serving and furthering democracy.

Between the essays on Max Horkheimer and Karl Mannheim, the editors placed Jeremy Telman’s discussion on “Selective Affinities: On U.S. Reception of Hans Kelsen’s Legal Theory” [40-58]. The reader gets a well-documented demonstration of the discrepancy between European and American ideas on law, legal theory, and politics. In particular Kelsen’s normative, pure theory of law and hierarchical legal system lacking any regard to political reality did not fit in with the American pragmatism of “law is politics” [46], especially when defending democracy against its enemies, then fascism. Kelsen’s theory was only appreciated after World War II: “U.S. legal academy” began “linking Kelsen’s pure theory with U.S. pragmatism” [50].

Section two opens with Donald Wallace, “The Obscure Sea Change: Hermann Broch, Fascism, and the United States” [71-90]. As the title indicates, the subject of this essay is not the novelist and play-writer but the cultural philosopher Max Brod. Wallace examines his theory of fascism, mainly developed with reference to the materialistic society and the danger of mass hysteria in the U.S., and its counterpart, his theory of democracy beyond egoistic individualism. To a certain degree, Broch and his theories are portrayed as pars pro toto, since other refugee intellectuals conceived similar ideas. “Obscure” refers to “Broch’s marginalization within the historiography”, even though, as Wallace suggests, he “presaged an important intellectual development of the American mind […] in churches and in the counterculture worlds of American youth” [71].

Sabine Feisst submits a critical comparative review of biographies of the composer Arnold Schoenberg, with his complex nature, and of interpretations of his compositional oeuvre by German – whether they stayed in Nazi Germany or went into exile – and American writers. Summarizing, she pleads for “[m]ore broadly based biographical approaches informed by ideas of cultural theory, by new exile studies, and by more research on Schoenberg’s life and work in the United States”. (“Schoenberg in the United States Reconsidered: A Historiographical Investigation”, [102-126] quotation p. 114.) 

The Index in this volume lists place names, companies, institutes, institutions, and organizations, (short) titles of works of exiles, catchwords, and last but not least personal names, but no intellectuals other than the exiles mentioned in the essays figure here, with the exception of the German philosopher and social scientist Jürgen Habermas. Why?

To conclude: The fruits of exile were and still are ambivalent. They were bitter despite a lot of work; they often came posthumously and belatedly – but then, at least the socio-philosophical works inspired a whole generation of young people: think of the “1968” world-wide movement, which, incidentally, was ambivalent, too. Considering the decades between the 1950’s and the making of this book and its intention, the title could also have been: “The Fruits of Time”. Though Bodek and Lewis focus on (future) American research in the fields of (intellectual) exile, I highly recommend The Fruits of Exile to researchers on (Central) Europe, especially to the younger generation – just to learn what is going on on the other side of the Ocean in order to communicate and to contribute together to a humane society in a globalized world.


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