Fe­male Au­thors in Ex­ile in the U.S.A.

The English translation of the exhibition was funded by the "LitKultur" project of the Institute for German Literature and its Didactics at Goethe University Frankfurt.What does it mean for female authors to be forced to change both the country in which they live and the linguistic sphere in which they operate?  How can they manage to remain productive in a foreign country?  Precisely these questions occupied a seminar group at the Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main in the winter semester 2023/24; the seminar took place in co-operation with the German Exile Archive 1933–1945 of the German National Library in Frankfurt.  The result is this virtual exhibition showcasing seventeen exhibits.

At the centre of this group of female authors stand Vicki Baum, Gina Kaus, Maria Leitner and Erika Mann, all writers who left Germany for various reasons.  Vicki Baum left for the U.S.A. before 1933, wrote in English from the 1940s onwards and never returned to Germany.  Gina Kaus fled to the U.S.A. after the Anschluss with Austria in 1938 and, although she did visit Germany and Austria after 1948, did not return on a permanent basis.  Maria Leitner fled to Paris in 1933, but did not succeed in emigrating to America.  From Switzerland Erika Mann went into exile in the States in 1936, published in newspapers, undertook lecture tours as a speaker and worked as a war correspondent for the BBC.

The seminar focused in particular on the attendant circumstances of exile, such as the role of the Deutsche Akademie im Exil / American Guild for German Cultural Freedom and the Emergency Rescue Committee; the acculturation of these exiled women in the U.S.A.; their places of residence; their involvement in the film industry; and their success as authors.

The exhibition is the result of the work carried out both during the seminar and also in the Exile Archive.  The students worked in its spaces and were granted access to the stacks and to original sources.  There, too, the objects were selected which, on the basis of the students’ own ideas, are presented here in the form of an online exhibition.  The individual contributions are all structured in the same way and begin with a quotation before the object is contextualized, described and integrated into the overarching theme.

The students’ ideas provided the basis for the exhibition, which was in turn put together by colleagues at the Exile Archive. The exhibition opened in the context of the academic conference on “Vicki Baum, the American”, which took place on 10th – 12th April 2024 in the rooms of the DNB.

The English translation of the exhibition was funded by the "LitKultur" project of the Department of German Literature at Goethe University Frankfurt.

Sylvia Asmus / Bernd Zegowitz