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!
  • Happy birthday Barbra Streisand! Our favorite Funny Girl turns 72 today.
  • Clueless parenting advice from the star of "Clueless."
  • Why won't the city give an answer?
  • BREAKING NEWS: Israel has officially suspended peace talks with the Palestinians.
  • Can you guess what the most boring job in the army is?
  • What the foolish rabbi of Chelm teaches us about Israel and the Palestinian unity deal:
  • Mazel tov to Idina Menzel on making Variety "Power of Women" cover! http://jd.fo/f3Mms
  • "How much should I expect him and/or ask him to participate? Is it enough to have one parent reciting the prayers and observing the holidays?" What do you think?
  • New York and Montreal have been at odds for far too long. Stop the bagel wars, sign our bagel peace treaty!
  • Really, can you blame them?
  • “How I Stopped Hating Women of the Wall and Started Talking to My Mother.” Will you see it?
  • Taglit-Birthright Israel is redefining who they consider "Jewish" after a 17% drop in registration from 2011-2013. Is the "propaganda tag" keeping young people away?
  • Happy birthday William Shakespeare! Turns out, the Bard knew quite a bit about Jews.
  • Would you get to know racists on a first-name basis if you thought it might help you prevent them from going on rampages, like the recent shooting in Kansas City?
  • "You wouldn’t send someone for a math test without teaching them math." Why is sex ed still so taboo among religious Jews?
  • 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.