Edgar Feuchtwanger, 88, realizes that it seems weird to discuss the murderer of millions as nothing more than his next door neighbor, but that’s how he remembers him.
“It all sounds so cozy when I talk about how I lived in the same road as Hitler, like it was not a big deal,” he told the BBC. “But it’s so difficult to think that people you saw almost on a daily basis were responsible for turning the world upside down.”
He was only five years old when the fuehrer to be moved into his neighborhood. Feuchtwanger remembers his mother complaining that “we haven’t got much milk today, because the milkman has left so many bottles” at the Hitler Munich residence.
Feuchtwanger who lives today in Aveyron, France, has co-authored a book describing his childhood brushes with the dictator, with French journalist Bertil Scali, “Hitler, Mon Voisin, Souvenirs d’un Enfant Juif” – “My Neighbor Hitler: Memories of a Jewish Child.” The 320-page book is due out in French bookstores on Jan. 10, from Michel Lafon Publishing.
The book’s jumping off point is the fact that Feuchtwanger and his family lived across the street from Prinzregentenplatz 16, Hitler’s main residence in Munich from 1929 to 1933.
Later, as government sanctioned anti-Semitism made life increasingly dangerous, the family fled to England in 1939, after Edgar’s father, Ludwig Feuchtwanger, was released from the Dachau concentration camp.
According to the Jewish Virtual Library, more than 10,000 Jewish men had been interned there for several weeks or months after the Kristallnacht pogrom of November 9-10, 1938. Edgar’s uncle, the playwright Lion Feuchtwanger, had fled the country earlier.
“Hitler would come to Munich at weekends. You could tell he was at home because of the cars parked outside,” Feuchtwanger says. Hitler’s arrival was accompanied by the screeching of tires of a three-car motorcade carrying him and his bodyguards.
The sound of jackboots clattering on the pavement would fill the air. Passers-by would stop to cheer him. Young Edgar would also stop and stare.
Before his family left Germany, young Edgar Feuchtwanger had many opportunities to pass the Munich home of Hitler. He told the BBC that, as an 8-year-old on a walk with his governess, he saw Hitler come out onto the street from the Prinzregentenplatz apartment.
“He looked straight at me, I don’t think he smiled,” Feuchtwanger said.
“The whole Nazi stuff was being inculcated into us at school,” he told the BBC. A teacher made the students draw a large swastika in pencil on the first page of their exercise books. On another page they wrote a list of Germany’s enemies – Britain, Russia and the US.
According to the La Depeche online magazine, journalist Scali interviewed Feuchtwanger for an article in 1995. They stayed in contact over the years, and Scali eventually convinced Feuchtwanger to write the book. Scali said that his own father’s family survived the war hidden by righteous gentiles in Graulhet, in southern France.
Hitler’s former apartment is now a police station, and the Feuchtwangers’ former apartment houses a law firm today, the report noted.
JTA contributed to this report.