The passport

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The passport is a novel by Bruno Frank , which was published in April 1937 by Fritz Landshoff at Querido Verlag / Amsterdam. Excerpts from the text had already been preprinted in Paris by Leopold Schwarzschild in the “ New Day Book ” , beginning on March 13 of the same year .

The plot leads from the end of the First World War to June 1936 to Germany, to Czechoslovakia and via Belgium to England. The focus is on the fight against German fascism - with a prince as actor of all things. Konrad Umlauf believes that the aristocrat as the protagonist is symbolic, as it were, “as an honorary title for someone who is willing to sacrifice himself for others.” In this regard, this is a novel of development : an aristocrat replaces his innate nobility with a self-sacrificing will to sacrifice.


The passport

On a November evening in 1935, a young man wanted to spend the night at the Morgenstern inn in the Czechoslovakian town of Kumerau . The traveler identifies himself to the innkeeper as the art scholar Ludwig Camburg, born in 1908. After a look in the passport, the innkeeper only calls the guest “ Your Highness ” and suddenly fulfills his smallest wish. Ludwig carries the emerald of Maria da Gloria with him.

Prince Ludwig

Flashback to 1918: Ludwig, Prince of Saxony- Camburg , as a 10-year-old experienced how his father, the reigning Duke Philip, “slipped” from the throne. Ludwig's private tutor, the bourgeois philologist and historian Dr. Otto Steiger, a die-hard monarchist, pretends that nothing has happened. Private lessons continue for the young prince. Ludwig's mother dies in 1923. The disempowered father indulges his numismatic passion. The ducal finance director shakes his head when Jacques Wetzlar, a Jewish antiquarian from Frankfurt's Miquelstrasse, presents the bill for coins more than two thousand years old.

In 1930, Wetzlar, who has since gone blind, visits Duke Philipp, accompanied by his 14-year-old daughter Ruth. The Frankfurt antiquarian is giving the regent, who has not been allowed to rule for twelve years, the decadrachm of Syracuse on the 25th anniversary of his accession to power . Ludwig, who studies in not far away Jena, and his older brother, Hereditary Prince August, have come to celebrate the day. August, who has recently appeared in uniform and greets with “Germany awake!”, Insults the Jew Wetzlar. Ruth can't get over the abuse. The young girl is crying.

During his studies in Jena, Ludwig was directed by the privy councilor Professor Johannes Rotteck to his research topic, the "history of the portrait in Europe". The student had read into the already available volumes - four in number. From then on he concentrated his eagerness to study on the court painter Goya .

1933, in the spring after the takeover of the Nazis , Rotteck loses his teaching position. When an NSDAP member was appointed to Rotteck's chair, Ludwig left the university.

Ludwig's father dies at the end of June 1934. Hereditary Prince August, a follower of Röhm in the SA , only escapes the “ Night of the Long Knives ” because he is currently attending the funeral in Camburg. Among other things, these murders strengthen an elitist group around the teacher Steiger in the will to fight against the National Socialist rule in Germany. Ludwig is chosen by Steiger as the head of the small resistance group. In the spring of 1935 the prince went to Berlin and took part in conspiratorial meetings of a handful of aristocratic anti-fascists. The putschists are arrested and tortured by the SS in Dresden, the site of the uprising planned for Christmas . The ordeal passed Ludwig by, although during the interrogation he blamed the co-conspirators. The monarchy in Saxony was to be restored. Ludwig, the Prince of Saxony, is not believed. In contrast to his fellow prisoners, Ludwig is lucky. Police advisor Donner brought him from Dresden to Kumerau at the beginning of November 1935 and gave the expelled person his passport. If Ludwig enters German territory, he is told that his co-conspirators will be executed.

Mr. Ozols

The text becomes a novel in exile: In Prague, Ludwig seeks out his master, Professor Rotteck, who has been chased away, and begins an affair with his young wife, Susanna. Rotteck continues to work on his many-volume life's work “History of the Portrait in Europe”. Susanna leaves Rotteck. Ludwig takes note of Rotteck's announcement and contacts Leo Breisach in Prague, the editor of the weekly magazine “Freies Wort”. He wants to find out the places of detention of his companions. Breisach helps him with an address and a new identity. Ludwig travels to the Reich as a Riga merchant Karlis Peteris Ozols and learns Steiger's whereabouts in Eisenach: Ginnheim concentration camp near Frankfurt am Main

Ludwig locates Martis, Wetzlar's former chauffeur, in Frankfurt. From Martis, Ludwig learns how Wetzlar was driven to suicide by the rulers. Martis and Ludwig bribe Sturmführer Linnemann with 1,500 marks. Protective prisoner Dr. Steiger is released.

