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  • German Children's and Youth Literature in Exile 1933-1950: Biographies and Bibliographies
  • Ruth B. Bottigheimer (bio)
German Children's and Youth Literature in Exile 1933-1950: Biographies and Bibliographies. By Zlata Fuss Phillips. Munich: K.G. Saur, 2001

A reference work of the highest quality, German Children's and Youth Literature in Exile details the lives of a special class of modern authors and illustrators, as well as the books and illustrations they produced. As a group, Phillips' subjects were born before 1918, in Germany or the former Austro-Hungarian Empire, emigrated, and published between 1933 and 1950.

In the German Democratic Republic, the study of children's literature composed by men and women who had fled Fascism—often to the welcoming arms of socialist and communist protectors—reinforced East Germany's own raison d'être as a socialist state under Soviet protection. In the West, brief studies have been undertaken by fewer researchers, notably F. C. Weiskopf, Wilhelm Sternfeld, Eva Tiedemann, Herbert Strauss, Werner Röder, the Institut für Kinder-und Jugendliteratur in Frankfurt, and Dirk Krüger. Phillips has put all of these secondary sources to good use. It was, however, the 1993 opening of a library for exile literature, the Vienna Österreichische Exilbibliothek, together with its exhibition catalog of 1997/ 98, that marked a turning point in the study of German children's and youth literature published in exile.

Methodologically rigorous, German Children's and Youth Literature in Exile consists of 101 entries arranged alphabetically by the author's or illustrator's name as it appeared in published form between 1933 and 1950; dates of birth, exile residence, and death; brief biography; bibliography; and location of related archival holdings. Phillips' acknowledgments record familiar holdings, introduce unfamiliar ones, and give evidence of the depth and breadth of her research.

Some of Phillips' author biographies had their beginnings in existing reference books, such as the International Biographical Dictionary of Central European Emigres, 1933-1945, but far more were constructed from or expanded by information from biographical questionnaires provided by surviving authors and illustrators or by close relatives of theirs.

All genres of books for children can be found here, from "cloth books, coloring books and alphabet and number books for preschoolers [to] historical novels and biographies of great men and women...all types of children's literature, prose and poetry, fiction and nonfiction"(10). This means, in practice, included books are as diverse as adventure and detective stories, biographies of Dick Whittington, natural histories of Africa, and explanations of sugar manufacture, as well as their line drawing or color gouache illustrations.

I found myself reading raptly through the entries, because they detailed gripping journeys of choice or necessity undertaken for physical and intellectual survival. Some emigrés were religiously Jewish, some politically anti-Fascist, and yet others—to judge from their and their families' histories—must have belonged to schools of art reckoned decadent or negative, two favorite epithets of Nazi opprobrium. Their emigrations took them southward [End Page 123] to Australia and South America, northward to Denmark, Norway, Sweden, and Finland, as well as eastward to the Soviet Union and westward to Great Britain and the United States. A few found short-term security in Germany's and Austria's neighbors, Belgium, France, and Switzerland. Although some remained in Switzerland, most moved further westward.

German Children's and Youth Literature in Exile is a remarkable reference book. The subject is temporally comprehensible—1933-1950. Above all, its component information speaks to the human condition: it repeatedly delineates the hard choices that individuals (who were ordinary as citizens but gifted as artists) had to make when their governments undermined the normal conditions of daily existence.

The book's designers filled the front and rear end-papers with photographs of 75 of the book's subjects. This imaginative use of a space that is often dead in scholarly books draws readers into the following pages. With such fine book design and reference content in its favor, why haven't we heard about this book before now? The most probable reason is because of its impossibly high price. With luck, a few more universities will buy it...


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