Neumann studied in Rostock and, in 1912, he graduated from a Rostock school. Moving on to Munich, Neumann studied art history and history; he also made the acquaintance of publisher George Mueller, who would aid Neumann’s authorial career.
During World War I, Neumann served in an artillery unit until 1915, when he was wounded. These injuries resulted in the termination of his wartime service, and in 1917, he returned to Munich. While in recovery, Mueller had written poetry, and he decided to submit them to Mueller, who considered them for publication. The poetry was accepted and that same year, Mueller published them as Die Lieder vom Lacheln und der Not: Gedichte (“Songs of Laughter and Despair”). Later that year, however, Mueller died.
During his time in Munich. Neumann worked as a dramatic advisor to Otto Falkenberg’s renowned repertory theater. In 1920, he traveled to Geneva to continue his studies. He was drawn into French literature, and translated the poems of Alfred de Musset. After receiving a degree in romance language and literature in 1921 in Geneva, he established residencies in Munich and Fiesole, determined to make a living as a freelance writer. In 1925, he published a three-act play entitled Der Patriot: Erzaehlung, which was translated as The Patriot in 1929.
Der Patriot appeared in the United States in a 1930 anthology of Neumann stories. Neumann turned it into a screenplay in 1926, and became his first film, produced by the esteemed director Ernst Lubitsch in 1928 for Paramount Pictures. His first novel, entitled Der Teufel: Roman, was published in 1926 and translated as The Devil in the same year. In 1929, he published the novel Rebellen, which was translated in the same year as The Rebels. In 1929, Neumann published a sequel, titled Guerra: Roman, which follows the uprising through 1848, describing Guerra’s return from Elba in 1948 to freshly pursue the conspiracy.
In 1933, the ascension of the Nazi regime forced Neumann to leave Germany for his villa in Fiesole, where he focused his work on his trilogy about Napoleon III. The three books became bestsellers in Great Britain and the United States as translations and secured for Neumann literary preeminence on an international scale.
In 1937, Neumann traveled to Paris to work on the second filming of Der Patriot, and he soon became a celebrity in France. Over the next four years, he remained mobile in avoidance of the Nazis and increasing anti-German sentiments in Paris, traveling to Zurich, Nice, and finally arriving in New York in February of 1941 under the auspices of the Emergency Rescue Committee, which had been granted special powers by President Roosevelt. He became involved with the Hollywood movie industry, releasing Academy Award nominee None Shall Escape in 1944, the suspense film Conflict, which was probably inspired by Der Held, in 1945, and The Return of Monte Cristo, also in 1945. He also continued to produce novels, publishing nine books after his arrival in the United States, including Gitterwerk des Lebens (1943), Es waren ihrer sechs: Roman (1944), and Der Pakt: Roman (1950). The biographical Alfred Neumann: Eine Auswahl aus seinem Werk (1979) was published posthumously and was edited by Guy Stem.
After the war, Neumann lectured at universities in Belgium, Den-mark, Holland, Norway, Sweden, and Switzerland. He died on October 3, 1952 in Lugano, Switzerland, at the age of fifty-six.
In 1946, the Neumanns received their U.S. citizenship.
Quotes from others about the person
“A single dramatic thread runs through many of Neumann’s works, whether fiction, poetry, essay, or film script: his fascination - one might almost say obsession - with the demonic nature of power and guilt.” - Christopher Dolmetsch
Neumann married his first wife, Martina, in 1922, but they divorced, and married Katharina (Kitty) Schatzberger-Muller in 1924.