The emerald

On their flight to England, Ludwig and Steiger visit St. Gudula in Brussels . The moment of truth is approaching in Ostend . The concentration camp inmate Steiger does not have a passport. The two refugees board the rescue steamer in the wake of Prince Victor of Bourbon- Braganza , a relative of Ludwig. Help is provided in the Woburn house in London, the seat of a Jewish aid organization. Ludwig makes a name for himself as a language teacher. Dr. Meanwhile, Steiger makes himself useful as a cook in the modest shared apartment. From March 1936 Ludwig continued to work on the Goya manuscript in addition to his private tutoring. In April he met Ruth Wetzlar in the library. Ruth, very poor, is staying in London.

Ludwig's little work “Goya's Youth” is accepted by a publisher.

When Ruth has to undergo a risky tonsil operation , Ludwig sells his emerald in order to win the best throat surgeon in London. The intervention succeeds. Ruth is recovering on the Isle of Wight .

Prof. Rotteck dies at the age of 57 on the crossing to New York .

It looks like Ruth and Ludwig will become a couple.


  • Bruno Frank wrote to Thomas Mann on May 22, 1937 : "The thing has ... after all become a work of art, although a certain naive directness could not be driven out."


Comments before publication
  • Thomas Mann's daughter Erika Mann , who, like Bruno and Liesl Frank, was in London, wrote about “The Passport” to her mother Katia Mann on May 18, 1836: “... and the Brunon lover has just read to me from his new novels, which promises to be decidedly good - the story of a little German prince - for example the beautiful prince of Hesse, whom Emil was always so fond of - in Nazi Germany - told very passionately, but translated at the same time - not as crafty as the "Oppenheimers «Or even the tagger - very exciting and enjoyable."
Statements after publication
  • Although Thomas Mann criticized the sentiment in the Basler National-Zeitung of June 13, 1937, he emphasized the “artistic honesty and decency”: “It [the novel] offers just as much charm as it is gruesome, and this horror, the German horror, never arouses the suspicion of frivolous exploitation for the purpose of narrative sensation, ... "
  • Klaus Mann admires the work “as a political novel of great style”, but complains in the Paris “ Neue Tage-Buch ” of June 5, 1937 on pages 547-548 the “somewhat romantic, arbitrary choice of heroes ... as a poetic whim ... to show us as anti-fascist fighters this young prince: this exceptional case, this non-typical specimen ”. The fairy tale of the adventurous hero chronicle is unmistakable.
  • Golo Mann praises the work as an unyielding political text in the “ Neue Weltbühne ” of July 1, 1937 on pages 846–849: “He [Bruno Frank] calls things by their name ... He's about Germany.” With his Representation of the aristocratic lone fighters around the conservative Dr. The author increasingly disapproves of the behavior of the German upper class in those years.
  • Stefan Zweig criticizes idealizations - for example the portrayal of Wetzlar and his daughter.
  • In a letter to Feuchtwanger on June 16, 1937, Arnold Zweig expressed himself disparagingly about the aristocratic milieu in the novel.
  • In the July 1937 issue of the Moscow magazine “ Das Wort ”, Marcuse criticized the inappropriate title of the “problematic” novel on pages 81-89, but put it into perspective: “... the book exudes such a warmth of heart that you almost feel shy away from pointing out its imperfections in too much detail ”.
  • Alfred Kurella reviews the novel in issue 2/1937 of the Moscow magazine " Internationale Literatur " on pages 127–130. Amazed by the choice of the princely hero, the reviewer tries to classify this “strange interpretation of German fate and its future” in symbolism . Kurella cautiously distances himself from this “neo-symbolism” and castigates the fable as incomprehensible or improbable, but he names the deeper truth: The Don Quixote Ludwig goes out fearlessly into the world of adventure and finds his way around it. Encounters with figures like the chauffeur Martis constituted the meaning of this “thoroughly optimistic book”.
  • Erika Mann and Klaus Mann write in their portrayal of German exile “Escape to life” from 1939: “Hero of the novel The Passport is just a good, decent and kind-hearted young German like there are many: we would like to hope so. He comes from a former ruling dynasty and carries a kind of talisman in his hand luggage - a precious and lucky emerald; But these fairytale-romantic influences, to which the story owes part of its literary charm, cannot deceive the fact that this is a political and realistic novel, a very current, ruthlessly true and courageous book. "
Recent comments
  • Hans J. Fröhlich reviews the novel in the " FAZ " on February 17, 1976 on p. 18.
  • In July 1979, Hermsdorf is slightly alienated by the "romance of love" at the end of the - almost unreasonable, actually implausible - novel. At the time, kidnappings from concentration camps were not as successful as with Bruno Frank. Hermsdorf refers to “ The Seventh Cross ” and gives the background to some of the secondary episodes: Erich Mühsams at the end of 1934 in Oranienburg concentration camp is portrayed in the figure of Heinrich Nothaft. Leo Breisach's “Free Word” in Prague is reminiscent of Leopold Schwarzschild's “New Day Book” in Paris. Like other interpreters, Hermsdorf particularly points out the symbolism of the text. The sale of the emerald stands for Ludwig's “having to say goodbye” to his own past.
  • Kirchner continues in the chapter “III. A noble anti-fascist - the passport ”of his dissertation with the novel apart. Ludwig's affair with Susanna Rotteck in Prague is not far from kitsch. Kirchner chalked the Deus ex machina Victor of Bourbon-Braganza for the author and quoted Gregor-Dellin's apt categorization of the "rescue fairy tale " in this context . In spite of all this, Kirchner praises, the prince's story works - as a kind of bracket - for more realistic episodes. What is meant are the four anti-fascist stories about Rotteck, Steiger, Wetzlar and Martis.


