Maria Leitner, Writer, Journalist
Journalist and author Maria Leitner in 1930 on a reporting assignment in Suriname.
Rijksmuseum Amsterdam, NG-2008-37-46, acquired with the support of the Maria Adriana Aalders Fund/Rijksmuseum Fonds. Public Domain.

Maria Leitner

Maria Leitner ist eine sehr aktive antifaschistische Schriftstellerin, die nur wenige kennen. […] eine der mutigsten und bescheidensten Frauen, die wir haben.

[Maria Leitner is a very active anti-Fascist writer of whom only a few people have heard. […] one of the bravest, most unassuming women we have. (ed. trans.)]

Oskar Maria Graf in a letter of recommendation for Maria Leitner, 9 August 1938

Bornon 19 January 1892 in Varaždin, Austro-Hungary, today Croatia
Diedon 14 March 1942 in Marseille, France
ExileAustria, Czechoslovakia, France
ProfessionWriter, Journalist

Maria Leitner first had to flee into exile at the beginning of the 1920s. After the abolition of the Hungarian Soviet Republic, she emigrated via Vienna to Berlin. Her socio-critical reports from North and South America, which were published in several periodicals printed by Ullstein Verlag, secured her a wide readership throughout the 1920s. The serialisation of her anti-colonial novel “Wehr dich, Akato!” (Defend Yourself, Akato!) in the “Arbeiter Illustrierte Zeitung”, which began in 1932, ended in March 1933 when the newspaper was banned. As an opponent of National Socialism, the journalist and author had to flee once again.

Initially, Leitner stayed alternately in Austria, Czechoslovakia and at times in Saarland, where there is evidence of several journalistic publications and novel serialisations. She travelled back to Germany on several occasions in order to carry out research. Later she moved to Paris permanently, probably around 1935/36. In 1937, her novel “Elisabeth, ein Hitlermädchen” (Elisabeth, a Hitler Girl) was serialised in the “Pariser Tageszeitung”. She also wrote for the exile journals “Das Wort” (Moscow) and “Die Neue Weltbühne” (Prague). Despite these opportunities for publication, Maria Leitner’s material circumstances in exile were highly precarious.

In May 1940, she was imprisoned at the Gurs internment camp in the south of France. After successfully escaping the camp, she tried in vain to obtain a visa for the U.S. Weakened and impoverished, she died in Marseille in 1942.

Selected works:
Hotel Amerika (Novel, 1930)
Eine Frau reist durch die Welt (Reports, 1932)
Elisabeth, ein Hitlermädchen (Novel, 1937)

Further reading:
Berthold, Werner et al. (Hg.): Deutsche Intellektuelle im Exil. Ihre Akademie und die „American Guild for German Cultural Freedom“. München: Saur 1993, S. 503–511.
Killet, Julia/Schwarz, Helga W. (Hg.): Maria Leitner oder: Im Sturm der Zeit. Berlin: Karl Dietz Verlag 2013.