Edgar Feuchtwanger Recalls Living Across The Street From Adolf Hitler

Jewish Historian Truly Had the Neighbor From Hell

Recalling a Munich Nightmare: Edgar Feuchtwanger, 88, has recently published a memoir about his boyhood.
Getty Images
Recalling a Munich Nightmare: Edgar Feuchtwanger, 88, has recently published a memoir about his boyhood.

By Benjamin Ivry

Published May 30, 2013, issue of June 07, 2013.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

When we call someone a “nightmare neighbor from hell,” we usually mean that phrase hyperbolically, but some of those who lived in the vicinity of Adolf Hitler decades ago in Germany and Austria found the term remarkably apt.

The French publisher Les éditions Michel Lafon has published the German Jewish historian Edgar Feuchtwanger’s “Hitler My Neighbor: a Jewish Boy’s Memories,” about how from 1929 to 1939, his family lived across a Munich street from the German dictator. It demonstrates that as advice, “love thy neighbor” is not always fitting.

Now 88, Feuchtwanger, who previously authored works on Hitler’s Germany, Benjamin Disraeli and other subjects, narrates his tale from the perspective of a young boy. Co-authored with French Jewish journalist Bertil Scali, the book recreates Feuchtwanger’s emotions from ages 5 to 15, much as his uncle Lion Feuchtwanger, a noted leftist novelist and playwright, did with fictional characters. On Grillparzer Street in Munich, the family resided in a comfortable upper middle class apartment, today occupied by a law firm, while across the street was Hitler’s apartment, in a building that has been converted into a police station.

As Edgar Feuchtwanger noted in The Jewish Chronicle last year: “It’s hard to conceive now that Hitler, to us the embodiment of the diabolical, was an actual person living in a flat… Nasty things creep out of the woodwork. The veneer of civilisation turns out to be thin. Scapegoats are sought; too often they have been the Jews.”

Starting in 1929, when Edgar was 5 years old, he recalls hearing his Uncle Lion explain to his father that Hitler would inevitably take over Germany and “when that happens, he will kill all the Jews.” Little Edgar dreamt one night of their neighbor across the street chasing his family down the street, in the form of Der Struwwelpeter (Shockheaded Peter), the unruly title character in a popular 19th century German children’s book.

The Feuchtwanger family drew some comfort from the observation that their car was fancier than Hitler’s, and that “Jud Süß” (Jew Süss), Uncle Lion’s 1925 historical novel based on the life of an 18th century Stuttgart court Jew, still outsold “Mein Kampf.” The former book, as Edgar notes, recounts how “in the past, other upstarts have inspired the crowd to massacre our ancestors in our own country.”


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • "Israel should not let captives languish or corpses rot. It should do everything in its power to recover people and bodies. Jewish law places a premium on pidyon shvuyim, “the redemption of captives,” and proper burial. But not when the price will lead to more death and more kidnappings." Do you agree?
  • Slate.com's Allison Benedikt wrote that Taglit-Birthright Israel is partly to blame for the death of American IDF volunteer Max Steinberg. This is why she's wrong:
  • Israeli soldiers want you to buy them socks. And snacks. And backpacks. And underwear. And pizza. So claim dozens of fundraising campaigns launched by American Jewish and Israeli charities since the start of the current wave of crisis and conflict in Israel and Gaza.
  • The sign reads: “Dogs are allowed in this establishment but Zionists are not under any circumstances.”
  • Is Twitter Israel's new worst enemy?
  • More than 50 former Israeli soldiers have refused to serve in the current ground operation in #Gaza.
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.