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Exiled German-speaking intellectuals in Southern California: Bruno and Liesl Frank

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

  Bruno (1887-1945) and Liesl Frank (1903-1979)

Bruno Frank's years in Southern California: 1937-1945.


Liesl Frank's years in Southern California: 1937-1979?


Bruno Frank was born in Stuttgart where his father worked as a banker.

Frank studied law but worked as a writer in Munich until 1933 with his wife, Liesl. Liesl Frank's childhood was noteworthy because her mother was the well-known operetta diva, Fritzi Massary, and her father, Max Pallenberg, was the leading comic actor of German theater.

The Franks left Germany on the day following the burning of the Reichstag in March 1933. For the next four years they lived between Austria and London, before finally crossing the Atlantic in October 1937 on the Ile de France. After arriving in New York the Franks headed west for California where Bruno Frank was reunited with his good friends Thomas Mann and Lion Feuchtwanger.

Bruno Frank was one of the fortunate German writers whose works had been translated into English in the 1920s, so that his name and reputation was already established outside Germany by 1933. Frank wrote two important novels while in exile, Cervantes (1934) and Der Reisepaß (1937).

In addition to his fiction, Frank also worked for the film industry. He was hired for a renewable one-year contract at Metro-Golden-Mayer, but he left the studio after just seven months. However, he continued to work on movies and made significant contributions with his historical background for William Dieterle's "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" (1939) and his work with Salka Viertel rewriting Mervyn LeRoy's "Madame Curie" (1943).

Shortly after their arrival in Hollywood, the Franks began to work on behalf of their less-fortunate fellow emigrants and helped organize the European Film Fund. Liesl Frank worked as the executive secretary for the organization. The European Film Fund supported unemployed exile writers by soliciting funds to subsidize studio contracts.

The Franks lived at 513 North Camden Drive in Beverly Hills.




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

Thomas Mann. Tagebücher 1940-1943. Edited by Peter de Mendelssohn. Frankfurt: Fischer, 1982.

Virginia Sease. "Bruno Frank." Deutsche Exilliteratur seit 1933. Band 1: Kalifornien. Edited by John M. Spalek and Joseph Strelka. Bern: Francke Verlag, 1976, pp. 352-370.


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Michaela Ullmann
Michaela Ullmann Head, Instruction & Assessment