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  You are in: Home > History > Otto Abetz and His Paris Acolytes  

Otto Abetz and His Paris Acolytes
French Writers Who Flirted with Fascism, 1930–1945

Martin Mauthner

After graduating from Wadham College, Oxford, Martin Mauthner assisted Randolph Churchill with his biography of Anthony Eden and the first volume of Randolph’s life of Sir Winston. Martin’s later career was as a senior information official of the European Union. His work involved public speaking, radio and television interviews, and organising exhibitions. The late Sir Martin Gilbert said of Martin’s German Writers in French Exile, 1933–1940 (2007), ‘He uncovers a lost era in European literary history, and brings it powerfully to life; a magnificent depiction of remarkable individuals, their tribulations and their creativity.’


Before Hitler comes to power Otto Abetz is a left-wing Francophile teacher in provincial Germany, mobilising young French and German idealists to work together for peace through Franco-German reconciliation and a united Europe. Abetz marries a French girl but after 1933 succumbs to the Nazi sirens. Ribbentrop recruits him as his expert on France, tasking him with soothing the nervous French, as Hitler turns Germany into a war machine. Abetz builds up a network of opinion-moulding French men and women who admire the Nazis and detest the Bolsheviks, and encourages them to use their pens to highlight Hitler’s triumphs.

In 1939 France expels Abetz as a Nazi agent. The following year he returns in triumph with the German army as Hitler appoints him as his ambassador in Paris. During the war Abetz (apart from ‘securing’ works of art and playing a role in the deportation of Jews) manoeuvres three of his French publicist friends – Jean Luchaire, Fernand de Brinon, Drieu la Rochelle – into key positions, from where they can laud Nazi achievements and denigrate the Resistance. A prime question the author addresses is why these writers, and two others, Jules Romains and Bertrand de Jouvenel – all of whom had close Jewish family connections – supported the Nazi ideology.

At the war’s end Drieu commits suicide, while Luchaire and Brinon are tried and executed as traitors. Abetz, charged with war crimes, pleads that he has saved France from being ‘Polonised’, but a French court finds him guilty and he is imprisoned. Released early, he dies in a mysterious car crash – a saboteur being suspected of having tampered with the steering.

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Publication Details

Hardback ISBN:
Paperback ISBN:
Page Extent / Format:
360 pp. / 234 x 156 mm
Release Date:
Hardback, June 2016: Paperback, December 2016
  Illustrated:   Yes
Hardback Price:
£65.00 / $79.95
Paperback Price:
£27.50 / $42.95

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