Inner emigration

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Inner emigration describes the attitude of artists , writers and scholars who stood in opposition to the Nazi regime during the Nazi era but did not emigrate from Germany (or from Austria after the Anschluss in 1938). The term is also often used in relation to artists in the period after 1945, but this extended use is controversial.


On May 18, 1945, the Bayerische Landeszeitung published the Nobel Prize winner's radio speech on May 8, 1945 under the title Thomas Mann on German Guilt . Walter von Molo , like Mann, a member of the Poetry Section of the Prussian Academy before 1933, asked him to return in his open letter , which was printed on August 8 in the Berliner Allgemeine Zeitung . In his answer, Die Innere Emigration , printed on August 18 in the Munich newspaper , Frank Thiess accused the exiled writer of having watched the "German tragedy" from far away in safety and luxury. On October 12th, Mann's article, Why I am not returning to Germany! Was finally published in the Augsburger Anzeiger ! , in which he described the entire German literature of the past twelve years as worthless.

The term was coined by Frank Thiess , who described the decision of personalities (especially artists and intellectuals or scientists) with Inner Emigration,

  • who were critical or negative about their attitude after National Socialism,
  • who have been professionally "sidelined" with professional bans or whose works have been declared to be " degenerate art " by official or party officials ,
  • but who were prevented from emigrating or fleeing (e.g. due to personal and family obligations) or who felt motivated to stay out of responsibility towards their fellow human beings and
  • who did not want to let themselves be captured by the National Socialists.

Some of them worked (occasionally or continuously) in resistance circles and countered Nazi propaganda by disseminating their works underground . For example, the Bauhaus artist Emil Bartoschek painted naturalistic pictures for the public, while he continued to practice abstract art for a small group.

In a certain way, “eloquent silence” was also a form of criticism of the Nazis, especially when many other personalities actively joined the National Socialists or actively praised and represented their positions (see Passive resistance , civil disobedience , resistance (politics) ).

After the end of National Socialism, the "inner" emigrants made pleadings to the "outer" ones ( Frank Thiess in the Munich newspaper of August 18, 1945). Thomas Mann was resented for not having returned to post-war Germany from exile in the USA. In his diary on September 20, 1945 he noted:

“The worry and fatigue from the German attacks continue. Call those who remained 'loyal' in Germany 'stove stools of misery'. "

Authors and artists of the inner emigration

The authors and visual artists of the Inner Emigration included u. a .:

Other authors like Gottfried Benn , Ernst Jünger , Walter von Molo or Frank Thiess liked to see themselves as representatives of internal emigration after the war; Their activities at the time, as well as their writings, cannot, however, be clearly assessed as oppositional or critical of the regime. For example, Thiess' Empire of Demons (1934) can be read as well as an apology for historical and social 'catastrophes', according to Ralf Schnell .

Internal emigration in the GDR

There were also writers , artists and personalities in the German Democratic Republic with bourgeois values ​​who stood in silent opposition to the SED state . They ostentatiously remained passive in political life. In the novel “ Der Turm ” the writer Uwe Tellkamp addresses the survival of educated citizens in the GDR through “inner emigration”.

In 2008 Carsten Heinze published a comparative research study; In it he dealt with the connection between autobiographical identity and history constructions in the contemporary historical context after the fall of the Berlin Wall against the background of German-German and German-Jewish dealing with the past .

He examined

  • how historical identities are formed in the context of German debates about the past through the argumentative integration and functionalization of history and
  • what cultural, social and political backgrounds they are based on.

To this end, he analyzes the autobiographical life constructions of Marcel Reich-Ranicki , Wolf Jobst Siedler , Helmut Eschwege and Fritz Klein as examples .

Other examples of "inner emigration" during GDR times:

  • Quote: “ During the GDR dictatorship, Herbert Wagner was largely in“ inner emigration ”. In the process of upheaval in 1989/1990 he seized the opportunity to first reshape and then abolish the state that was never “his”. Taking over the office of Lord Mayor of Dresden turned out to be a logical consequence of his previous commitment. "
  • Quote: "The trauma of the popular uprising , which was suppressed in 1953, had a lasting effect ... intellectuals who stayed in the country went into internal emigration, let themselves be leashed or were corrupted with privileges ."


