The Oprecht Publishing House, Zurich

Brief: Emil Oprecht
Letter from the president of the Swiss Bookseller‘s Association to the publisher Emil Oprecht May 20, 1933
Zentralbibliothek Zürich, Ms. Oprecht 1.2

The Oprecht Publishing House, Zurich

Jeder Hitlergegner, der in Zürich Station machte, tauchte früher oder später bei Oprecht auf.

[Every opponent of Hitler that landed in Zurich, sooner or later appeared at Oprecht’s door. (ed. trans.)]

Curt Riess in seinen Erinnerungen an den Verleger Oprecht, 1963

Bookseller and publisher, guardian angel and saver of lives, these characteristics were all united in the person of Zurich native Emil Oprecht. The output of Oprecht Publishing House between 1933 and 1946 included at least 145 books from 115 exiled authors, almost one third of its publications in those years. Among these were speeches, essays, political investigations and statistics. Oprecht also published, at the suggestion of Josef Breitenbach and under the direction of Oprecht‘s friend Thomas Mann, the exile magazine Maß und Wert. The list of authors at Oprecht Press included Ernst Bloch, Max Hermann-Neisse, Thomas Mann, Else Lasker-Schüler and Georg Kaiser.

Oprecht‘s activities did not go unnoticed by German authorities, who banned all of his publications in Germany and in all its occupied areas. And the Swiss authorities also caused problems. To avoid censorship in Switzerland, Oprecht published titles that were critical of contemporary happenings under his New York branch Europe Press, founded in 1933. 

The bookstore, publishing building and apartment of the Oprecht’s were important meeting places for exiles. In addition, the couple gave immediate help and provided for the needs of refugees. They organized donation drives, helped them with the authorities, obtained forged passports and visas and hid refugees from the police. The publishing house even sent packets of books to French internment camps.