Navigation – Plan du site
Exile and Expatriation

Hirschman’s Choice: Exiles and Obligations of an anti-Fascist

Jeremy Adelman


Basé sur des éléments biographiques de la vie d’Albert O. Hirschman, en particulier les années de son engagement politique précédant sa carrière intellectuelle, cet essai explore la « micro-histoire » des choix qu’il fit : rester et combattre ou se retirer et fuir. L’essai étudie aussi la pensée de Hirschman sur l’action, c’est-à-dire le choix entre exercer le droit à la parole, la loyauté, ou se taire, alternatives explorées dans son ouvrage influent Exit, Voice and Loyalty. L’étude analyse enfin les relations infiniment compliquées entre expérience personnelle et réflexion théorique.

Haut de page

Texte intégral

  • 2 Scammell’s impressive biography curiously accents Koestler’s skepticism—not a word one first associ (...)

1Life histories, like lives, are made of disruptions and breaks. In the biographical genre, the most common are those associated with growing up—leaving childhood behind, adult disenchantments, losses and new attachments, and the biggest of all, death. Breaks are such stock that we barely notice them; they are what connect the fragments of a life together in the making of a subject. And yet, the centrality of disruptions is often the source of narrative uncertainty, not to mention downright conflict. What does a biography make of conflicting motives, roads not taken, or ambivalent choices? This tension lies at the heart of any understanding of beleaguered people’s decisions to stay home or leave for exile—especially while others remained. One who explored this was Arthur Koestler, whose third novel plumbed the agonizing choices of a young socialist and militant anti-fascist, Peter Slavek, pinned down in Lisbon in 1941. Should he leave for the New World and join the swelling ranks of European exiles? Or should he return and join the fight? As he goes through a psychoanalytic experience, Peter is forced to grapple with conflicting urges buried under the rubble of a repressive childhood and fascist torture. The novel is less known for its literary features than its effort to uncover the messiness that governed exile in a historic moment of heightened loyalty to a cause. Koestler knew the problem well. He was, after all, an itinerant loyalist—Communist, Zionist, and eventually die-hard anti-Communist. Zeal was not exactly missing from his life story. But Koestler’s novel suggests, and a recent biography of him reinforces the impression, that there was rather more going on beneath the surface of the final decision to flee or fight (Koestler; Scammell).2

  • 3 For an example see Lee, Virginia Wolf.

2In the rush to complete the arc and give unity to a life, biographers are often tempted to paper over the cracks of their narrative, cracks that pose basic questions about what we don’t know, what doesn’t make sense, and the fuzzy arithmetic that entered the calculus to leave. In effect, biographers are vulnerable to their subject’s post hoc explanations or their own personal preference for heroic (or demonic) narratives that mask the equivocal and the conflictual.3 Peter Slavek’s choice dealt with guilt, conviction, lust, an amalgam of feelings ranging from self-sacrifice to self-indulgence. What enhances the drama is the contrast between the urge to fulfill personal emotional longings and the commitment to a heroic public mission, one which staked its moral authority on universal, selfless appeals of an abstract utopia. What to make of real stories of conflicting motives and confusions at a time when the stakes and uncertainties were so high—committed anti-fascists torn over where to turn as the frontier of despotism spread?

3Rather than dwell on the methodological questions about sources, myths, and limits of life history, this essay seeks to illuminate some intrinsic ambiguities about exile by looking at one case, the experience of Albert O. Hirschman from the time he left Berlin in April, 1933 to his flight from Lisbon in the final days of 1940. Hirschman was not only serially displaced—from Germany, Spain, Italy, and France (and eventually hounded by McCarthyite purgings of the American civil service)—within two decades. All his decisions about flight were simultaneously choices about the fight; at so many junctures, Hirschman had to decide whether to stay or go, or as he would say in a formulation he made many years later, exercise “voice” or opt for “exit.” Hirschman is therefore of interest not just because exile was a recurring feature of the first half of his life, but because he offers us an analytical vocabulary for coming to terms with the experience and the choices that underlie it. Taking a life-story approach, this essay traces the mind’s eye view of a moment in European history that asked untold numbers of people to resolve their obligations to themselves with commitments to others; it helps us resist ready-made answers or evasions in assessing personal moral judgments in times of distress.

4Edward Said’s reflections on exile offer one influential portrait of the exilic experience. Influential and yet not altogether unsurprising. For the Palestinian scholar, exile represents an unbearable “rift” between a human being and a native place, between the self and its true home, ushering a sadness that can never be surmounted. Behind all the heroism, romance, and romantic poetics of the exile—perhaps none more evocative than in E.H. Carr’s rendering of Alexander Herzen and his banished Russians in The Romantic Exiles—it is the fundamental estrangement that Said wants to draw attention to. At heart, the exile’s condition is living in a discontinuous and forever unresolvable state of being; the exile severed from home, roots, a past, is forced to reassemble “broken lives, usually by choosing to see themselves as part of a triumphant ideology or as a restored people.” So, for Said, there is an “indissoluble” tie to the exile’s alternative nationalism, Russian, Zionist, Palestinian. This “essential association” arises because nationalism asserts a belonging to place, people, language, and heritage. His was a sorrow fixated on a place called home defined in the vocabulary of territory and nation. It is perhaps for this reason that Said’s understanding of exile rings familiar where the political community and the loyalties one draws from membership is drawn from an age of nations (Said, 2000).

5But was this the only way to see the exilic condition? While one can appreciate Said’s melancholy and yearning for home, spun as it was from the yarn of Simone Weil’s The Need for Roots (1952), the affiliation of exile with alternative nationalism, the “essential association,” is worth questioning. So too is the vision of exile as an irremediable break. For Hirschman, displacement never led him to yearn for an alternative patrie to replace the one he had lost, or to return to the land from which he had been expelled. Nor did the displacement shatter his sense of belonging to place altogether; in some respects each severance was as much an arrival to a new place, offering a new potential bond, as much as it was a departure from a sense of identification with place.

6This suggests other ways of thinking about obligations. What this paper suggests is that departures, more specifically the decisions to depart, decisions that yield to exile, are caught up with other options in life, including options to stay. Exploring this raises some basic questions about just how much nationalism condensed the spectrum of possibilities, how there were more alternatives than leaving home and reducing the cause to a national one or the healing of a rift between self and home. The story of Albert Hirschman’s choices between the time he was seventeen and fled Berlin in April, 1933, and December 1940, when he left Marseilles for the United States reveal a more complex story of forced separations and yearnings for home. In between was, among other things, the decision to join the French army and fight invading German soldiers, as a German against Germans divided not by country, faith, or language, but over a principle of democracy and love of something more general, like humanity. Hirschman, in this sense, exemplified the limits of exilic patriotism to resemble something more akin to what we might now call cosmopolitanism. As Martha Nussbaum has reminded us, “becoming a citizen of the world is often a lonely business,” as the exile becomes free from the comforts of local truths and “the warm, nestling feeling of patriotism, from the absorbing drama of pride in oneself and one’s own.” The consolation was to see, in the image of the Stoic philosopher Hierocles, one’s local affiliations as surrounded by concentric circles, from the rings around one’s self to those girdling humanity itself, from whose membership Hirschman never felt shorn (Nussbaum, 1996, 6-9).

