Hans Sahl

Hans Sahl, Journalist
Hans Sahl 1941 in New York, photographed by Ilse Bing
Deutsche Kinemathek, © The Estate of Ilse Bing. Courtesy Galerie Karsten Greve Köln, Paris, St. Moritz

Hans Sahl

Ich habe mich immer dagegen gewehrt, daß man die Exilliteratur isolierte. Sie ist kein Sonderfall, sondern ein Bestandteil der deutschen Literatur.

[I have always opposed this tendency to isolate exile literature. This is not a special case but an integral part of German literature. (ed. trans.)]

Hans Sahl, Das Exil im Exil (Exile in Exile), 1991

Bornon 20 May 1902 in Dresden, Germany
Diedon 27 April 1993 in Tübingen, Germany
ExileCzechoslovakia, Switzerland, France, United States of America
RemigrationFederal Republic of Germany
ProfessionWriter, Journalist

Already as a child Hans Sahl wanted to be a writer. He wrote expressionist poetry and short stories, some of which were also published. Sahl, who came from an assimilated Jewish family, studied Art History in Munich, Leipzig, Berlin and Breslau and graduated with a doctorate. From 1925 he wrote film and theatre reviews for several newspapers in Berlin. When the Nazis came to power, it was rumoured that Sahl, as a left-wing intellectual, was on a “black list”, so he fled to Prague in April 1933. Max Reinhardt was in the same train.

A few months later Sahl left Prague for Switzerland but he could not stay there because of the residency requirements. Paris then became his main home in exile, but he travelled frequently from there to Zurich. Shortly after the war began Sahl was interned in France as an “enemy alien”. In June 1940, he managed to escape to Marseille in unoccupied France. There he supported the work of the Emergency Rescue Committee for several months, before emigrating to the United States in April 1941. From 1943 onwards he worked there on his novel Die Wenigen und die Vielen (The Few and the Many), for which he only found a German publisher 14 years after its completion. He worked as a journalist and most successfully as a translator, which secured a living for him and his family. Between 1953 and 1958, Sahl moved to West Germany, but never felt fully at home there again.

He returned back to the United States working as a correspondent for various German newspapers. In 1989, in his final years, he returned once again to his old home country. His novel, his two-volume autobiography, his short stories and poems were now finally finding interested German readers.

Selected works:
Die hellen Nächte (poems, 1942)
Die Wenigen und die Vielen (novel, 1959)
Memoiren eines Moralisten (autobiography, 1983)

Further reading:
Oelze, Ruth: „Kritik ist schöpferische Kunst.“ In: Jacobsen, Wolfgang / Aurich, Rolf (Hg.): Hans Sahl. Filmkritiker. München: edition text+kritik 2012 (= Film und Schrift, Bd. 14), S. 13 – 73