Fotografie: Hans Günter Flieg, São Paulo
Panoramic photograph of São Paulo, taken by Hans Günter Flieg, 1950
© Hans Günter Flieg / Instituto Moreira Salles Collection


Immer leidenschaftlicher wurde mein Wunsch, mich aus einer Welt, die sich zerstört, für einige Zeit in eine zu retten, die friedlich und schöpferisch aufbaut; endlich kam ich wieder in dieses Land [...].

[My desire to escape from a world that was destroying itself, to escape for some time to a world that was peaceful and creative became increasingly intense; and finally I arrived in that country […] (ed. trans.)]

Stefan Zweig: Brazil. A Land of the Future, 1941

Immediately after the Nazis seized power in 1933, only few refugees from Germany considered Brazil as a country to flee to. It wasn’t until the persecution of Jews and opponents of the Nazis became increasingly severe, after the November pogrom of 1938 and after other countries began to severely restrict their immigration policies, that more and more refugees headed for Brazil. A total of 16,000 German-speaking émigrés settled in Brazil between 1933 and 1945 despite limited possibilities to enter the country and fixed quotas determining how many people could come in per year. Anti-Semitism among those in power also meant that some Jews were prevented from entering Brazil or were forced to enter illegally from neighbouring countries. Academics and well-known artists were exempt from such restrictions. 

Many German refugees in Brazil had difficulties finding work, as the percentage of foreigners able to work in companies was specified by law. Artists and, above all, writers only had limited opportunities to work in their metier. Those in exile were not able to set up their own German-speaking publishing house, nor could their works be published by existing Brazilian publishers. What also made matters worse was the fact that, after Brazil entered the War in 1942, it was forbidden to use the German language in public. While many of those in exile remained in Brazil after the War, many others – in particular the politically persecuted and authors – returned to Europe or went to other countries once the War was over.

Further reading:
Asmus, Sylvia und Eckl, Marlen: „...mehr vorwärts als rückwärts schauen ...“: das deutschsprachige Exil in Brasilien 1933 - 1945, 1. Aufl., Berlin: Hentrich & Hentrich 2013
Hohnschopp, Christine: Exil in Brasilien - Die deutschsprachige Emigration 1933 -1945: eine Ausstellung des Deutschen Exilarchivs 1933 - 1945, Die Deutsche Bibliothek, Frankfurt am Main, Leipzig: Deutsche Bibliothek 1994
Krohn, Claus-Dieter u.a. (Hg.): Handbuch der deutschsprachigen Emigration 1933 - 1945, Darmstadt: Primus-Verlag 1998