First edition in German

  • Bruno Frank: The passport. Novel. Querido Verlag, Amsterdam 1937. 363 pages, linen

Other issues

  • Bruno Frank: Lost heritage . Translator Cyrus Brooks. Viking Press , New York 1937. 297 pages, linen
  • Bruno Frank: Closed frontiers. A story of modern Europe. Translator: Cyrus Brooks. Macmillan Publishers , London 1937, 335 pages, linen
  • Bruno Frank: Cestovní pas. Translator: Pavel Levit. Published by Družstevni Práce, Prague 1937, 269 pages, linen
  • Bruno Frank: The passport. Novel. Edited and with an afterword by Martin Gregor-Dellin (pp. 351-360). Nymphenburger Verlagshandlung , Munich 1975. 360 pages, linen
  • Bruno Frank: Het paspoort. Translator: Huib van Krimpen. Epilogue: MH Würzner. : Allert de Lange Verlag , Amsterdam 1981, 226 pages, paperback

Used edition

  • Bruno Frank: The passport. Novel. With a text by Alfred Kurella and a comment by Klaus Hermsdorf. (Pp. 339-356). Buchverlag Der Morgen, Berlin 1980 (1st edition), 356 pages (Licensor: Nymphenburger Verlagshandlung, Munich 1975)

Secondary literature

  • #Carpenter 1952 , pages 39-43.
  • Reinhold Grimm: On the so-called resistance against the Völkisch: An addendum on the subject of "Knight, Death and the Devil". In: Lawrence Baron: Ideology-critical studies on literature. Essays II. Frankfurt am Main 1975, pp. 73-84.
  • # Günther 1946 , page 136.
  • Thomas A. Kamla: Bruno Frank's The Passport : The exile as an aristocrat of humanity. In: monthly books for German teaching, German language and literature , volume 67, number 1, 1975, pages 37–47.
  • Sascha Kirchner: The citizen as an artist. Bruno Frank (1887–1945) - life and work . Grupello , Düsseldorf 2009, ISBN 978-3-89978-095-6 (also Diss. Uni Düsseldorf ), pages 251-276, 12, 13, 278, 286, 287, 304, 319, 322, 324, 330, 339, 373, 374, 394, 396, 398, 400.
  • Klaus Mann ; Martin Gregor-Dellin (editor): Exams: Writings on literature. Munich 1968, pages 252-258 (Bruno Frank: "The passport").
  • Thomas Mann : Questions and Answers. About own works. Tributes and wreaths: About friends, companions and contemporaries. Afterword by Helmut Koopmann. Frankfurt am Main 1984, pages 385-386.
  • #Mann, Erika 1991 , page 316.
  • Golo Mann : The passport. In: Die neue Weltbühne: weekly for politics, art, economy , 33rd volume, issue 27, July 1, 1937, pages 846–849.
  • Ulrich Müller: Writing against Hitler. From historical to political novel. Investigations into the prose work of Bruno Frank. Mainz 1994, pages 69-78.
  • Konrad Paul: Afterword. In: Bruno Frank: Political Novella. Berlin 1982, pages 381-395, here: 393.
  • # Umlauf 1982 , pages 24-35, 117, 123.