7Once we concede that exile was not a simple—if traumatic—break, we are asked to pay attention to the ways in which the threat or option of uprooting coexisted with other responses to crisis. Just as there were lots of kinds of membership, there were lots of kinds of obligations, to oneself, to one’s country, or to even more remote affiliations, like human dignity or socialism whose commitments might trump the claims of one’s leaders and yield to an obligation to disobey, exercise voice and fight. As Hirschman himself would note decades later about this complex algebra of politics, it is often the very same people who fought (as a form of voice) who would be those who had to flee (a political form of exit). This essay suggests we add “voice” to the Saidian precepts of loyalty and exit, using Hirschman’s own coinages to illuminate his own life as an alternative way of formulating the relationships between personal choices and political obligations that fixates less on the centrality of the nation and the sorrow that accompanies a break with it.

8To lend coherence to what is both complex and riddled with missing pieces of evidence and gaps in the paper trail, it helps to focus on a few specific choices. Berlin was the stage for the making of Hirschman’s first exile—and reveals how it was embedded in a number of responses to the crisis of the Weimar Republic.

  • 4 Interview by H.J. Hempel with Albert O. Hirschman (hereafter Hempel Interview), Princeton 1984, in (...)

9Hirschman was the son of well-to-do assimilated Jewish parents, raised in Berlin’s Tiergarten neighborhood and schooled at the German capital’s Collège Français. Perhaps it was the Jewish background, perhaps it was the French education that unmoored him early from attachments from home. But the fact was, his father was a fervent German patriot and Hirschman learned (and learned to love) his Goethe by heart as a boy—and would recite it to his daughters many years later—suggesting that to uproot him at youth means telling the tale from the endpoint to the start, history backwards. What is more, as the Weimar Republic began to crumble in the depths of the Great Depression, Hirschman’s loyalty to the secular, tolerant norms to which the constitution was dedicated did not drive him out of the fold, but drew him in. He joined a circle of young Social Democrats (Workers Socialist Youth, Sozialistische Arbeiterjugend or SAJ) disenchanted with the parliamentary leadership of the Party and increasingly vocal about its misguided faith in Chancellor Brüning and fear about the threats from the extremes. “Speaking politics” in small gatherings or mass rallies, as Hirschman later recalled, it was concerned about the fascist menace on one hand and the relationship between the Republic and socialism on the other.4

  • 5 Interview with Carmine Donzelli, Marta Petrusewicz and Claudia Rusconi in Hirschman, 1998, 51.

10It was socialism that captured his intellectual imagination; he was spellbound by charismatic figures like the Austro-Marxist Otto Bauer, who delivered a memorable lecture about the “long cycles” of capitalism at the Sportpalast, or the youth leader Erich Schmidt. And it was the SAJ that channeled his political energies. Hirschman plunged into militancy as the political situation deteriorated. Rallies, assemblies, marches, and street brawls were the weekly fare of any self-respecting Socialist. Yet, the heightened tension also afflicted the SPD itself, which began to tear itself apart. The SAJ split off in opposition to the party’s unrelenting support for Chancellor Brüning. Other radical factions opted to stay. Hirschman was decidedly in the “stay” camp, and saw no point in fracturing the movement any further; it was more important, he felt, to meet the challenge than to content oneself with an intellectually pure or politically “sound” position; his pragmatic streak was already showing through the fabric of his radicalism. In this, he was joined by another young militant, Willy Brandt, a member of the same group and of the same age; both insisted that the cause would be better served by disagreeing from within the structure than defecting from it.5 But there were lengths to which the young Hirschman was not willing to go, like following those activists who evolved from campaigning and doctrinal debates to para-military outfits, the Schutzbund, which argued that “force had to be met with force.” The establishment fervently tried to defend civility. Otto Braun refused to fall into the trap set by the extremists: “I have been a democrat for forty years,” he exclaimed to his secretary, “and I am not about to become a guerrilla chief.” (Clark, 2006, 646)

  • 6 Katia Salomon to Jeremy Adelman, 16 December, 2003.

11The defense of civility did not mean that some meetings did not get rough, or that those who left the meeting halls could ignore the prowling gangs of angry Communists and Nazis. For this reason, it was important to escort women to their homes after assemblies, and Hirschman’s bicycling skills came in handy when he was alone. One evening, Hirschman, his sister Ursula and two friends, Lia and Mark Rein, the children of the Menshevik exile, Rafael Rein (also known as Rafael Abramovich) were at a meeting to convince Communists to bury their grudges and doctrinal purity. The argument degenerated into a fist-fight. Mark, who was looming more and more to Hirschman as the archetype of the engagé idealist, emerged beaten and bruised. The others escaped unscathed. They all withdrew to the safety of home—to ready themselves for another round the next day.6 These were scenes that Hirschman conspicuously preferred not to discuss for the rest of his life and his silences cloud any precise insight we might have into his thinking. But they left indelible marks on everything he wrote.

12The polarization of Berlin’s political life left few refuges. The university was one of its casualties. It is hard to say how much actual “studying” Hirschman conducted during his sojourn at the University of Berlin. It was brief, affiliated with the Institute for Political Science and Statistics under the wing of the School of Law and Political Science, and lasted only one semester, winter of 1932-33. While he applied himself to the study of classical political economy, formal learning was eclipsed by political tutorials of the Sportpalast and meeting halls of the SAJ. It must have been hard to tune out the distraction in the streets and the confusion at the polls as Berliners were called to election after election—each one sinking the Republic ever deeper into an impasse. The University became an ugly theatre. The German Student Association (Deutsche Studentenschaft) rampaged against signs of “unGerman spirit” and welcomed Nazi speakers to their rallies. It was these students who stormed the University’s magnificent library in May 1933 and proceeded to ignite tens of thousands of volumes at the Opernplatz, in front of the law faculty and around the corner from Hegel’s old office. This was just a sideshow; the main event was the war over control of the government in January. Upon hearing the news of Hitler’s ascent to the chancellorship, Hirschman put on his uncle’s old green suit, grabbed his bicycle, and rode into the rainy Berlin night. Desperate to find out what the left wing parties were doing to shore up the Republic, he raced to the main SPD and Communist headquarters. Was there going to be a general strike? Would the Social Democrats abandon the policy of “tolerance?” Ursula caught up with him at the Communist headquarters, the Karl Liebknecht Haus, and remembered the look on his face as he leaned on his bicycle looking up at the brightly lit top floor of the building where the central committee was gathering: “he looked at the imposing building hoping for a sign of what to do next, and I was there, watching him, and now loved him more than any other person in the world. I understood that he suffered and had a more profound perception than I did of the seriousness of the moment.” (Hirschmann, U., 1993, 98)

13When Hindenburg asked Hitler to form the new government, many thought it would last no more than a year. When Hitler called for new elections for March—the fifth in less than a year—it felt like a repeat of the fleeting governments that had come before. Instead, it broke the cycle, though only hindsight enables the observer to see that the National Socialists were a different breed from the hapless reactionaries who had colluded to share power with them. Nazis dominated the screaming headlines, and their thugs patrolled the streets and broke up rallies, keeping Hirschman’s parents up all night fearing for their children’s safety. On February 27th, the Socialists had called for a mass rally at the Sportpalast. It was to be the largest—and last—such gathering. Albert and Ursula went and watched as the seams of the Socialist movement came apart: wait or confront, let the government implode or bring it down, let the threat pass or resort to armed resistance? The leadership dug in its heels: Hitler was a mere demagogue, it insisted; he was doomed to fail. More radical militants jeered and bellowed from the seats: they must take action! With the rally over, despondent Socialists filed out of the arena to be greeted by columns of police and storm troopers. By then it was evening. As Albert, Ursula and friends made their way home, yelling broke out in the streets, the crowds pushed and yelled. Over Berlin’s rooftops, something lit up the night sky. Albert looked up to see smoke plumes rising against the crimson horizon. Then came the flames, creating dark silhouettes out of the mounted policemen. The Reichstag was burning (Hirschmann, U., 1993, 100).

