A Jewish Intellectual under the Radar
Keywords:Exile, verbanning, Jewish intellectuals, joodse intellectuelen, August Vermeylen, Hans Handovsky
It is commonly maintained that Belgium held less appeal for intellectuals in exile between the two wars than the Netherlands or France. This phenomenon has not been studied in Belgium extensively enough to fully verify or explain it. We do know, however, that a relatively smaller number of Jews were deported from Belgium during the occupation than from the Netherlands or France. Would it be fair to hypothesize, then, that Jewish intellectuals were safer there, or in any event had a better chance of surviving, than in neighbouring countries? Could more survival strategies be deployed in Belgium than elsewhere? My focus in this paper is on Hans Handovsky (1888-1959), a German chemist of Austrian Jewish origin, who emigrated to Ghent in 1934 and returned to Heidelberg in 1957. By examining his letters to the two Flemish writers August Vermeylen and Fernand Toussaint van Boelaere, we can shed light on how he managed to survive the German occupation. We show how the assistance of non-Jewish intellectuals could contribute to saving a Jewish intellectual.