  1. At the end of the novel, Léon Blum becomes head of government in France (edition used, p. 332, 11th Zvo). Actually, the novel begins towards the end of 1935. The time before is retold in the second part "Prince Ludwig" (see above).
  2. Bruno Frank, a commoner, names the noble family trees with a wink. The relationship between the Camburgers and the Braganzas (edition used, p. 244 middle) could be taken as an indication that Sachsen-Camburg is an allusion to the house of Sachsen-Coburg and Gotha (see also Kirchner, p. 261 below). Incidentally, the above-mentioned emerald of Maria da Gloria points to the noble house of Braganza via Maria II .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Kirchner. P. 271, 6th Zvu
  2. Kirchner, p. 260, 5. Zvo and p. 394, three entries from March and April 1937
  3. Konrad Umlauf anno 1982 (Kirchner, p. 374, footnote 169) reproduced accordingly in Kirchner, p. 271, 9th Zvu
  4. Kirchner, p. 261, 8th Zvu and p. 268, 11th Zvo
  5. Edition used, p. 27, 11. Zvu
  6. Edition used, p. 33, 7. Zvo
  7. Kirchner, p. 264, 9th Zvu
  8. Kirchner, pp. 265,14. Zvo
  9. engl. Arthur Willner and the Woburn House
  10. Bruno Frank, quoted in Kirchner, pp. 272, 17. Zvo and p. 374, footnote 172
  11. ^ A nickname for Bruno Frank.
  12. Emil Ludwig .
  13. ^ The Oppenheim siblings from Lion Feuchtwanger .
  14. Ferdinand Bruckner , actually Theodor Tagger.
  15. Anna Zanco Prestel (ed.): Erika Mann. Letters and Answers . Munich 1984, page 93.
  16. Thomas Mann, quoted in Hermsdorf in the edition used, p. 344 below
  17. Kirchner, p. 274, 12. Zvu and p. 374, footnote 182
  18. Kirchner, p. 398, entry by Klaus Mann
  19. Klaus Mann, quoted in Hermsdorf in the edition used, p. 341, 8. Zvu, p. 342, 8. Zvu and p. 345, 9. Zvu (see also Kirchner, p. 373, footnote 160)
  20. Kirchner, p. 397, entry by Golo Mann
  21. Kirchner, p. 274, 1. Zvo and p. 374, footnote 180
  22. Kirchner, p. 273 below and p. 374, footnote 179
  23. Kirchner, p. 398, second entry Ludwig Marcuse
  24. Marcuse, quoted in Kirchner, p. 268, 21. Zvo and p. 164, footnote 164
  25. ^ Marcus, quoted in Hermsdorf in the edition used, p. 342, 4th Zvo
  26. Marcuse, quoted in Hermsdorf, p. 349 below
  27. ^ Kurella in the edition used, pp. 351–356
  28. Hermsdorf in the edition used, p. 342, 1. Zvo
  29. ^ # Mann, Erika 1991 , p. 316.
  30. Kirchner, p. 396, entry by HJ Fröhlich
  31. Hermsdorf in the edition used, pp. 339–349
  32. Kirchner, pp. 252-276 and pp. 372-375
  33. Martin Gregor-Dellin, quoted in Kirchner, p. 268 below
  34. Kirchner, p. 271 middle
  35. Kirchner, p. 387, entry 1937
  36. Kirchner, p. 396, first entry Gregor-Dellin
  37. nl: Huib van Krimpen