Vicki Baum, author
The author Vicki Baum, photographed by Eric Schaal, presumably around 1940 in New York
German Exile Archive 1933–1945 at the German National Library, Eric Schaal estate, EB 2003/51. © Weidle Verlag, Bonn

Vicki Baum(Hedwig Baum)

Was sich in Deutschland vorbereitete, sah ich nach meinen sieben Monaten in den USA viel klarer als die gescheiten, gut informierten, erfahrenen politischen Köpfe bei Ullstein (…).

[I saw what was brewing in Germany with much greater clarity after my seven months in the USA than did the wise, well-informed, experienced political minds at Ullstein (…). (ed. trans.)]

Vicki Baum looking back on her early emigration in Es war alles ganz anders (It was all quite different), 1962

Bornon 24 January 1888 in Vienna
Diedon 29 August 1960 in Hollywood, USA
ExileUnited States of America

The novels of Vicki Baum were popular throughout Europe in the 1920s. Grand Hotel (Menschen im Hotel) (1929) ultimately made her famous in the USA. She emigrated there in 1932 in order to further establish herself in that country’s book and film industry. Baum had already fallen victim to anti-Semitic prejudice before 1933. Her early emigration ultimately became a political necessity as well. In Germany, her works fell victim to the book burnings of 1933; her publisher, Ullstein, was “Aryanised” the following year. The publication of Vicki Baum’s books was banned in Germany.

The author settled in California’s Pacific Palisades and worked as a scriptwriter. However, because she wasn’t comfortable with the Hollywood Studios’ standard approach, according to which she had to work „wie ein Spielautomat“ (to work “like a slot machine”; quote from Nicole Nottelmann, The Careers of Vicki Baum (Die Karrieren der Vicki Baum), 2007), Baum predominantly continued to write novels and worked for various magazines. Her willingness to adapt to the new cultural and linguistic conditions of her adopted home helped her achieve great success, including financially. She became a US citizen in 1938. She was a member of the German PEN Club in exile and worked on behalf of the European Film Fund. After the outbreak of war, she wrote several affidavits for friends and acquaintances persecuted in Europe.

Vicki Baum’s popularity throughout Europe was undiminished after the war ended, despite her works being suppressed for many years. Her books began to be published in Germany once more. However, she never considered remigrating.

Selected works:
Stud. chem. Helene Willfüer (Roman, 1928)
Menschen im Hotel (Roman, 1929)
Hotel Shanghai (Roman, 1939)
Hotel Berlin (Roman, 1943)
Es war alles ganz anders (Autobiographie, 1962)

Further reading:
Bertschik, Julia / Frank, Gustav / Hofeneder, Veronika / Jung, Werner (Hg.): TEXT+KRITIK 235: Vicki Baum. München: edition text+kritik 2022
Nottelmann, Nicole: Die Karrieren der Vicki Baum. Eine Biographie. Köln: Kiepenheuer & Witsch 2007
Schymura, Yvonne: Vicki Baum. So herrlich lebendig. Romanbiografie. Freiburg: Herder 2017