  • 7 Interview Jeremy Adelman with Albert O. Hirschman, Princeton, 20 May, 2002.

14“Things did not change fundamentally,” recalled Hirschman, “until the Reichstag fire, which really marked the beginning of the political horror.” The next day, the Chancellor, alleging a “Red Uprising,” issued emergency decrees abolishing fundamental rights and promising harsh punishments for anyone threatening the health of the Reich. 4,000 SA troopers scattered across the city to begin roundups. Eventually, all opposition parties were banned, assemblies forbidden; left-leaning newspapers closed shop. In one night the pretext was laid for abolishing the political culture and institutions in which Hirschman and his mates had immersed themselves. There was a last gasp effort to stop Hitler’s proposed law to allow him to govern for four years without constitutional constraints, which needed a two-third majority from the parliament. Hirschman’s SAJ group set up a clandestine press in the hotel room of an Italian doctoral student, Eugenio Colorni; his hotel room “became a nerve center for anti-fascist activities and publications” in the final weeks of the new regime’s consolidation.7

  • 8 Interview Jeremy Adelman with Sarah Hirschman, Princeton, 11 October, 2007.

15Socialist militants fanned out to the streets, their bags full of leaflets, urging people to rally to the opposition of the new bill. Hirschman joined small cells of activists for safety. They would go to the top of apartment buildings and work their way down floor by floor, leaving leaflets under peoples’ doors and talking to whomever they could. Working from top to bottom made it easier to flee in case they were sighted by the police or brown-shirts. Amidst paranoia about moles and break-ins, Hirschman’s group worked furiously to embolden the Party to resist the legislation, hoping they could spoil Hitler’s gambit. It was a futile struggle. On March 23rd, the parliament met in the Kroll Opera House. Outside, storm troopers surrounded the building, taunting and threatening Socialist Deputies who dared enter. The police intercepted and even arrested some of the Deputies, one was pummeled, and others started packing their bags in preparation to flee. That night, 448 approved of Hitler’s request; only 94 Socialists were able to stand up and have their negative votes counted as storm troopers patrolled the aisles barking at them.8

16In a matter of weeks, fear replaced confusion. Bristling with their laws, the Nazis ravaged the opposition. Arrest campaigns followed. There were so many detained that the government opened its first concentration camp 35 kilometers north of Berlin at Oranienburg. Nazis seized Bertolt Brecht’s personal address book and used it as a tour guide to expand their net. Hirschman’s rowing-partner, school-mate, and brother to his first amour, Peter Franck, found himself arrested and also had his address book confiscated. One by one, Peter’s friends and associates were rounded up. Everything had now changed.

  • 9 Interview Jeremy Adelman with Eva Monteforte, Rome, 14 November, 2007.

17In the midst of this collapse, personal tragedy struck. Hirschman’s father died on March 31st of cancer. The next day, the first wave of government-sanction violence swept Berlin, with assaults and boycotts on Jewish shops and businesses. The following day the elder Hirschman was buried. That evening, Albert emerged from the bedroom to inform the mourners and his mother that he would be leaving very soon for Paris. With all the grief in the room, it was hard to hear this quiet but decisive message. Most, including his sisters, figured it was going to be a short vacation. On April 2nd, he was gone—five days before his eighteenth birthday. These were his final hours in Berlin; he would not return for four decades.9

  • 10 Interview JA-Albert O. Hirschman, 15 May, 2002.
  • 11 Albert O. Hirschman Interview, “The Exiles” Project, Yale University Archives, VC-59, October 22, 1 (...)

18Hirschman had clearly been weighing his options. But we have only a dim sense of the calculus to leave for exile. What do we know? First, his preference for “voice” was clearly getting dangerous. In the days before his father’s death, news of Peter Franck’s arrest had driven him into hiding; by then people were learning that address books were inventories of suspects. There was also the clamping down of whatever professional aspirations he harbored. Rumor was that the government would throw Jewish students from the country’s universities; talk became law on April 1st. There were also tales that Jews would be banned from the legal profession; that decree came a week later. Faculties of Law were thus gutted of their Jewish students. It was clear that voice within the system—at least for the time being—was not just futile, it was dangerous and possibly suicidal.10 There was no shortage of push factors to drive Hirschman from Berlin; but how long to leave for? For many who left, departure was only temporary; exit only became exile with time. “Those of us who left at the time,” Hirschman told an American documentary film-maker years later, “left with the hope that this would be a regime that would somehow break its neck very soon, and that somehow there would be some… either action on the part of some section of German society that would prevent this regime from taking root.”11

  • 12 Hirschman-H. Heine, 28 March, 1934, PP.

19Then of course there was the shocking loss of a father, a pre-exilic separation from home. It is possible that this decision to flee was a way of deflecting other sources of pain. A year after Vati’s funeral, writing from Paris, Hirschman intimated as much to his mother. “The calendar tells me that a year has passed, otherwise I wouldn’t know if it has been a month or three years. I have experienced so much joy and so many new things. On the other hand, everything that we experienced and suffered stands so near, insistent, and physical before my eyes.” The rush to embrace the new somewhere else did not succeed in obliterating the grief of the past. While the young émigré uprooted himself in part to allow the challenge of the present crowd out old sorrows, they did not disappear. “It was the first great pain in my life. I did not have time to think out this pain because after three days the reality of the Paris trip demanded my thoughts. And so it happens that the pain always emerged in the quiet hours.”12 For the rest of his life, the quiet hours of Easter would summon memories of the loss of his father, the first of a series of losses that would sear his memory of Europe and the fight against fascism.

20A blend of factors shaped the accelerating steps from voice to exit, to exile. How Hirschman weighed them at the time is not clear. But the fact of mixture is undeniable—political repression, personal constriction, and intimate loss all played a role in driving the economics student from home. What did not accompany the departure for Paris was a chronic yearning to return. While Hirschman was a member of the swelling ranks of German exiles in Paris—to join the Russians, Italians, and soon Spaniards, Czechs, Austrians…—and spent his time among the remnant SAJ circles, now reconstituted as the “New Beginning” (Neu Beginnen) movement, he soon drifted away. He found the endless search for new theoretical bearings, Marxist posturing, and poring over the news tiring. Indeed, in short order he was laboring to work the German accent off his French, riding the Metro and sounding out the syllabus to cross over to mingle undetected among the citoyens. With time, he would wear his ability to speak to a gendarme like a native as a badge of honor. To many, exile brought sorrow for a lost home; to Hirschman it was an important stride into a new sense of belonging to the world.

21A shadow had followed Hirschman. It would not leave him alone because inter-War Paris was the epicenter of a continental crisis—where exiles of various nations and crusades brushed with each other, and sometimes crossed their causes. We have not thought enough about the ways in which specific cities become exilic sites and give meaning to the experience of displacement by weaving the disparate strands of expatriate politics together. London, Paris, New York, Mexico City, much later Miami, each city took turns as haven for fleeing peoples. Let us consider how Paris figured in Hirschman’s calculus.

