The night of Lisbon

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The Night of Lisbon is a novel by Erich Maria Remarque , which describes the fate of the German emigrants during the Nazi era before and during the Second World War in France, Spain and Portugal. The Night of Lisbon was published in 1962 and was Remarque's penultimate novel. In 1971 Zbyněk Brynych filmed the novel for television.


The narrator is a German emigrant who was in the port of Lisbon in 1942 and was looking at a ship that was about to leave for the United States the next day . He has just gambled away the last of his money in the casino , hoping to earn enough money for himself and his wife for a ship passage to the USA - ultimately a pointless undertaking, since neither of them have visas . He meets a second emigrant who introduces himself as Josef Schwarz and offers to give him two passports with visas for the USA and two boat tickets, provided that the narrator, Schwarz, will listen to him for one night so that he can tell him his life story could tell. The narrator agrees and so he moves with Schwarz from one Lisbon bar to the next, through brothels and cafés, while Schwarz continuously remembers the last years of his life.

Schwarz is not his real name, but that of a deceased emigrant, an Austrian who traded in paintings in Paris in the late 1930s, and the emigrant Josef, whose real name we do not learn, his passport and a few valuable drawings shortly before his death leaves behind. Josef accepts the passport and identity of the deceased and is now called Josef Schwarz.

He travels back to Germany , looks for his wife Helen in Osnabrück , whom he had to leave, who still loves him and this time wants to leave Germany with him. Schwarz 'opponent is the Gestapo officer Georg Juergens, Helen's brother.

Josef and Helen flee to Switzerland , on to France and have a happy time until the war begins and they are interned in separate camps as citizens of a hostile power. Josef arrives at the internment camp Le Vernet , escapes, finds his wife again and escapes with her via detours to Marseille , where a large number of refugees are staying and where the happy acquaintance with a rich American gives the couple the option of a US visa .

But Josef Schwarz is picked up by the Gestapo in front of the US consulate in Marseille and tortured - first by a sadistic Gestapo officer, then also by Helen's brother Georg, who followed the trail of the two to Marseille. That same night, Schwarz managed to trick Georg into believing that he would lead him to Helen. On the subsequent car trip he kills Georg and flees with his car. The Gestapo officer's passport gives him a powerful identity that ultimately enables him to obtain Spanish and Portuguese visas with which Josef and Helen can leave France.

However, there is a shadow over the future of the two, because Helen has been terminally ill with cancer for a long time. The reader has suspected it for a long time and Schwarz found out a few days before fleeing France. The two reach Lisbon; there Black also receives the visas for himself and Helen, but the day before the planned departure for America the terminally ill takes poison and kills herself.

Desperate Black decides to join the Foreign Legion and fight the Germans. Through his life confession to a stranger, he hopes to keep the memory of his beloved Helen in the world, whose image is already beginning to melt away in his mind. Schwarz gives his listener the tickets and visas that were actually intended for him and Helen, who then succeeds in traveling to America.

The book shows in a depressing way how people without guilt have been pushed into hopeless situations in life, have adapted to these beyond recognition and how ultimately fate can end all hope. Ultimately, it also shows how Remarque was unable to break free of these issues even more than 20 years after his own emigration and how Nazi rule continued to exercise its terrible power on those victims who had escaped alive long after the end of the war.



  • Erich M. Remarque: The night of Lisbon . Kiepenheuer and Witsch, Cologne 1962; 2nd edition 1998, ISBN 3-462-02722-0 (= KiWi Volume 471).


  • Bea Schröttner: Lisbon. In: Dan Diner (Ed.): Encyclopedia of Jewish History and Culture (EJGK). Volume 3: He-Lu. Metzler, Stuttgart / Weimar 2012, ISBN 978-3-476-02503-6 , pp. 520-525.

Individual evidence

  1. The Night of Lisbon in the Internet Movie Database (English)
  2. Press page for the DVD edition at DVD-Verlag Studio Hamburg (with video clip) ( Memento of the original from March 15, 2016 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , accessed March 15, 2016 @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  3. Radio play based on the novel by Erich Maria Remarque - The night of Lisbon. Retrieved August 14, 2020 .