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Exiled German-speaking intellectuals in Southern California: Berthold and Salka Viertel

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

  Berthold (1885-1953) & Salka Viertel (1889-1978)

Salka Viertel's years in Southern California: 1928-1970.

Austrian-born Berthold Viertel and his wife, Salka Viertel, came to Los Angeles in 1928 planning to stay for just three years. Berthold wanted to gain experience working for the booming movie industry and the couple hoped to save enough money to return to Europe comfortably well-off. For four years, he worked for Fox Company, then Paramount and Warner Brothers.

Berthold Viertel was a respected theater director and writer and Salka a well-known stage actress. With the uncertain political situation in Germany in 1932, the Viertels decided to stay in the United States with their children rather than return to an uncertain future in Europe. Although Salka Viertel was not able to pursue her acting career in America, she began writing screen plays. She worked for MGM Studio writings several scripts that developed into films, her most famous starring her friend Greta Garbo, such as Queen Christina (1933). The Viertels house was an important gathering place for émigré community. One of the most well known was the 70th birthday celebration of Heinrich Mann in 1941. Salka Viertel was also active aiding those still trapped in Europe.

Unable to find his niche in the American theater world or in the movie industry, Berthold Viertel left Los Angeles for long periods of time to write and work in New York and London. In 1949, Berthold Viertel returned to Europe for good.

The Viertels lived first on Fairfax Avenue, near Laurel Canyon. In June 1928 they rented a beach house at 165 Mabery Road in Santa Monica. This charming cottage cost them $900 for the three summer months. Eventually the Viertels bought the house and Salka Viertel lived there for several decades.
Before she returned to Klosters, Switzerland, where Salka Viertel spent her last years, she lived at 262 S. Carmelina Avenue in Brentwood.



Irene Jansen. Berthold Viertel: Leben und künsterlerische Arbeit im Exil. New York: Peter Lang, 1992.

Salka Viertel. The Kindness of Strangers. New York: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, 1969.

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Michaela Ullmann
Michaela Ullmann Head, Instruction & Assessment