  • Friedrich Denk : The censorship of the later born. On literature critical of the regime in the Third Reich. Denk-Verlag, Weilheim 1995, ISBN 3-9800207-6-2 .
  • Carsten Heinze: Identity and History in Autobiographical Constructions of Life. Jewish and non-Jewish dealing with the past in East and West Germany. VS, Wiesbaden 2009, ISBN 978-3-531-15841-9 .
  • Stefan Keppler: literary regionality and secret literary history. For example Hans Heinrich Ehrler - from the empire to inner emigration. In: Stuttgart work on German studies. No. 423. Heinz, Stuttgart 2004/2005, ISBN 3-88099-428-5 , pp. 375-391.
  • Frank-Lothar Kroll , Rüdiger von Voss (ed.): Writer and resistance. Facets and Problems of Inner Emigration . Wallstein Verlag, Göttingen 2012, ISBN 978-3-8353-1042-1 . ( Review on Deutschlandradio Kultur July 15, 2012)
  • Beate Marks-Hanßen: Inner emigration? "Ostracized" artists during the National Socialist era. im Internet, Berlin 2006, ISBN 3-86624-169-0 . (Zugl .: Univ. Diss. Trier 2003)
  • Josefine Preißler: The Topos "Inner Emigration" in Art History. For a new examination of artist biographies. In: Christian Fuhrmeister, Monika Hauser-Mair, Felix Steffan (eds.): Bequeathed, decayed, displaced - art and National Socialism: the collection of the Städtische Galerie Rosenheim in the time of National Socialism and in the post-war years. Michael Imhof Verlage, Petersberg 2017, pp. 47–54.
  • H. Rotermund, E. Rotermund: Intermediate realms and opposing worlds . Texts and preliminary studies on the “hidden spelling” in the “Third Reich”. Wilhelm Fink, Munich 1999, ISBN 3-7705-3387-9 . (Contents)
  • Ralf Schnell : Literary Inner Emigration. In: Poetry in dark times. German literature and fascism. Rororo, Hamburg 1998, pp. 120-160.
  • Nancy Thuleen: Criticism, Complaint, and Controversy: Thomas Mann and the Proponents of Inner Emigration. (on-line)
  • Gero von Wilpert : Subject dictionary of literature (= Kröner's pocket edition . Volume 231). 8th, improved and enlarged edition. Kröner, Stuttgart 2001, ISBN 3-520-23108-5 .

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. Horst Dieter Schlosser (Ed.): Dtv-Atlas for German literature. Boards and texts. Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, Munich 1994 (6th edition; first edition 1983), ISBN 3-423-03219-7 , p. 261.
  2. a b c d e f g h i j Ralf Schnell : History of German-language literature since 1945 . 2., revised. and exp. Stuttgart, Metzler, 2003. p. 68.
  3. a b c d e Wolfgang Beutin [u. a.]: German literary history. From the beginning to the present . 5th, revised. Aufl. Stuttgart, Metzler, 1994. p. 394.
  4. Helmuth Kiesel quoted from the review by Reinhard Mehring in: Historische Literatur. Volume 5, 2007, Issue 4, p. 234. PDF.
  5. Hans Sarkowicz , Alf Mentzer: Literature in Nazi Germany. A biographical lexicon. Extended new edition. Europa-Verlag, Hamburg / Vienna 2002, ISBN 3-203-82030-7 , pp. 252-255.
    Kasack used the expression “emigrants inside” as early as June 26, 1933 in his diary (cf. ibid., P. 253) and can thus be regarded as the original representative of internal emigration.
  6. Jutta Vinzent: Edlef Köppen - Writer between the Fronts: A literary historical contribution to Expressionism, New Objectivity and Inner Emigration, with edition, list of works and bequests. Iudicum Verlag, Munich 1997, ISBN 978-3891294642 .
  7. Jörg Thunecke: 'The Years of Doom': The inner émigré Oskar Loerke in his diaries and leftover poems. In: Marcin Gołaszewski, Magdalena Kardach, Leonore Krenzlin (eds.): Between Inner Emigration and Exile. German-speaking writers 1933–1945. De Gruyter, Berlin / Boston 2016, pp. 65–82.
  8. Horst Dieter Schlosser (Ed.): Dtv-Atlas for German literature. Boards and texts. Deutscher Taschenbuch Verlag, Munich 1994 (6th edition; first edition 1983), ISBN 3-423-03219-7 , p. 260 f.
  9. ^ Peaceful revolution and German unity: Saxon civil rights activists take stock. Links, Berlin 2006, ISBN 3-86153-379-0 .
  10. Eckart Conze et al. (Ed.): The democratic revolution 1989 in the GDR. Böhlau, 2009.