Excellence in Scholarship and Learning


Otto Abetz and His Paris Acolytes

French Writers Who Flirted with Fascism, 1930–1945

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.

Hardback ISBN: 978-1-84519-784-1
Hardback Price: £65.00 / $79.95
Release Date: June 2016
Paperback ISBN: 978-1-84519-799-5
Paperback Price: £27.50 / $42.95
Release Date: December 2016
Page Extent / Format: 360 pp. / 234 x 156 mm
Illustrated: Yes


  1. Black Forest Camp Fires: Otto Abetz and the Sohlberg Circle  
  2. France’s ‘Realistic New Generation’: Jean Luchaire and His Notre Temps  
  3. From the Rhine to the Spree: Abetz Slides into the Nazi Morass  
  4. Count Fernand de Brinon: A French Journalist Becomes a Premier’s Confidante  
  5. ‘With Words of Peace, He Prepares for War’: Brinon Interviews Hitler  
  6. Abetz Exploits French Veterans, and Prepares to Ensnare Jules Romains  
  7. ‘Let’s Not be Beastly to the Boche’: Jules Romains’ Mission to Berlin  
  8. Romains Turns Against Hitler – and Clashes with PEN  
  9. The ‘Brown Network’: Abetz Launches a Charm Offensive  
  10. ‘The Berchtesgaden Project’: Jouvenel Interviews the Führer  
  11. Was Jouvenel a Fascist?: The Sternhell Controversy  
  12. Sabotaging Hitler? Abetz Faces an SS Inquisition  
  13. From Reconciliation to Appeasement: Luchaire’s Notre Temps Moves Right  
  14. Culture and Cuisine: A Congress in Baden-Baden  
  15. A ‘Notorious Hitlerophile’: Brinon Tries to Save the Peace  
  16. Die for Danzig?’: Yes, Says Henri de Kérillis  
  17. ‘Safeguarding’ Works of Art: ‘Ambassador’ Abetz Returns to Paris  
  18. A French ‘Ambassador’ in Paris: Brinon Becomes Abetz’s Go-Between  
  19. Pétain’s ‘Faithful Interpreter’: Brinon’s War Years in Paris  
  20. ‘La littérature française, c’est moi’: Abetz Targets Gaston Gallimard’s Review  
  21. Financial Scandals, February Riots: How Drieu Becomes a Fashionable Fascist  
  22. A New Editor for the NRF: Drieu Takes over from Jean Paulhan  
  23. Goethe to Goebbels: Drieu’s Pilgrimage to Weimar and Berlin  
  24.  Washington or Berlin? Laval and Brinon Diverge 
  25.  ‘We Have Chosen Our Camp’: Brinon Joins the Die-Hards  
  26. Drieu’s ‘Nouvelle Revue Allemande’: An ‘Unsavoury Fish Platter’  
  27. Jean ‘Louche Herr’: Press Führer of Paris  
  28. The Schloss that became a Château: The Flight to Sigmaringen on the Danube  
  29. On The Run: the Capture and Trial of Brinon, Luchaire and Abetz 
  30. Aftermath: Gallimard Faces the Post-War Purgers  

While Francophile German Otto Abetz sought peace and a united Europe before Hitler’s rise to power, he later managed to become Hitler’s ambassador in Paris. Mauthner uses Abetz as his anchor for this book which follows his previous German Writers in French Exile 1933-1940. He concentrates on the five writers Abetz manipulated before and during the war to promote the Nazi point of view (two of whom along with Abetz fled France for Germany in 1944). Mauthner’s interest in the writers resides more in their political service than literary merits, not least when it suited both Paris and Berlin to bypass their own diplomats and rely on journalists as intermediaries. He aims to learn why writers with Jewish family connections would support the Nazi cause, and asks the question: Should writer’s lives be considered when appraising their work?

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