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Exiled German-speaking intellectuals in Southern California: Hanns Eisler

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

Hanns Eisler

Hanns Eisler (1898-1962)

Composer Hanns Eisler studied with Arnold Schoenberg in Vienna in the early 1920s and began collaborating with playwright Bertolt Brecht in the 1930s. He came to the United States in 1935 where he worked as a guest professor for music at the New School for Social Research in New York.

Eisler moved to Hollywood in 1942 where he accepted a teaching position at USC. Although known for his modernist compositions, Eisler was also able to write the type of music sought in Hollywood and created a number of film scores.

Unfortunately, Eisler's involvement with the Communist Party in the late 1920s got him in trouble with the House of Representatives' Un-American Activities Committee in 1947, which led to his abrupt departure in 1948. Eisler settled in former East Germany where one of his compositions was selected as the national anthem of the former German Democratic Republic.

Eisler lived for a time in Pacific Palisades at 689 Amalfi Drive and later in Brentwood at 162 S. Burlingame. In 1946 the Eislers lived at 188 Malibu Beach which was later renamed 23868 Pacific Coast Highway.

He continued his film work and in 1947 co-authored Composing for the Films with Theodor W. Adorno, one of the most influential philosophers and cultural critics of this century.

Hanns Eisler's years in Southern California: 1942-1948.


Thomas Mann. Tagebücher 1944-1.4.1946. Edited by Inge Jens. Frankfurt: Fischer, 1986.

USC's Feuchtwanger Memorial Library houses parts of Hanns Eisler's papers.

Created October 1997 by Marje Schuetze-Coburn.