On the occasion of the 90th anniversary of the Nazi book burnings, a presentation at Hauser & Wirth Publishers bookstore in Zurich looks at how Emil and Emmie Oprecht used publishing as a tool to inform the public about fascism and provide a counter-narrative to Hitler’s and Mussolini’s ideas about culture.
In 1925, at the center of Zurich’s cultural quarter, the Oprechts founded a publishing house and bookshop at Rämistrasse 5, the current location of Hauser & Wirth Publishers. In 1933 they established Europa Verlag at the same address. Emil and Emmie Oprecht were among the most important supporters of writers who were opposed to the Nazi regime. The business premises on Rämistrasse and the Oprechts’ home on Hirschengraben nearby were a port of call for many emigrants and artists who had been forced into exile. In the 1930s, the Oprechts published works by over 100 emigré authors in the Dr. Oprecht and Europa publishing houses, providing a platform for important thinkers, philosophers and poets such as Ernst Bloch, Max Herrmann-Neisse, Thomas Mann, Else Lasker-Schüler and Ignazio Silone.
With the ‘bücher 1933’ exhibition, the bookshop on Rämistrasse becomes a space to think back on the effects of the Nazi seizure of power, the authors and works blacklisted by the regime and the publishing activities undertaken by the Oprechts as a response to the challenges of their time. The exhibition presents a curated selection of works by Annette Kelm, historical photographs and publications from the Dr. Oprecht and Europa publishing houses.
Photographs from the wide-ranging series ‘Die Bücher’ (2021) by German artist Annette Kelm portray the covers of books that were blacklisted by the Nazi regime in Germany. For this exhibition, the artist selected works that are linked to Oprecht, among them a photograph of ‘Dachau: Eine Chronik’ by Julius Zerfass – one of the first reports from inside a concentration camp – which the German journalist published with Europa Verlag under the pseudonym Walter Hornung.
Alongside Kelm’s photographs, numerous books and magazines published by the Oprechts will be on view, among them the magazine ‘information’; Walther Rode’s 1934 takedown of Hitler, ‘Deutschland ist Caliban’; Else Lasker-Schüler’s poetic narrative ‘Das Hebräerland’ (1937), written after her second trip to Palestine; Ignazio Silone’s important anti-fascist novel ‘Fontamara’ (1933) and Max Herrmann-Neisse’s book of poems ‘Um uns die Fremde: Gedichte’ (1936).
In texts accompanying the exhibition, historian Ute Kröger explains the significance of the works on view as well as the context of their creation and the experiences of their emigré authors. Kröger, an expert authority on German-language ‘Exilliteratur’, is well-known for her research and publications including her books on Erika Mann, Else Lasker-Schüler (‘Viele sind sehr sehr gut zu mir: Else Lasker-Schüler in Zürich, 1917–1939’), and the Schauspielhaus Zürich (‘In welchen Zeiten leben wir! Das Schauspielhaus Zürich 1938-1998’).
Alongside the presentation of books banned and burned by the Nazi regime, there is a reading corner with a selection of titles from Lars Müller Publishers, Scheidegger & Spiess/Park Books, and Limmat Verlag. Titles on the period in question, with a special focus on artistic and literary avant-gardes, have been chosen in consultation with the publishers and highlight the book as an important medium of remembrance and a bulwark against forgetting.
Further events taking place in Zurich in connection with the 90th anniversary of the Nazi book burnings include the exhibitions ‘Satanische Verse & Verbotene Bücher’ at Museum Strauhof (2 March to 21 May 2023) and ‘Frisch und Fein: Exil Zürich 1933’ at Stiftung Litar (15 April to 10 June 2023). The Literaturhaus Zürich is also planning a number of readings and an exhibition of documents from the Museumgesellschaft’s archive.
In May, the eighth issue of ‘Ursula’ magazine will feature an interview with Zurich book collector Martin Dreyfus on his collection of emigré literature.
Please join us for the opening of ‘bücher 1933’ in Zurich. This event is free to attend and open to the public.
Sat 15 Apr 2023, 4 – 6 pm
Hauser & Wirth Publishers
Image: Cover of the 1933 catalog of the Dr. Oprecht und Helbling bookstore, Zurich. Design by Max Bill
@ 2023, ProLitteris, Zurich