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!
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • Step into the Iron Dome with Tuvia Tenenbom.
  • 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.