22Once uprooted from Berlin, Hirschman spent the next several decades shuffling around European cities in a restless pursuit of an unstable balance of career and commitment. Neither one stuck. He studied economics in Paris, London, and finished an expedited doctorate at the University of Trieste in 1938, by which time opportunities to consult for employers, especially for the League of Nations and a Parisian research center, were appearing on the horizon. By this time, in addition, Hirschman had shed his German accent and was beginning the process of applying for French citizenship. This all suggested a meandering path towards settling into a new home, a new national identity, and a profession, with Paris as a new territorialized place for his attachments. There was even a heady romance to seal his attachment to a new place. Whatever turmoil 1933 wrought on Hirschman appeared to be resolved five years later.

23The problem was, leaving Germany did not put the specter of fascism or the hope of revolution behind him. If anything, Paris plunged him into the thick of the continent’s exilic intrigues. There were the Russians, White, Menshevik, Bolshevik sympathizers. Stalin’s NKVD prowled left-wing hubs searching for traitors. To some extent, Hirschman got caught up, especially as he drew closer to Mark and Lia Rein and their Menshevik father, Rafael Abramovich, who had decamped from Berlin for Paris weeks before Hirschman had. Meanwhile, German expatriates whiled away the hours plotting to return to pick up where they left off. They preyed on rumors and embellished tales of Hitler’s imminent demise. But it soon became clear that Hitler’s regime was not fleeting; indeed, the diagnosis of the Neu Beginnen, that National Socialism was more than the last gasp of a desperate and crumbling bourgeoisie, was a prophetic one—which did not prevent some from nursing their fantasies of heroic redemption. Though Hirschman was growing less fond of German Left-wing politics, the dry-eyed realism of the Neu Beginnen movement had its allure. Abramovich, having lived through the revolutionary collusions of 1917, looked over the shoulders of these younger men and women and reminded them that totalitarian regimes, once ensconced, were not easily defeated. With time, the endless debates over the correct theoretical analysis and the constant feuding between socialists and communists bored Hirschman. Any idea of “return,” indissociable from Said’s notion of exile, had less and less appeal.

  • 13 Rosselli, Liberal Socialism, see Nadia Urbaniti’s helpful introduction.

24So it was that leaving Berlin did not resolve any inner tensions between personal and political aspirations in favor of one or the other, between emerging ideas of himself as a man of letters and a man of action. Far from it. Exile, in this sense, brought it to new heights. But it was not the lingering hope for redemption at home that escalated it. If anything, the German partisanship turned him off one form of exilic politics but Paris cued him to another. The French capital was the stage for Italians to launch acts of sabotage and clandestine operations into Mussolini’s domain. Mussolini’s OVRA secret police monitored dissident activity; both sides exchanged assassinations. Italian exile organizations and leadership, however, were altogether less doctrinaire than the ones governing German circles, where the influence of the Communist party was both stronger and the Teutonic brand more rigid and dogmatic. Hirschman, in part following the trails of his sister, who had fallen in love with an Italian socialist in Trieste, Eugenio Colorni, found himself swept up by the Justice and Liberty cause, and came increasingly under the sway of the action-oriented exiles under Carlo Rosselli. By 1935, Rosselli was more captivating as a proselytizer than as a planner. As the 1930s unfolded, Justice and Liberty had moved progressively to the left, partly in response to the integration of more socialists, and partly in response to Mussolini’s Ethiopian “adventure.” Not unlike the diagnostics of the Neu Beginnen, some members of Justice and Liberty were inclined to see Italian fascism as a type of regime—in this case only sustainable through imperialist expansion, and thus, at some stage, vulnerable. Prolonged exile left Rosselli chomping at the bit for a direct assault on Mussolini. Less interested in theoretical purity or partisan fidelities, the movement looked for opportunities where it could find them in the folds of Paris’s swelling refugee neighborhoods.13

  • 14 Hempel Interview, 23.

25With the election of a Popular Front government in France, exilic politics went on high alert. Shortly thereafter, Hirschman returned from his year at the London School of Economics; his fellowship money had finally run out. He had some research ideas but was not particularly well connected or credentialed to find a position in Paris to make use of his training. He once referred to the hiatus after his LSE studies as very “personally difficult times.” “Psychologically, I was quite inconsistent and disquieted.” He wrote to his old mentor, Heinrich Ehrmann, who had also taken refuge in Paris and was active in the Neu Beginnen movement that he wanted to participate in something. But what?14

  • 15 Hempel Interview, 23.
  • 16 Members of Giustizia e Libertà.

26The air crackled with tension and possibility. The question of what to do next was posed for Hirschman, as for many, in the summer of 1936. In the middle of July, Rosselli announced that a new front had finally opened up in the European struggle against fascism. It was Spain. There, the Popular Front government, heeding trade union and peasant pressures, quickly began to accelerate its reforms to break the hold of the Church and landlords—until the feared reaction. The military rose up against the Republican government on July 17th. It failed; many in the army refused to join the rebels. The uprising might have fizzled there. But the decision on the part of Hitler and Mussolini to send weapons, reinforcements, and above all airplanes, enabling Generalísimo Francisco Franco, Caudillo de España por la Gracia de Dios, to airlift supplies from the Moroccan colony to the mainland and slowly push the Nationalist frontier forward. The precipitous internationalization of the Spanish conflict drew the world’s media attention, and by mid-July, it was splashed all over newspaper headlines. This coincided with Hirschman’s return to Paris, where the debate about how to help the Loyalists was breaking open, especially given the dithering stance of the Blum government. Indeed, there was not a minor fear that the civil war would spread to France itself, with the extreme Right rattling its sabres by forming a “blackguard front,” while Communists could not resist the temptation to proclaim the need to form self-defense units of its own. The line in Spain had become the symbolic front line in a pan-European conflict. Finally, there was a “main theatre” for the fight against fascism.15 Hirschman rushed to see Mark Rein, who told him that he was thinking of going to Spain to join the Loyalists. Mark had a list of contacts of Neu Beginnen sympathizers who were planning to go to Barcelona. The Spanish Civil War provided an important immediate cause for German socialists, and Hitler’s backing for Franco made Spain an opportunity to resist fascism on another front. For Germans in particular, the sense was: no repeat of 1933 defeatism. Neu Beginnen chapters in Prague, Amsterdam, and Paris came back to life to enlist volunteers; finally there was an opportunity to redeem despairing radicals. For similar reasons, Italian exiles also joined the crusade. “Today in Spain, tomorrow Italy,” intoned Carlo Rosselli. The outbreak of the Spanish Civil War several months after Mussolini’s victory in Africa gave Rosselli his crusade. Echoing Machiavelli, he declared that the “prophets are no longer disarmed.” Scarcely days after Franco assumed command of the Moors and Legionnaires of Spanish Morocco and launched his attempted coup d’état, Rosselli rallied the giellisti16 to form a volunteer brigade for Spain. Not everyone was convinced this was a good idea. But they could not stand in his way. Arriving in Barcelona in early August, he struck a deal with local anarchists and trade unionists to create the Ascaso Column (named after the anarchist Francisco Ascaso who died in the first day of fighting in Barcelona against the rebels) comprised of giellisti and Italian anarchists. Spain was where the line against totalitarianism would be drawn; it was here that a “motorized revolutionary force” could also cut its teeth in preparation for an assault on Mussolini. Rosselli waxed about the nature of the uniforms that soldiers would wear for this war: “The intellectual who dons the overalls for the first time feels an ineffable sentiment of joy. Here, I slough off my past, my bourgeois habits and wants, to consecrate myself to the cause of the workers. I enter the revolution with only blood and soul. We will be brothers, comrades in overalls.” (Pugliese, 202-03).

