Photograph: Villa Lazare in Sanary-sur-Mer
Feuchtwanger’s house, the Villa Lazare in Sanary-sur-Mer in the 1930s
© Feuchtwanger Memorial Library USC Libraries Special Collections


the capital of german literature

Ich glaube, Sie waren der erste, der sich in der Emigration ein mehr als würdiges, ein glänzendes Heim zu schaffen wusste, in Sanary sur mer, wo wir zusammen die ersten Monate nach unserer Entlassung als deutsche Schriftsteller verbrachten. Ich hätte gern den Goebbels durch Ihre Räume geführt und ihm die Aussicht gezeigt, damit er sich gifte.

[I believe you were the first of the emigrants to find a beautiful home that was more than worthy of you, in Sanary-sur-Mer. It was there that we spent the first few months after our dismissal as German writers. I would have liked to have taken Goebbels on tour through the rooms and shown him the view. He would have choked on his own bile. (ed. trans.)]

Thomas Mann in a letter to Lion Feuchtwanger on 17 June 1944

The small fishing village of Sanary-sur-Mer on the southern coast of France was discovered as a holiday resort and place of residence by European intellectuals and artists after the end of the First World War. After the Nazis seized power in 1933, the small town between Marseilles and Toulon became a major attraction for German artists. The author Ludwig Marcuse described the town as “the capital of German literature”. For many exiles the coastal town was the first stop on their route out of Germany. “We lived in Paradise – out of necessity,” was how Ludwig Marcuse summed up the experience of the exiles in his memoirs. They settled in Sanary to continue their work and to meet friends and acquaintances. They met in cafés, at the harbour or in each others' houses. One such meeting point was the house of Marta and Lion Feuchtwanger, where Arnold Zweig, Bertolt Brecht and Thomas Mann were all frequent visitors. For the authors, Sanary was also a place where they could work in peace: Joseph Roth. Feuchtwanger and Zweig all wrote there and it was there that Klaus Mann founded his literary magazine for exiles – Die Sammlung.

After the German invasion of France in 1940, the exiles had to move on. The Vichy government collaborated with the German occupying forces to imprison many Germans in camps. Jewish prisoners were later delivered directly into the hands of the Nazis. In 1987 a memorial plaque was erected to the famous residents of Sanary-sur-Mer in the 1930s, honouring, among others: Eva Hermann, Egon Erwin Kisch, Erika Mann, Golo Mann, Heinrich Mann, Erwin Piscator, Franz Werfel and Stefan Zweig.