Page 155 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 28

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149
L
iptz in
— R
ichard
B
eer
-H
o fm a n n
measure of all faith, hope and pain. This people would be the
guardians of a precious moral heritage, God’s witnesses on earth.
The testing of Jacob, his wrestling with God, and his accept-
ance of his destiny with all its blessings and suffering, finds its
parallel in the testing of David, Jacob’s descendant, in the play
Der junge David,
completed in 1933, shortly before Beer-Hof-
mann’s books were burned by the Nazis during their rise to dom-
inance. Through the mouth of David, the dramatist voiced his
condemnation of the excessive brutality and racial arrogance
about him. David, as the standard-bearer of the Jewish fate, does
not want to fashion another empire comparable to Egypt or Bab-
ylonia, based on force and lasting only until overthrown by a
mightier force. He is eager instead to implant among his people
the seed of a moral faith, to make them a people that would not
expend itself on such vain and oppressive objectives as splendor
or domination. David’s answer to the wily Achitophel in the play
was Beer-Hofmann’s answer to the rampant Nazi ideology: even
as it does not profit an individual to live merely for himself,
so too it does not pay for a people to think solely of its own
aggrandizement.
The Fairyland of Childhood Dreams
In 1936 Beer-Hofmann was granted the opportunity to visit
Palestine. He had written of it as early as 1920 as the fairyland
of his childhood dreams, a fairyland that had become the dream-
land of many who were no longer children: “A dreamland not
only for those who after two thousand years of unique destiny
were again seeking their old home and a life unencircled by
hate. Others too there were, here and there, unrelated to these
restless wanderers, others firmly planted on their own home-
stead, lords of their own destiny, who nevertheless kept turning
their gaze eastward as though from there, the home of saviors,
something divine would once more arise and bring salvation.”
In 1936 he also completed the
Vorspiel auf dem Theater zu
Konig D avid ,
outlining the direction the still uncompleted parts
of his David-trilogy would take. These parts were never com-
pleted. In 1938 the Nazis overran Vienna and the Jewish poet
had to wander forth into exile. He arrived in New York in
November 1939 and was hailed as Vienna’s gift to America.
His home became a shrine to which came academic youth, Ger-
man emigre intellectuals, and America’s literary elite. But his
thoughts during his final years focused nostalgically on his life's
companion Paula, who had come to him from an alien world
like Ruth of Moab, who had made his people her people, and
who had died at Zurich during their flight from Vienna. In
exile the aging poet recorded his memories of her, precious prose