27This was the environment in which Hirschman enlisted; his main issue was which group to join. In the end, the decision was made by who was fastest to mobilize for the front: the Italian giellisti. So it was that exile led to a return to a partisan cause. We do not know exactly which day, but we know that he took the train to Barcelona with the very first German and Italian volunteers. By the time I pressed Hirschman for details, they had long-since slipped from his memory. But what was not hard for him to remember was the reflex. Simply put: “when I heard that there was even a possibility to do something, I went.”

28He spent almost three months in Catalonia, from July to the end of October, 1936, among the vanguard of the first wave of volunteers. This is important to underscore because the initial fight against Franco was not so much mounted by the Republican government, which was too weak to pose a real counter-threat to the military, but the trade unions and peasant leagues which had responded to the coup with general strikes and a rush to form spontaneous militias. Indeed, by the time that Hirschman’s train pulled into Barcelona, the city was in the hands of the workers. Socialist and anarchist talk dominated the atmosphere. Until late October, when the USSR began to ship arms and its envoys began to seize control and reorganize the militias into “brigades,” a fervor of revolution for and by the commoner prevailed in Catalonia; one must imagine a 22-year old German socialist walking the streets of Barcelona where tipping was banned because it was considered demeaning. The words “Don” and “Señor” were outlawed in favor of “comrade,” where cathedrals, deemed citadels of Reaction, were desecrated or burned, and where giant red and black banners announced which factory was now owned by which trade union. For a brief moment, here was the socialist revolution that Germans had failed to mount to save Weimar.

  • 17 Interview Emmanuel Douzat - Albert O. Hirschman, n.d., PP, 22.

29This is not the place to rehearse the traumas and disenchantments of the Spanish Civil War. Suffice it to say that whatever was heroic about the struggle waned when the Communists muscled onto the scene in the autumn. Until then, the Italian and German émigré battalions, including Rosselli’s Ascaso Column, aligned under the general umbrella of the Partido Obrero de Unificación Marxista (POUM), and were marched off after a peremptory rifle training to the front. There, Hirschman would be wounded in early combat. While he was recovering in Barcelona, the feuding between Communists, socialists and anarchists broke open. They were a reminder of what he had so disliked about the sterilizing squabbles of the Left when faced with the rise of Hitler in Germany, and the endless, paralytic theoretical debates in Paris. Then, when he heard that his mates were being reorganized into international brigades, and that he would be dispatched under new, Comintern, command, he shuddered. When Hirschman got word from Italian friends that cells were opening up in Northern Italian cities to extend the struggle there, he packed his bags and took the train to Trieste. To the disenchantment with the Catalonian scene and hopes for uprisings behind Mussolini’s lines there were mixed in strong personal motives: he missed his sister and brother-in-law. Eugenio also held out the opportunity of finding a research position for him among friends working at the University of Trieste. Hirschman would parlay this into a doctorate, hoping to secure the professionalizing credential he lacked when he returned from London in June 1936. Two years later, he would re-emerge with a PhD and a handful of publications in French and Italian on the nature of Italy’s political economy.17

  • 18 Interview Jeremy Adelman with Sarah Hirschman, 16 March, 2006.

30Once more, decisions about departure from Paris to Barcelona, and from Barcelona to Trieste, raveled together a variety of self-regarding and other-regarding, push and pull, motives, a complex amalgamation that raises questions about involuntary departure from home as the dominant exilic experience, at least for those for whom the fight against despots of all kinds was a kind of loyalty that transcended borders, that made “home” a less compelling focal point for action and thought than a more general, universal cause. In this sense, we might think of the place that Paris assumed in the making of a “volunteer” esprit within its exile circles, intensifying the complex reinforcing and antagonistic pressures between exit and voice. It was perhaps for this reason that it was so difficult for Hirschman to take apart the precise reasons governing his choices. One must also blend in the bad memories and bitter disappointments of Spain’s lost cause. But while we may acknowledge the difficulty getting the exact balance of inner forces governing his decision-making, one must also concede that our uncertainties are the result of pains and disappointment that became obscured by the working of memory and personal silence. His wife Sarah found him reticent on the topic of Catalonia. Sensing his unease, she didn’t press him for details. Once, when they went to a film together about the Spanish Civil War, as they left the theatre Sarah turned to Albert and asked him: “was it like that?” He replied evasively, “yeah, that was a pretty good film.” When I asked Sarah about this reserve—on both their parts, his to speak, hers to press—she was somewhat philosophical: “you know, I’ve always felt through these long years perhaps, that that’s my secret: how I could stick with one person for that long [and not know]. I think everybody has a right to their own memories.” Tightly guarded recollections were part of a pattern when it came to bad memories, which Hirschman preferred to keep to himself, unvoiced: “I felt this kind of reticence [sometimes] in Albert,” she confessed. “He’s had quite a few areas like that. I never tried to force him [to talk].” Still, the scars on his neck and leg made it impossible for her to forget. One is tempted to note that the sorrow of lost causes, unlike Said’s lost homes, can yield to enduring silences and absences that do not traduce to some alternative form of nationalism—and that one must, at the very least, be cautious about big claims concerning the elective affinities of exile politics.18

  • 19 Albert O. Hirschman Interview, “The Exiles” Project, VC-59/8.

31The autumn of 1938 sent Hirschman back to Paris, this time from Trieste. The reasons were similar to those that drove him from Berlin over five years earlier. In September, Mussolini paid his first visit to the Adriatic city to announce a series of anti-Semitic decrees following the consolidated alliance with Hitler. It was getting more and more dangerous for Hirschman, a German and a Jew by decree, to hide behind a student visa. His friends and associates in Trieste went into hiding. Eugenio was arrested for his “activities hostile to the Fascist State,” interrogated by OVRA agents, and transferred to a prison in Milan. The University could not continue to shelter Albert. Before being carted away, Eugenio had urged him to move back to Paris to assist the cause from there. Besides, there were also professional opportunities opening in Paris thanks to his research and publications for the Société d’Études et d’Informations Économiques on the true performance of the Italian economy behind the façade of Il Duce’s official statistics. Charles Rist and Robert Marjolin, editors of a quarterly economic bulletin of the Rockefeller Foundation-backed Institut de Recherches Économiques et Sociales of the Sorbonne, saw his talents and brought him into their stable. Despite his affections for Italy and his family in Trieste, Paris was the city “where I had always maintained my residence. I was… and considered myself when I was in Italy sort of as on leave from France.” The question now was how to make of his residence a home.19

32Rather than an “exile,” it is perhaps more accurate to describe Hirschman’s condition from 1938 to the fall of France in the summer of 1940 as suspended in a “median state”—a term borrowed from Edward Said that more effectively captures his half-attachments and half-detachments on the way to becoming French. It was something of a paradox that he found a comfortable room in a small hotel in the rue de Turenne, in the middle of the Marais, a crowded medieval neighborhood in the fourth arrondissement populated above all by Jews. Living in the Marais gave him his first opportunity to live cheek-to-jowl with Jews, something he had never yet experienced. It did nothing to kindle a Jewish identity, but seemed to him altogether consistent with taking his assimilative steps into French nationality. Of course, his timing could not have been worse—for no sooner did he begin to expedite his citizenship than France began to mobilize for war. But what this meant was that Hirschman hovered between a world he’d left behind and the prospect of naming a new place “home”; the trouble was, this home, like any in Europe, was an uncertain place. This was impossible to ignore (Said, 1994, 48-52).

