Fembio Special: Women from Vienna
(Pseudonym for Hertha Strauch, née Deutsch)
born on June 24, 1897 in St. Avold/Lorraine
died November 7, 1980 in Vienna
125th birthday on June 24, 2022
Adrienne Thomas's first book, the anti-war novel Katrin Becomes a Soldier (1930), was shaped by her own experiences and made her world famous overnight – 100,000 copies were sold within a year, and the novel is said to have been translated into 16 languages.
Katrin, who volunteers with the Red Cross in Metz during the First World War, becomes a convinced pacifist like Thomas herself. But during the National Socialist “wave of brown plague” the author evolved into a militant opponent of the regime. Her experiences of emigration and flight from the women's camp Gurs in the Pyrenees via Spain and Portugal to the USA form the basis for the exciting novel Reisen Sie ab, Mademoiselle! (1944).
Strauch grew up bilingual in a Jewish family in what was then German Lorraine. During the First World War, she worked as a nurse for the Red Cross. In 1919, she moved with her family to Berlin, trained as a singer and actor – and married. It was only after her husband's death that she began to write. In 1932 she moved to Switzerland, in 1934 to Paris and from there to Vienna.
Adrienne Thomas was one of the first writers to be classified as “undesirable” by the Nazis. When Austria was occupied, she responded to the dangerous situation by observing things and writing them down. “I no longer had a home. Home was now only at some desk.” When she was discovered by the Nazis, she fled to France. In 1940, she was interned at the Gurs women's camp in southern France, but managed to escape and embark for New York. Here Thomas worked as a journalist and finished writing her exile novel. In 1941 she married the socialist politician Julius Deutsch, whom she followed back to Vienna in 1947. In her books – six novels, four children's books and essays – as in her life, Adrienne Thomas showed courage and optimism, especially in times of crisis: “I liked to be everywhere. I made the best of it, didn't let it get me down.”
Text from 1997, translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version), edited by Almut Nitzsche and Joey Horsley, June 2022
Author: Joey Horsley
I was afraid; nevertheless at night I sat at some table or other and wrote. One could not remain silent. One had to show who they were here. All the moral, all the human forces of the world had to unite against the anti-human. Every voice, even the smallest, had to join in the call to the great assembly: “Yes!”
(from “No and Yes,” the preface to Depart, Mademoiselle! of 1944).
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