“Heike Specht has dedicated a book to the extraordinary women of the Feuchtwanger family. From Orthodox Jewish working moms, medical pioneers, to fearless escape helpers,” writes the Süddeutsche Zeitung.

“The men of the Feuchtwanger family? Who else would come to mind other than Lion, the author of such significant novels as ‘Success,’ ‘Exile,’ or ‘Jew Suss’? (…) The remarkable thing is precisely that women from the Feuchtwanger clan have left even more distinct traces than the men, aside from Lion. Foremost among them is his wife, Marta, alongside Alma Mahler-Werfel and Katia Mann, one of the Grandes Dames of ‘New Weimar,’ the German-speaking exile colony in Pacific Palisades on the outskirts of Los Angeles – who repeatedly saved her husband’s life, was his first proofreader, set up villas for him, and outlived him by nearly 30 years.

There is ‘the gynecologist and Zionist Rahel Straus, who in 1900 became the first woman to study medicine at the University of Heidelberg, earned her doctorate, and married into the Munich Feuchtwanger family. And Felice Schragenheim, who became famous through Erica Fischer’s book ‘Aimee & Jaguar’ and Maria Schrader’s portrayal in the film of the same name. She, Lion’s niece from Berlin, was one of those members of the Feuchtwanger family who could not flee to America or then Palestine like Marta or Rahel, but perished in the Shoah.’

In her book, Heike Specht goes even further back to the ‘ancestral women of the Feuchtwanger dynasty.’ There is, for example, Fanny, who toiled alongside her husband Seligmann in the office, ‘a working mom with double, indeed multiple burdens. Fanny, who is now considered the true matriarch of the family, gave birth to 18 children.’ Or Rahel Straus, who fought hard for her medical studies and later raised five children alongside her demanding practice. Nevertheless, according to Specht, she ‘already led a modern marriage, which was more than just a reproductive community.’

There is ‘the athletic, clever Marta, who (…) maintained an open marriage with her Lion, although he probably defined ‘open’ far more generously than she did. Or Felice Schragenheim, who loved a woman, who passionately kisses her lover Lilly Wust in a photo in the book. A final snapshot, as she returned from this bathing trip, she was awaited by the Gestapo.’

‘The Women of the Feuchtwanger Family’: Dr. Heike Specht in conversation with Amelie Fried, Wednesday, June 26, 7 p.m., Munich Literature House.