Café Le Tournon

Photograph: Café Tournon
Café Le Tournon, Rue de Tournon 18 in Paris’ 6th Arrondissement, 1978
Deutsches Exilarchiv 1933-1945 der Deutschen Nationalbibliothek, photograph © Brita Eckert 1978

Café Le Tournon

Popular meeting place in the 6th Arrondissement

Ohne daß etwas ausgesprochen worden war, fühlte ich nach einer Stunde, daß in diesem von Kitsch, Tabakqualm und Alkoholdunst erfüllten Raum das Herz der österreichischen Emigration schlug.

[Without anyone having explicitly said so, after an hour spent sitting in this kitschy room filled with tobacco smoke and the smell of alcohol, I could distinctly feel the heartbeat of Austrian emigration. (ed. trans.)]

Conrad Lester speaking in Vienna in 1972

Like the coffee houses and salons in Vienna and other cities, the cafés of Paris were attractive meeting places that played an important role for intellectuals and writers. For those living in exile, they often doubled as a study or reading room. Cafés were places to exchange news, cultivate networks and talk about shared experiences.

The Café Le Tournon on the ground floor of the Hôtel de la Poste remained a popular meeting place for Austrian emigrants until the German troops arrived in Paris. It was also where Joseph Roth's “entourage” met in the years 1938/39 – a name given by Soma Morgenstern to the circle of Catholics and monarchists who hovered around the author. This group included Franz Hildebrand, later employee of the Centre Américaine de Secours; Klaus Dohrn, co-editor of Vienna newspaper Der christliche Ständestaat and his brother Serge Dohrn, with whom Soma Morgenstern was later to share internment and a joint escape.

Other occasional guests to the café were Joseph Constantinovsky, a sculptor and author who also went by the name of Michel Matveev and had written the novel Les Traqués; Hans Natonek, a fellow writer and friend of Joseph Roth, and the illustrator Bil Spira. Photographs and portraits that document the encounters in Le Tournon also show guests like Franz Werfel and Egon Erwin Kisch.