Page 192 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 46

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Rehabilitation of Arnold Zweig
On the Centenary of His Birth
r n o l d
w e i g
w h o
w a s
b o r n
o n
o v e m b e r
10, 1887, was a
controversial figure during the last decades o f his lfe and has
become a half-forgotten figure since his death on November
26, 1968.
In Israel he was resented because in 1948, the year o f the
founding o f the Jewish State and when the Yishuv was battling
for survival, he exchanged Haifa, where he had found refuge
in 1933, for Berlin, the city from which he had been driven
forth by the Nazis. In the democratic lands o f Western Europe
and America, his preference to take up residence in East Berlin
under Communist auspices and to receive the adulations o f its
political and cultural elite roused the anger o f his former read­
ers, admirers and fellow-exiles. In Eastern Europe, the Com­
munists distrusted him, after heaping many honors upon him,
because in the Six Day War he alone refused to join in con­
demning Israel as the aggressor against the Arabs, though the
ten other high ranking intellectuals o f Jewish origin who were
asked to sign the condemnation did so. It is this heroic act to­
ward the end o f his life which atones to some extent for his
earlier waverings. On the centenary o f his birth, he deserves
rehabilitation, at least among his coreligionists.
Zweig began as a Utopian Socialist and Zionist. He matured
as a Cultural Pluralist and Pan-Humanist. He ended as a disillu­
sioned idealist, lonely and embittered.
When I first came to know him in the summer o f 1929 in
his magnificent Berlin villa with its spacious library, he was a
best- selling novelist, a dramatist with a preference for biblical
and Jewish themes, an essayist who wrote extensively on Eastern
European Jewry, German Jewry, Palestinian Jewry and the role