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In Memoriam: Harold von Hofe, 98

Harold von Hofe, shown here in 1986, was the chair of the USC College German department. Photo courtesy of USC University Archives.
Harold von Hofe, shown here in 1986, was the chair of the USC College German department. Photo courtesy of USC University Archives.

Harold von Hofe, professor emeritus of German and former director of the Feuchtwanger Institute for Exile Studies at USC, died Feb. 3 at his home in Beverly Hills. He was 98.

The son of German musicians who immigrated to the United States at the turn of the 20th century, von Hofe was born in Plainsfield, N.J., on April 23, 1912.

In 1939 — after earning a bachelor’s degree from New York University and a doctorate from Northwestern University — von Hofe relocated to Los Angeles and took a job teaching German at USC.

He became a professor and served as chair of USC College’s German department from 1945 to 1956 (as well as from 1963 to 1968 and 1971 to 1974). Von Hofe’s scholarly work focused largely on the work of writers who fled Germany for Southern California during the Holocaust.

“Dr. von Hofe was an eminent scholar in the field of German exile studies,” said USC Libraries’ senior associate dean Marje Schuetze-Coburn, a longtime friend and colleague. “His expertise built on the relationships he developed with members of the German émigré community in Los Angeles during World War II.”

From 1959 to 1963, von Hofe served as chair of the USC Division of Humanities.

Von Hofe played a large role in acquiring one of USC’s most prized scholarly research collections — the library of German-Jewish author Lion Feuchtwanger.

In the early 1940s, the then-associate professor visited Feuchtwanger’s Pacific Palisades home, Villa Aurora, and became friends with the author (Jud Süss) and his wife, Marta.

Following Feuchtwanger’s death in 1958, Von Hofe convinced Marta that USC would be the ideal place to preserve her husband’s collection of more than 30,000 volumes that include Hebrew, Greek and Latin classics; a pre-Luther translation of the Bible; German and German-exile literature; books and materials relating to the French Revolution; rare first editions and secondary works by authors such as Luther, Kant, Goethe, Schiller, Voltaire and Rousseau; and a collection of texts and translations — including a 1493 Florentine edition — of works by first-century Jewish historian Josephus Flavius.

“Over the decades, Dr. von Hofe became a close colleague of — and adviser to — Marta Feuchtwanger. Following her death in 1987, he served as executor of her estate,” said Schuetze-Coburn, who met von Hofe in 1989 when she became the Feuchtwanger librarian and archivist. “Dr. von Hofe dedicated the latter part of his career to publishing Lion Feuchtwanger’s extensive correspondence, thereby making these rich primary source materials available to scholars.”

“Thanks to Dr. von Hofe’s efforts, Lion Feuchtwanger, his library and his writings have been preserved for future generations,” Schuetze-Coburn added.

Among von Hofe’s books: A German Sketchbook (co-authored with Ludwig Marcuse, 1979), Faust: Leben, Legende und Literatur (1965) and Eine Reise durch Deutschland (1960), among dozens of others. He also has edited, annotated and published numerous volumes of Feuchtwanger’s correspondence.

Von Hofe is survived by two sons, Hal and Eric von Hofe, six grandchildren and two great grandchildren.