Inner and Territorial Exile in Nazi Germany and Francoist Spain: A Comparative Study

This three-year project funded by The Leverhulme Trust is investigating literary exile under dictatorship in twentieth-century Germany and Spain.

It seeks to redefine the problematic notion of “inner exile”, to chart its relationship with “outer” or territorial exile, and to explore synergies and commonalities between the two phenomena in the German and Spanish settings. 

Alongside a focus on terminology, self-identity, literary tropes and images, and the uses of history, the pioneering study will exploit archival sources to make little-known works available in English translation and will open up the field for wider interdisciplinary research.

Detailed project description

Political and literary exile from tyranny has a long history, from the Jews’ Babylonian exile to the contemporary Syrian refugee crisis. The cases of German writers under National Socialism and Spanish writers under the Franco regime offer a significant contrastive case study of the phenomenon of inner and territorial or outer exile.

In both contexts, inner exiles were initially accorded greater status and for several years continued to dominate the respective literary canon, while exiled writers tended to be denigrated and undervalued. There followed, again in both cases, a growing recognition of the real hardship and achievements of exile and concomitant criticism of the inner exile position. In both Germany and Spain post-hoc critical debates have perpetuated the original fissure between inner and territorial exile communities and have led to a failure to explore the shared cultural rootedness of the respective exilic discourse.

The project addresses this failure by:

  • pursuing an integrationist model of exile to help understand the significance of the German and Spanish fissures and their implications
  • exploring the prevalent historical, mythical, and Christian motifs that characterize literary production across the inner/ outer exile divide in both countries
  • extending enquiry into the role of subversive discourses in literature and the visual arts in Catalan-speaking territories under Franco
  • exploiting German and Spanish archival sources to make little-known works available in English translation
  • broadening the scope and reach of the project through a PhD study
  • opening up the field for wider, interdisciplinary exploration of discourses of displacement and the role of culture under authoritarian regimes.

Project team

Research Fellows

PhD Student

  • Ms Zoe McCullach


  • A monograph on the use of tropes and historical themes in literary responses to dictatorship
  • An annotated critical reader of translated texts from Germany under National Socialism and Spain under Franco
  • An edited volume on conceptualization and reception of exilic writing and art
  • One PhD dissertation
  • Articles in academic journals

Links to materials

  • Stefan Andres, Die Sintflut (Göttingen: Wallstein, 2007). Using archival sources, this 900-page edition, reconstructed from the author’s own unpublished abridgement of his original trilogy written under National Socialism, presents an archetypal inner exile allegory of National Socialism set against the biblical myth of the Flood. The edition contains an extensive essay on the work’s  genesis and significance.

  • ‘Disputed non-conformist and ‘Zwischenreichautor’: A re-assessment of Ernst Wiechert’s life and work in Nazi Germany’, Oxford German Studies 39 (2010), 3, 250–70. This article shows how inner exile Wiechert embraced an apolitical conservatism shaped by ethics and Christian morality which led to him being viewed with increasing suspicion by the authorities. Key camouflaged works from the 1930s posited a ‘counter world’ to Nazism and offered a substantial readership a private oppositional space.

  • Categories of the Non-Conformist: The Historical Fiction of Inner Emigration’, German Life and Letters 67 (2014), 2, 158–81. This article offers a categorisation and interpretative framework for non-conformist historical works written during the Third Reich, showing how a range of texts by inner exiles offered a counterbalance to the prevailing ideology.

  • Nonconformist Writing in Nazi Germany: The Literature of Inner Emigration (New York: Camden House, 2015). An extensive study of the literature of inner exile in Nazi Germany and Austria. It combines biographical studies of selected authors with detailed analyses of eight key works and locates these within the continuing debates on the possibility of inner exile, showing how writers negotiated ambiguous positions under National Socialism.

  • Exile Remains Database (Centre for the Study of Hispanic Exile, University of Birmingham). This database contains entries on Spanish Republican Exiles and their works, and can be searched in a number of ways, either using the navigation menu at the top of the page or the search field, by person, date, location, work or keyword. The search data can be viewed as text and/or interactive maps and timelines.


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