  • 20 Albert O. Hirschman - Ursula Hirschmann, 21 February, 1940, PP.

33Being in a median state, therefore, was not a straightforwardly transitional moment from one home to the next. It was a more precarious condition. To start with, there were romantic entanglements that drew him closer to a new home. “As regards my mood,” he wrote to Ursula, “I am still in a state of completely unexpected rupture from what I might call my first love.”20 Then suddenly the affective ties were severed when “Françoise” left Hirschman for another man. Here the clues to his thoughts, as so often happens in the case of Hirschman who preferred to wax about his enthusiasms more than bemoan his disappointments, run out. Did the broken romance break the ties to Paris or embolden his resolve? We simply do not know. Whatever doubts he harbored about his personal fortunes were eclipsed by professional and then political ones. While France was his nation of preference, he knew by then that it would be best to draft up some fallback plans. He considered going to Brazil to work for a French bank. Buenos Aires also seemed like a good option. Distant relatives in New York sent overtures to have him brought to the United States, and an old acquaintance of Eugenio’s at the New School did the same. Hirschman began to warehouse escape options lest France would not work out.

  • 21 Interview Jeremy Adelman with Albert O. Hirschman, 28 May, 2002; see also Maga, 140.

34As war neared, of course, many began to pack their bags. Many wanted to leave. Many were urged to leave by friends and relatives abroad. Exit would have been the most logical, and given the increasing opportunities, tempting option. But exit was tightly coiled with voice; the two were in some sense bound to each other by that which threatened Hirschman’s sense of personal freedom and more, his sense of obligation to others’. So, instead of going into exile once more, the twists of his median state had him take what on the surface appears to be a counter-intuitive decision. With so little to lose by leaving, he chose to stay—and not just stay, but volunteer to fight. France went on alert. On April 12, an act decreed that foreign men between 18 and 40 who had resided in France for over two months were allowed to join French army, as opposed to just the Foreign Legion. The same promulgation subjected “stateless” foreign men from 20 to 48 to the same duties as Frenchmen—a two year term of service. Alarmed at German bellicosity, Hirschman enlisted in the French army now that foreigners were not restricted to the Legion. He was a soldier in training when German and Russian armies invaded Poland in September, and France and Britain declared war on the Reich on September 3rd.21

  • 22 Hirschman - Heine, 18 Sept, 1939, PP.

35He readied for his second war. Again, we are confronted with an inscrutable—if unambiguously decisive—choice. Hirschman wrote to no one about his decision to serve in the French army. With Eugenio in prison and Ursula’s mail being opened by Mussolini’s spies, it would be a while before he would send letters to Italy, and when they were penned, he wrote elliptically—and mainly of his readings of Stendahl and Montaigne, whose Essais would accompany him through his final, nail-biting months in Europe. Why he did not write to his other sister and mother in London is not clear. Perhaps he did not want to make his slightly hysterical mother worry. By the time he did write her, the War had broken out. On September 18th, he wrote chirpily to say that “all is well with me from a physical and moral point of view. The training is moving forward to make us into verifiable soldiers.” Hirschman found himself stationed east of Paris, dispatched to a platoon of German and Italian émigrés, where “I am making some new friends” he wrote to Mutti. Her son closed his note to his mother telling her that they will be celebrating Yom Kippur. “I feel just as I used to in the good days of the Collège Français!”22 But what was really going on in his mind is anyone’s guess. More likely, the decision to join the French army was not unlike the decision to join the loyalists in Spain. This was a common cause. But what makes this one poignant, especially in light of Said’s inference that exile implies longing to return to a homeland of one’s peoples, for Hirschman, exile poised him to join another country’s army to pick up arms against fellow Germans.

36Once again, space does not allow us to go into detail about what happened as the French army imploded. Hirschman and his copains in platoon had to scramble when it did. His commanding officer helped rig some false demobilization papers and Hirschman somehow got his hands on a bicycle, which allowed him to ride south, to the Vichy zone. If he could not get his French citizenship through the normal process, this one would do—even if it meant giving up his real name. Meanwhile, Radio Vichy spewed a bilious campaign against Jews and “traitors” over the airwaves. By September 1940, there were 31 detention camps in the southern zone. Then came Article 19 of the Armistice agreement—a mockery of Pétain’s rhetoric about French sovereignty—which required Vichy to “surrender on demand” all Germans named by the Reich to its officers. The Nazis sent the Kundt Commission to scour the detention camps hunting for their enemies. Hirschman was one of them, pedaling southwards with his bogus papers and identities (Marrus and Paxton).

37By the time he reached Marseilles, he’d been apprised of the imminent arrival of an American from Spain at the Gare St. Charles on August 14th. His name was Varian Fry. Fry was supposed to arrive with visas. When he stepped onto the platform of the train station, Fry was greeted by a smiling young, French translator with a pseudonym of Albert Hermant who volunteered to escort him to the Hotel Splendide. They settled into Fry’s room and swapped their stories. Fry liked his companion immediately, and nicknamed him Beamish—for his irrepressible grin. Together, Fry and Beamish would create an operation that would rescue several thousand refugees who flocked to Marseilles to get out of Europe. So it was that Albert Hirschman was transformed from wandering exile to a fake Frenchman rescuing refugees from other nations including what was once his own. Indeed, among Beamish’s trove of language and monetary skills was of course fluency in German; he was posted to interview and screen his former comrades from the Neu Beginnen movement who were desperate to escape the clutches of the Gestapo. (Hirschman 2000; Marino, 1999, 120-21)

38The operation, thanks to several recent studies, is fairly well known. With Beamish screening the German socialists, working the underground passport falsifiers, laundering money with Marseilles’ mobsters, he made himself indispensable. Time, however, was not on the rescuers’ side. Beamish had to contrive ways to get some of the Neu Beginnen militants out of the camps before they were discovered. He had a list, procured from Karl Frank, alias Paul Hagen, who worked closely with the Jewish Labor Committee in New York to help the Emergency Rescue Committee usher out socialists and labor leaders. One day Beamish called a meeting with two American volunteers, Miriam Davenport and Mary Jayne Gold, at “Basso’s”, Beamish’s favorite bar. There were four Neu Beginnen members, Franz Boegler, Siegfried Pfeffer, Hans Tittle, Fritz Lamm, who could not pick up their American visas because they were imprisoned in the Le Vernet camp and were about to be “surrendered.” Hagen had cabled Marseilles to plead for their rescue. Beamish went into unusually indiscrete detail about their cases and the situation at Le Vernet. When Gold asked him “why are you telling me all this?” he replied “because we want you to go up to Le Vernet and persuade the commandant to allow them to come to Marseilles.” The idea was that once in the port they could slip their guards and fetch their US visas and escape to Spain. What Beamish wanted her to do was go to the camp and explain that she was a friend of their wives and that they merely wanted an overnight together. Mary Jayne Gold protested, “why me?” Beamish leaned forward and looked her straight in the eye, “because with that face anybody will believe anything you tell them… Mary Jayne, you have the most innocent face I have ever seen. Anybody will believe anything you tell them.” Still, she protested. “You’re our best bet,” Beamish insisted, “ils jouent leurs têtes (their heads are at stake).” “Well, okay, Hermant. I’ll try.” The scheme worked (Gold, 1980, 209-11).

  • 23 Albert O. Hirschman, Interview, “The Exiles” Project, VHS-5/2; Fry, 150.

