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Exiled German-speaking intellectuals in Southern California: Alfred Döblin

During the 1930s and 1940s, many German Jews and intellectuals fled Nazi Germany. This LibGuide provides information about German-speaking intellectuals who found refuge in Southern California

  Alfred Döblin (1878-1957)

Alfrd Döblin's years in Southern California: 1940-1945.

Born in Berlin, Döblin studied psychiatry and medicine and practiced in Berlin while writing stories and essays. As a Jew and a former Social Democrat in 1933 Germany, Döblin's life was in danger so he fled first to Switzerland, then to France. Döblin crossed the Pyrenees in 1940 and escaped to the United States. By October he was living in Southern California.

He converted to Catholicism in 1941 along with his wife and son, perhaps due in part to the isolation they experienced in Southern California. He returned to Germany in 1945 as an American education officer. In 1949 after co-founding the Akademie für Wissenschaft und Literatur, he returned to France in 1951.

Döblin is best-known for Berlin Alexanderplatz, his most Expressionistic novel which was published in 1929. While living in Southern California, Döblin started the novel Hamlet oder Die lange Nacht nimmt ein Ende which he finished in 1946 in Germany. Like Heinrich Mann and other exiles, Döblin was permitted to enter the U.S. because he had had a year contract with MGM as a scriptwriter. Thanks to this good position, he earned $100 per week during his first year in Los Angeles. After the contract was up, he was left to live from unemployment benefits and gifts provided by friends through the European Film Fund.

Alfred Döblin lived at several addresses in Hollywood during his five years in Los Angeles. For the first few months, he lived at 1842 N. Cherokee Avenue; in February 1942 he moved to 901 N. Genesee Street; and between November 1942 and 1945, he lived at 1347 N. Citrus Avenue.


Matthias Prangel. Alfred Döblin. 2nd ed. Stuttgart: Metzler, 1987.

Klaus Schröter. Döblin. Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1978.

Autorenlexikon deutschsprachiger Literatur des 20. Jahrhunderts. Edited by Manfred Brauneck. Reinbeck bei Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1991.

Biographisches Lexikon zur Weimarer Republik. Edited by Wolfgang Benz and Hermann Graml. Munich: C.H. Beck, 1988.

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Michaela Ullmann
Michaela Ullmann Head, Instruction & Assessment