The Liquidation of Exile

The Liquidation of Exile

Studies in the Intellectual Emigration of the 1930s

By David Kettler

Key Issues in Modern Sociology

A theoretical overview and six case studies showing that the exile of intellectuals is a difficult, dependent, and fluid condition, whose achievements are dearly bought and whose endings rarely fulfill the missions informing their beginnings.

PDF, 220 Pages


July 2011

£18.36, $30.36

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About This Book

Building on many years of inquiry into the sociology of intellectuals, notably through a series of books on the sociologist, Karl Mannheim, this book brings together the results of ten years of work on the special problems of intellectuals in exile. The historical materials all relate to the emigration from Nazi Germany, not only because this event has generated the richest literature in exile studies, but also because of the author’s personal connections to the situation and to a number of outstanding representatives of that exile. Case studies are devoted to the following figures: Johannes Becher, Ernst Fraenkel, Hans Gerth, Oskar Maria Graf, Kurt Hiller, Erich Kahler, Alfred Kantoriowics, Hermann Kesten, Siegfried Kracauer, Karl Mannheim, Hans Mayer, Franz Neumann, Nina Rubinstein, Oskar Seidlin and Carl Zuckmayer.

The book opens with a systematic proposal for the study of intellectual exile, entailing a critique of approaches that neglect concrete political dimensions in favor of a metaphorical cultural approach. In the distinctive approach elaborated through a series of problem-centered case studies, the focus is on the multiple, complex and changing negotiating processes and bargaining structures constitutive of exile, especially as the question of return interplays with the politics of memory.

The first three chapters deal with émigré intellectuals whose writings contain theoretically important reflections on exile and related conditions. The interplay and conflicts between the priorities of ambitious American university scholarship and the self-understanding of the exile cohort identified with the Humanities is the theme of the next detailed study. In the following long chapter, the focus is on the outcome of exile, documented by the first letters written by intellectual and literary exiles to individuals who had remained in Germany and with whom they had unfinished business. These diverse reopenings of negotiations are uniquely revealing about different ways of settling with the experiences of exclusion and the prospects of return.

The final section of the book reverts to its very beginnings in two senses: it offers a self-reflection by the author about his own relations to the exile under study as a member of the “second wave” generation that arrived from Germany as children, with special attention to the elective affinities between himself and members of the actual primary cohort.


“This incisive study is the culmination of more than a decade of research on the subject of intellectuals in exile. Kettler—himself a member of the ‘second wave’ generation that emigrated from Germany as children—draws on sources and representative case studies relating to the diaspora of intellectuals from Nazi Germany in the 1930s.” —‘Bardian’ (Bard College magazine) Fall 2011

‘No one among our contemporaries has thought more deeply about exile than David Kettler. His new book illuminates its historical modes, its cultural impact and its personal cost. Humane without being mawkish, analytical without being cold, ‘The Liquidation of Exile’ instructs and inspires the reader in equal measure. Those of us fortunate enough to have lived peaceful lives in quieter times can only gasp in amazement at what these refugee intellectuals endured – and achieved.’ —Professor Peter Baehr, Lingnan University

‘Having successfully “liquidated” his own exile, David Kettler (né Manfred Ketzlach), a “second-wave” émigré (b. 1930, Leipzig) from Germany to the U.S., and a long-time contributor to the sociology of intellectuals, has written a critical review of the uses of “exile” in contemporary scholarship. He shows how a coterie of German émigrés, most of Jewish origins, negotiated their relationship to their former Heimat in the aftermath of the Holocaust. Some returned to Germany, most did not: Ernst Fraenkel, Oskar Maria Graf, Erich Kahler, Hermann Kesten, Siegfried Kracauer, Hans Mayer, Franz Neumann, Nina Rubinstein and Carl Zuckmayer. A must-read is the collection of first postwar letters, which émigrés sent to German colleagues, renewing contact, beginning a tortuous rapprochement. The letters provide vivid evidence that, for most émigrés, the liquidation of exile was long and arduous.’ —Professor Malachi Hacohen, Duke University

‘David Kettler has written a fascinating and thoughtfully accessible account of one of the most devastating and intriguing periods of modern intellectual history.’ —Professor Gerhard Lauer, University of Göttingen

‘David Kettler has thought deeply about the meaning and impact of exile.  His scholarship is beyond reproach.  Thus, this book makes a significant contribution to our understanding of an important topic.’ —Professor Jack Jacobs, City University of New York

‘In this meticulously researched, interdisciplinary study David Kettler expands on the conventional understanding of political exile by including the question of return. Building on new theories of exile, Kettler offers a carefully developed paradigm of “political exile” that focuses on different modes of acculturation as well as the difficult negotiations for a return or at least a reconnection with the country of origin. Insightful case studies of individual exiles like Nina Rubinstein, Franz Neumann, Hans Mayer or Erich Kahler, which illustrate different variants within this paradigm, clearly demonstrate the viability of Kettler’s illuminating approach.’ —Helga Schreckenberger, University of Vermont

Author Information

David Kettler was born in Leipzig, Germany in 1930, and moved to the USA in 1940 as a member of the “second wave” generation of refugees from Nazi Germany. His publications extend across the fields of political theory, law and society, sociology, cultural studies and intellectual history. He is Research Professor in Social Studies at Bard College in New York, as well as Professor Emeritus in Political Studies and Cultural Studies at Trent University in Ontario.


Key Issues in Modern Sociology

Table of Contents

Preface; 1. The Study of Intellectual Exile: A Paradigm; 2. Self-Knowledge and Sociology: Nina Rubinstein’s Exile Studies; 3. A German Subject to Recall: Hans Mayer as Internationalist, Cosmopolitan, Outsider, and/or Exile; 4. Exile as Process: The Case of Franz L. Neumann; 5. The Symbolic Uses of Exile: Erich Kahler at Ohio State; 6. First Letters: The Liquidation of Exile? 7. The Second Wave: An Autobiographical Exercise; Notes; Bibliography; Index


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