This database presents a selection of Exile Publishing Houses that were founded by Jewish publishers between 1933 and 1945. Many of the books can be found in the library collection of the Leo Baeck Institute. This compilation is based on Natalie Tunstall’s thesis on Jewish Exile Publishing Houses.
After the National Socialists gained power in Germany in January 1933, publishers and authors in general and Jewish publishers and authors in particular faced harsh new restrictions and stark choices. As part of the policy of systematically expropriating Jewish-owned businesses known as “Aryanization,” the Nazi regime seized control of Jewish-owned publishing companies, notably Ullstein and Mosse. Publishing houses owned by non-Jews could only publish authors who were members of the Reichskulturkammer, membership in which was closed to Jews. Works deemed ‘undesirable,’ such as socialist, communist, pacifist, or Jewish publications, were forbidden. The narrow band of activities that remained open to Jewish publishers between 1933 and 1938 meant catering exclusively to the Jewish population under official supervision. Authors who were branded ‘undesirable’ had only two options: emigration or the end of their career as a writer.
Even those who emigrated faced enormous hurdles, the foremost of which was language. Few of them could write in a foreign language, and no one would bother to translate the work of an unknown author (which many of the émigrés were in their new homes). In response to this dilemma, some publishers founded special émigré publishing houses to publish works in German for the German-speaking émigré population.
Beginning with Querido, founded in April 1933, hundreds of publishing houses sprang up (the literature cites numbers between 600 and 800). These risky ventures faced huge challenges, however, and many only published a single work. Capital was in short supply, since all the publishers who left Germany had been forced to leave everything behind or only received a fraction of the money their company was worth. In addition, the distribution area and audience for German-language literature were limited. Even if publishers could deliver books to Czechoslovakia, Austria, the Netherlands, or Switzerland, many of the people and firms that might have purchased or distributed German books sympathized with the Nazi regime or feared repercussions for trading in ideologically suspect books given the looming threat of invasion. Even selling books to the émigré communities could be an uphill battle; many Jewish émigrés consciously rejected German culture or lost interest in German literature as they assimilated to their new homes. Finally, the Third Reich sold confiscated literature abroad below price without regard to the rights of the authors.
The most successful exile publishing houses were the ones who could use the infrastructure of an already existing publishing house, like Querido in Amsterdam. Even those had to stop their publishing activity shortly after the beginning of the Second World War in 1939.