Page 202 - Jewish Book Annual Volume 46

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JEWISH BOOK ANNUAL
creative. In his last, and probably poorest novel,
Der Traum 1st
Teuer
(The Dream Is Costly), 1962, he tried to justify his dis­
illusionment with Zionism, but it was a half-hearted justification
and nostalgic memories could not be entirely suppressed.
Speaking through the mask o f his hero who was about to leave
Jerusalem, he commented: “And I am to go away from here
where I wanted to build a new home for myself, where I had
located the dream o f my exile, the dream o f entering into a
new, youthful world, o f building a classless society, a homeland
for the homeless.” (p.346). The hero compared himself to the
prophet Jonah who saw a shade- bearing tree suddenly grow
out o f the earth and save him from the distress o f the blazing
sun, but overnight the sheltering tree withered away and he
was again exposed to the sun’s rays. In Zweig’s case, the night
had lasted fifteen years, from 1933 to 1948.
When the Six Day War erupted in 1967, prominent Jewish
intellectuals in the German Democratic Republic were called
upon to denounce Israel as the aggressor. Zweig remained si­
lent. When asked to sign the denunciation, he alone refused.
This refusal to join in the outcry against Israel on the part o f
the much honored writer required considerable heroism and
was bound to arouse distrust o f him in the German Democratic
Republic. In Israel, however, it softened the resentment long
felt against him. He had, after all, been a literary pioneer o f
Zionism, a gifted champion o f its cause even before the First
World War, when its adherents in Germany were a tiny minority
o f the Jews. Was his veering away from this ideal o f his younger
days not brought on by the years o f his neglect and disappoint­
ment in Haifa, for which the Yishuv was not entirely blameless?
Zweig had become old and sick, dejected and embittered,
but his love for the Jewish people never faded from his per­
sonality. It was the deepest layer o f his being and found ex­
pression in the many splendid Jewish characters he created.
His criticism o f the Jewish state stemmed from disappointed
love, since this state in its desperate struggle for survival could
not fulfill all his dreams. He had measured it with a Utopian
yardstick and found it wanting. But neither had his Socialism
and Pan-humanism lived up to his expectations. Hence, he
ended as a disillusioned idealist.
On the centennial o f Zweig’s birth, the time has come to reha­
bilitate him among the Jewish people who had inflicted hurt upon
him and whom he in turn had hurt, though not too harshly.