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Lion Feuchtwanger, "Thou shalt dwell in houses thou hast not builded" (March 20, 1935)

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I would like to know what is going on with the buzz saw in the Grunewald forestry. Its noise has sometimes spoiled my enjoyment of the house, and it was only with great effort that I managed to achieve the removal of this nuisance. These days of course, noise will hardly be considered a disturbance in Berlin. However, it would be nice of you if you didn’t simply give up my hard won victory.

And what have you done with my terrarium which stood at one of the windows of my study? Did they actually kill my turtles and my lizards because their owner was of an “alien race”? And were the flower beds and the rock garden much damaged when the SA-men, shooting as they ran, pursued my sorely beaten concierge across the garden while he fled into the woods?

Doesn’t it sometimes seem odd to you that you should be living in my house? Your “Führer” is not generally considered a friend of Jewish literature. Isn’t it, therefore, astounding that he should have such a strong predilection for the Old Testament? I myself have heard him quote with much fervor, ‘An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth’ (by which he may have meant ‘A confiscation of property for literary criticism’). And now, through you, he has fulfilled a prophecy of the Old Testament – the saying, ‘Thou shalt dwell in houses thou hast not builded.’

Don’t let my house get into a mess, Mr. X. Building and furnishing it has taken Mrs. Feuchtwanger and myself a lot of effort. Running and maintaining it won’t take a lot of effort. Please take care of it a little. I’m also saying this in your own interest. Your “Führer” has promised that his rule will last a thousand years: thus I’m assuming that you will soon be in the position of negotiating the houses’ return with me.

With many good wishes for our house,

Lion Feuchtwanger

P.S. By the way, do you agree that my statement that your “Führer” writes bad German is disproved by the fact that you are sitting in my house?

Source of original German text: Lion Feuchtwanger, “Du sollst in Häusern wohnen, die du nicht gebaut hast” [“Thou shalt dwell in houses thou hast not builded”], Pariser Tageblatt 463, March 20, 1935.

Partial English translation available in: A Treasury of the World’s Great Letters, edited by M. Lincoln Schuster. London and Toronto, 1941, pp. 455-57. Additional translation by Insa Kummer.

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