Berlin: Edgar Feuchtwanger, the son of a prominent German Jewish family with roots in Bavaria going back centuries, vividly remembers nearly bumping into his neighbour Adolf Hitler as a boy.
It was 1933 and Hitler, who had just become German chancellor, kept a sprawling flat on Munich’s elegant Prinzregen-tenplatz next door to Mr Feuchtwanger’s family home. Eight years old at the time, he had been taken by his nanny for a walk when they nearly collided with the country’s most powerful man.
“It so happened that just at the moment when we were in front of his door, he came out. He was in a nearly white mackintosh,” Mr Feuchtwanger said.
“We were in his way. He looked at me and there were a few casual bystanders in the street it was about half past eight in the morning and they of course shouted ‘Heil Hitler!’. He just lifted his hat a little bit, as any democratic politician would do he didn’t give the (straight-armed Nazi) salute and then he got into his car.”
Mr Feuchtwanger, who said several Jewish families lived in the neighbourhood, made eye contact with Hitler, who looked at him “quite pleasantly”.
“I have to emphasise that if he had known who I was, I wouldn’t be here,” he said. “Just my name would have been like a red rag to him.”
He was referring to the fact that he was a Jew, but also to his famous uncle, Lion Feuchtwanger, one of the most popular German authors of the early 20th century. He penned a scathing 1930 satire of the Nazi leader called Success, which for a time ran neck-and-neck with Hitler’s Mein Kampf”.
Mr Feuchtwanger is about to go on a tour for a book of his own, “When Hitler Was Our Neighbour”, starting, of course, in Munich.