39If getting the refugees out of camps and equipped with papers was a challenge, so too was keeping open the route across the Pyrenees. Spanish authorities routinely shut down crossing points or threw up obstacles. Beamish had to shuffle back and forth to the border zone to work with agents, especially Lisa and Hans Fittko, to keep the escape hatch open. As the route became more congested—and better known—its dangers increased. There was great fear that authorities would discover it and crack down on the operation. Pétain was determined to demonstrate Vichy’s sovereignty with the one force with which he was familiar—the police. Since Marseilles was such a sore point, he announced his decision to visit the port with much fanfare, and instructed the Sûreté Nationale to scrub the south clean. Beamish left for Toulouse to explore alternative routes over the Pyrenees. When his train pulled into the station in one small border town, he saw a guard demanding papers from descending passengers. Beamish hung back, hoping he would move on. Instead, as the last one, he found himself trapped with the guard. His papers were fine, his French so flawless that the guard suggested they walk together into town together for a libation. Hermant mustered his charm to chat him up. His tactic was too effective, for the guard soon found Hermant easy game for his jokes about week-kneed Italian soldiers. He insisted that Beamish join him in a bar with some of his fellow guards. With no choice, Albert accompanied his new friend for a round of drinks. By the time he got away from the louche companions, he had long-since missed his meeting with the Committee contact at the border. The trip to Toulouse was a waste, as no doubt many of the clandestine probes were. The next morning, Albert boarded the train back to Marseilles, and headed straight to Fry’s hotel where he found an anxious American. Fry breathed a sigh of relief, quickly took Beamish to a safe location, and explained that while he was gone French gendarmes had appeared at the office asking for “un nommé Hermant.” Fry told them that he had fired Hermant, and asked why they were interested. They explained that he faced serious charges, “probably a dirty Gaullist!” It was clear to both of them that it was time for Beamish to leave before Pétain’s arrival in Marseilles.23

40Just as it appeared that Beamish would join the ranks of refugees he’d helped escape, an opportunity materialized that allowed him to depart under a different aegis, once more to exit without feeling like an exile. Behind the scenes, his former employers, sponsored by the Rockefeller Foundation, arranged to have Hirschman brought to the United States on a fellowship—putatively to do some course work in economics as well as some research at the University of California at Berkeley. Hirschman had no idea this was in the works. And the State Department had no idea how to locate a so-called “Otto Albert Hirschmann” from among the legions of fleeing Germans. It was one of those strokes of luck that punctuate Albert Hirschman’s life that a fleeting conversation between Albert Hermant, aka Beamish, with the American Vice Consul, Hiram Bingham, led him to fessing up his true identity. Bingham had asked Hermant to help him locate this “Hirschmann” because he had a special visa for him. When Hirschman confessed, the shrewd and observant diplomat was not surprised. But even with the visa and ticket from France, Hirschman did not depart immediately. He stayed on in Marseilles until it was too dangerous, for his capture might blow the whole operation, and only then did he make the crossing over the Pyrenees—armed with spare socks and his copy of Montaigne’s Essais. And so it was that opportunism and commitment once more shaped the decisions to depart, this time from Europe altogether.

41Still, this was no straightforward choice. As Hirschman turned his back on Europe to open up a new chapter of his median state, he also took stock of what had transpired over the previous year. He was about to get out—but not without a feeling of bitterness. “I didn’t want to leave,” he later told Lisa Fittko, “I wasn’t interested in going into exile, I wanted to win.”24 At the same time, a whole welter of more confusing personal feelings got knotted inside. Writing to his mother and sister from the ship that bore him from Lisbon, he brought them up to date in a few pages. “My ‘story’ is of course endless,” he explained. Some day he promised to relay the whole unexpurgated account. But for now, he joked, “I must say that I have had until now an amazing amount of good luck—but psst, I am seriously beginning to be superstitious as a result of it.” From his joining the French army, avoiding the detention camps for Germans, he told his story of bicycling southward, he confessed that he liked the name Albert Hermant (“much better than my real one!”). He summarized the work with Fry and his labors “for the common cause.” But he also shared some unusual disclosures, acknowledging the strains. “I felt terribly lonely during the whole period despite my multiple activities and the stream of people—often interesting and fascinating whom I saw.” Near the end of the letter he revealed inner turmoil that was less visible to those who were struck by his good humor: “As someone who is drowning I saw one person at least representative of every single period of my life.” If Lisbon afforded a moment to look back on a turbulent and trying year, it also promised him a new, but uncertain, future. “You know how reluctant I always was with regard to the States—I loved Europe and was afraid of America. But I realized soon that there was practically no choice, especially if I had any intention to write our family again one day.”25

42Three decades later, Hirschman authored his famous Exit, Voice, and Loyalty, which has done so much to enrich the conceptual vocabulary of the social sciences and efforts to account for peoples’ decisions faced with deteriorating circumstances. One of the themes of this paper is the difficulty explaining exile with any coordinates that present people under duress facing clear-cut choices, even if the choice was between certain survival and possible, if not probable, death. A look at a few of Hirschman’s choices suggests that separation and sorrow were only part of a larger amalgam of feelings, impulses and motivations. This was especially so in an era of heightened ideological, and even universal, identification, whose degrees of self-sacrifice are not so easy for us to fathom these days. Hirschman’s complex trilogy illuminates how un-automatic, how contextual, and how contingent the decision-making can be. Reconstructing these thorny processes—and here we have done so through biographic, empathetic reenactment—is plagued with conceptual and evidentiary challenges that we might as well confess from the outset, and which suggest that the study of exile can be about much more than separation from and yearning for home. It is also worth reminding ourselves that it can also be precisely that. After all, Hirschman’s companion to exit and voice was its oft-forgotten third, essential, leg: loyalty.

  • 26 Quentin Skinner - Albert O. Hirschman, n.d.; Henry Ehrmann - Albert O. Hirschman, 20 December, 1980 (...)

43Loyalty. Hirschman himself never gave his own concept much thought. Indeed, one might not be so surprised by this in a man who, by all reckonings, showed little difficulty relocating himself across Europe’s increasingly shattered political landscape. But it is also quite possible that he could have thought a bit about Said’s notion of sorrow, or longing for membership as one of the pinions of obligations. Sometimes “humanity” is just too general a purpose. Certainly, there is evidence later in his life that Hirschman began to recognize his own problem, his own oversight, that he was not immune to blind spots. Even when they connect the deeply personal with the academic and conceptual. When he sat down to write Exit, Voice, and Loyalty, it never occurred to him that there was anything more than his observations of the world in the late 1960s at play. It was only when a German publisher asked him to add a special preference for its translation that a memory of his own exit in 1933 was triggered. Summoning the plight of Jews before the Third Reich, he recalled the response of “young and vigorous ones” to the rise of Hitler—by fleeing. The “community” of Jews left behind was gravely weakened by his and others’ decisions. His point was “I was not aware of those deeper moral stirrings when I wrote the book.” Exit, Voice, and Loyalty had thus benefited as a result of this forgetting; it was more balanced with respect to the relative merits of exit and voice, more general, and more “scientifically persuasive.” Hirschman’s lesson: “one, perhaps peculiarly effective way for social scientists to bring moral concerns into their work is to do so unconsciously!” This was an odd argument and an odder example, not least because Hirschman never belonged to the Jewish “community.” It should remind us once more how difficult it is to track the emotional passage of early experiences, for if he felt guilty for having left his family and home it was a very deeply buried sentiment. It so happened that Hirschman sent a draft of the German prologue to an old friend, a fellow militant from the Neu Beginnen movement, “Henry” (once Heinrich) Ehrmann. When Ehrmann read the essay, he wrote to his old mate about the “guilt feelings” associated with the traumas of almost a half-century earlier. “I suddenly remembered,” he wrote, “that when ‘the Hirschmanns’ [meaning Albert and Ursula] left, I felt they shouldn’t have, convinced as I was that the inaudible whisper in which we were engaged, i.e. the ‘underground’ was a duty.”26 By the time they were reunited in Paris, “the feelings had already evaporated”—not least because whatever was dutiful about Left-wing clandestinity had been systematically crushed. It was the destruction of the space for voice that conditioned the option for exit; but then exit did not automatically put an end to the fight. Exit and exile created new settings and bearings for Hirschman’s obligations and commitments.

