An eerie journey into a bold cosmopolitan publishing venture in defiance of the censorship rampant in Nazi Germany.
How did this English-language publishing house—established in Germany before the war and eventually moved to Paris—survive under Nazi surveillance from the early 1930s through the late 1940s? In an impressively thorough piece of research, Troy (English/Univ. of Hartford; co-editor: May Sinclair: Moving Towards the Modern, 2006) unearths the story of the Albatross Press, a rival to the long-running Leipzig house Tauchnitz, which had been publishing inexpensive paperbacks in English throughout continental Europe since 1841. A disgruntled, recently fired Tauchnitz editor, Max Christian Wegner, a wily, versatile German World War I vet, channeled his ambition into the new enterprise with another brilliant polyglot, John Holroyd-Reece, and Hamburg Jewish publishing scion Kurt Enoch to bring out modern Anglo-American writers (James Joyce, John Steinbeck, D.H. Lawrence, E.M. Forster, and others) in a distinctive, framed format. The press was a hit, so much so that the Nazis, recently come to power by 1933, allowed the press to slip through “the level of scrutiny and penalty that hailed down on other German publishers” for frankly economic reasons—the regime was frantic for foreign currency. The strange protection the press garnered allowed it to swallow its rival Tauchnitz, until the Nazi Aryanization policy forced Enoch to flee Germany and occupation spurred Holroyd-Reece to run Albatross from London. The Paris arm was transformed into Deutsche Tauchnitz, specializing in “modern German novels” approved by the Nazi censors. The war also allowed Albatross-Tauchnitz’s rivals to poach other publishers, including Allen Lane’s Penguin Books in London (which had hired none other than Enoch). Largely from tracing correspondence, Troy follows the trajectory of the press and its operators, maintaining that Albatross “became one of the last voices for Anglo-American culture in Nazi-occupied Europe.”
Wonderfully engaging history for bibliophiles.