44One senses that there was still something lingering in Hirschman’s choices that did not easily collapse into his own categories of action, exit and voice. I have suggested here, at the end, that a sense of loyalty to what he had left behind, home and its people, gnawed away at him in the years thereafter. Maybe Edward Said was on to something when he referred to indissoluble attachments and the significance of broken bonds in the exilic experience? Perhaps there were—and remain—limits to the cosmopolitan ideal of concentric circles of belonging, and that one might, as Hirschman thought he was doing, elevate the struggle to a more universal one, for humanity’s sake? Diminishing the costs of the loss of loyalty certainly took the sting out of the sorrow that might have accompanied uprooting and detachment. It may well be that the silences, missing pieces, and the inscrutable elements of his decision-making were part of Hirschman’s efforts to obscure this price. In prospect and retrospect the repeated decisions to exit and fashion his own exile had their calculus. But one cannot help but take away an impression that Hirschman labored to do it on his own terms—or cast them in his own terms. Decades later, the balance of factors that shaped his decisions governing exile remained shrouded in as much uncertainty, doubt, and even guilt, as sorrow.

Haut de page


CLARK, Christopher, Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600-1947, Cambridge (MA), Harvard University Press, 2006.

FRY, Varian, Surrender on Demand, Boulder (CO), Johnson Books, 1997.

GOLD, Mary Jayne, Crossroads Marseilles, 1940, Garden City, Doubleday, 1980.

HIRSCHMAN, Albert O., Crossing Boundaries: Selected Writings, London, Zone Press, 1998.

---, Exit, Voice, and Loyalty: Responses to decline in Firms, Organizations and States, Cambridge (MA), Harvard University Press, 1970.

---, “Albert O. Hirschman, Albert Herman, Beamish,” Colloque Varian Fry, 1999, Marseille, Hotel du Département, Actes Sud 2000, 12-16.

HIRSCHMANN, Ursula, Noi Senzapatria, Bologna, Il Mulino, 1993.

KOESTLER, Arthur, Arrival and Departure, New York, Macmillan, 1943.

LEE, Hermione, Virginia Wolf, New York, Vintage, 1999.

MAGA, Timothy P., “Closing the Door: The French Government and Refugee Policy, 1933-1939,” French Historical Studies, 12:3, Spring, 1982.

MARINO, Andy, A Quiet American: The Secret War of Varian Fry, New York, St Martin’s, 1999.

MARRUS, Michael R. and Robert O. PAXTON, Vichy France and the Jews, Stanford, Stanford University Press, 1981.

NUSSBAUM, Martha, “Patriotism and Cosmopolitanism,” in Joshua Cohen, ed., For Love of Country: Debating the Limits of Patriotism, Boston, Beacon Press, 1996.

PUGLIESE, Stanislao, Carlo Rosselli: Socialist Heretic and Antifascist Exile, Cambridge (MA), Harvard University Press, 1999.

ROSSELLI, Carlo, Liberal Socialism, Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1994.

SAID, Edward, Representations of the Intellectual, New York, Vintage, 1994.

---, “Reflections on Exile” in Reflections on Exile and Other Essays, Cambridge (MA), Harvard University Press, 2000, 173-86.

SCAMMELL, Michael, Koestler: The Literary and Political Odyssey of a Twentieth-Century Skeptic, New York, Random House, 2009.

Haut de page


2 Scammell’s impressive biography curiously accents Koestler’s skepticism—not a word one first associates with the Hungarian-born enthusiast.

3 For an example see Lee, Virginia Wolf.

4 Interview by H.J. Hempel with Albert O. Hirschman (hereafter Hempel Interview), Princeton 1984, in Hirschman Personal Papers, copies in author’s possession (hereafter PP), 9.

5 Interview with Carmine Donzelli, Marta Petrusewicz and Claudia Rusconi in Hirschman, 1998, 51.

6 Katia Salomon to Jeremy Adelman, 16 December, 2003.

7 Interview Jeremy Adelman with Albert O. Hirschman, Princeton, 20 May, 2002.

8 Interview Jeremy Adelman with Sarah Hirschman, Princeton, 11 October, 2007.

9 Interview Jeremy Adelman with Eva Monteforte, Rome, 14 November, 2007.

10 Interview JA-Albert O. Hirschman, 15 May, 2002.

11 Albert O. Hirschman Interview, “The Exiles” Project, Yale University Archives, VC-59, October 22, 1985, 2.

12 Hirschman-H. Heine, 28 March, 1934, PP.

13 Rosselli, Liberal Socialism, see Nadia Urbaniti’s helpful introduction.

14 Hempel Interview, 23.

15 Hempel Interview, 23.

16 Members of Giustizia e Libertà.

17 Interview Emmanuel Douzat - Albert O. Hirschman, n.d., PP, 22.

18 Interview Jeremy Adelman with Sarah Hirschman, 16 March, 2006.

19 Albert O. Hirschman Interview, “The Exiles” Project, VC-59/8.

20 Albert O. Hirschman - Ursula Hirschmann, 21 February, 1940, PP.

21 Interview Jeremy Adelman with Albert O. Hirschman, 28 May, 2002; see also Maga, 140.

22 Hirschman - Heine, 18 Sept, 1939, PP.

23 Albert O. Hirschman, Interview, “The Exiles” Project, VHS-5/2; Fry, 150.

24 Cited in

25 Hirschman - Heine, 8 February 1941, PP.

26 Quentin Skinner - Albert O. Hirschman, n.d.; Henry Ehrmann - Albert O. Hirschman, 20 December, 1980, Albert O. Hirschman Papers, Princeton University Archives, Seely Mudd Library, Princeton University, Box 8, f. 6.

1 Editor’s note: After the successive displacements he had to face during the war, which are the object of this essay, Albert O. Hirschman (1915-2012) became an influential economist and political scientist in the United States.

Haut de page

Pour citer cet article

Référence électronique

Jeremy Adelman, « Hirschman’s Choice: Exiles and Obligations of an anti-Fascist », Transatlantica [En ligne], 1 | 2014, mis en ligne le 02 octobre 2014, consulté le 20 avril 2018. URL :

Haut de page


Jeremy Adelman

Princeton University

Haut de page

Droits d’auteur

Licence Creative Commons
Transatlantica – Revue d'études américaines est mis à disposition selon les termes de la licence Creative Commons Attribution - Pas d'Utilisation Commerciale - Pas de Modification 4.0 International.

Haut de page
  • Logo DOAJ - Directory of Open Access Journals
  • Logo AEFA - Association Française d'Etudes Américaines
  • OpenEdition Journals